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April 21 2014

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Four Hair Looks Are Better Than One, Backstage at Jean Paul Gaultier Couture

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Jean-Paul-Gaultie-Couture-BeautyWhile reporting backstage at a certain Couture show this week, the question of how to ensure that a given hairstyle doesn’t overshadow a collection’s clothes was put to one of the seminal hairdressers working today. “I want my hair to be noticed, but I don’t want it to take over,” he replied. “This is a Couture show, not a hair show.” The distinction may seem clear enough, although the lines are frequently blurred when the Couture show in question belongs to Jean Peal Gaultier.

“He loves hair,” Gaultier’s longtime partner in coif, Odile Gilbert, revealed of the designer who often gives Gilbert the green light to create some of the most elaborate hair art on the runway. “What I love about Jean Paul, because I’ve worked with a lot of designers, is that he always wants a certain sense of humor in the hair,” she said. Gilbert perfected four different looks simultaneously: a towering chignon with haute couture curlers bedazzled with “strass,” as she referred to the stone-encrusted details on a handmade set of rollers; a “Chantilly chignon,” a tiered cake-inspired, segmented, cone shape that was anchored by a rigged-up wiring system Gilbert designed herself; a donut-shaped topknot that sat just above the forehead and was accessorized with a small hat; and the “cheetah paw print,” Gilbert’s favorite of the bunch, which was spray-painted onto sleek French twists with stencils. “I did it before for John, for his first Couture collection at Dior, but in a totally different way,” she admitted of the jungle cat improvisation, referencing her tenure working with John Galliano with a sense of nostalgia—the second time the disgraced designer has come up backstage in two days. “For me, Jean Paul is like Galliano; he has a vision.”

Luckily for Lloyd Simmonds, Gaultier’s vision for the makeup was much less complex. How many different faces was Simmonds enlisted to paint in complement to those hairstyles? “One!” he confirmed with delight, a riff on Fellini’s women and their flair for black liner. Using rich brown shadows to pull the eye out as far as possible before starting in with a series of pencils, Simmonds rimmed the inside of lids with white kohl to make them pop against the outline of inky onyx pigment that he traced around both the upper and lower lash lines. “He said he wanted the makeup to be very ‘Couture,’” Simmonds explained of Gaultier’s directive, which registered as a call to push things toward the elaborate. “Instead of one shade of brown shadow, there are six shades of brown shadow; you just spend more time,” he explained, getting at the reason for Couture at its core: to elevate craft, be it fashion—or beauty.

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

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