Haute Couture Hair, From An Original Haute Couture House
Balmain is often associated with words like embellishment, sharp lines, and a certain rock ‘n’ roll sex appeal that it evokes thanks in large part to the stellar lineup of hard-to-get models the French house regularly enlists for its runway shows each season. What it’s less known for are hairpieces, but artificial strands have been a lucrative part of the company’s business since the sixties. “When Balmain started as an haute couture house, they started with wigs,” says Linda Dekkers-de Oude, Balmain Hair’s business development manager. “We went from wigs to extensions and from extensions to ready-to-wear [hairpieces]—things that are easy to blend,” adds Richard Guliker, the brand’s aRt&D director and the son of Dick Guliker, a hair pioneer who inked the original beauty deal with Pierre Balmain 38 years ago.
“It’s very big in Europe,” Guliker insists of the house’s lesser-known hair arm, although he’s hoping to expand its stateside presence by joining forces with Michael Angelo’s Wonderland beauty parlor in New York. “Linda was nice enough to let me dive into the archive and curate a collection that made sense for Wonderland,” says Angelo, who just started carrying the brand’s new Clip-In Fringe at his model-favorite Meatpacking District salon, as well as a selection of clip-in colored and highlighted add-ons. “What I did with their archive is think about what do people constantly beg me for: I want bangs but I don’t want to cut my hair; I want a pink streak but my mother’s going to kill me; or I want volume,” Angelo continues, explaining the new Clip-In Couture service he has dreamed up as a result of the partnership. “It’s like a couture appointment. You come in and we talk about what you want it to be, then I’ll call Balmain, say these are the shades we need, these are the number of pieces we need, they ship it to me and then you’ll come back 48 hours later, we’ll put the hair on the head, place it, show you where to place it, and cut and color it if we need to.”
“It’s not about adding piles of [fake] length,” Angelo is quick to point out about the Balmain Hair difference, which boasts incredibly natural textures and tones rather than an immediately recognizable synthetic look. “It’s like the perfect makeup application, that ‘is she or isn’t she’ [quality],” he elaborates—a quality that has also impressed backstage regular Sam McKnight, who often employs the subtle strands to catwalkers’ hair at Olivier Rousteing’s (and Christophe Decarnin’s before him) seasonal collections, according to Guliker. The fake-hair stigma, both men assert, is long overdue for an overhaul, and the creation of a professional service to help educate consumers on the art of going faux just may be its best chance for redemption yet.
Wonderland Beauty Parlor, 418 W. 13th St., New York, NY 10014; (212) 524-2800.