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Hair Apparent: Julien D’Ys’ First Painting Exhibition At Comme Des Garçons

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You’re likely to find master hairstylist Julien d’Ys with a brush in hand these days, but not the kind you would expect. The talented Frenchman (né Pierrick Le Verge), known for such tress moments as Linda Evangelista’s career-launching crop, the Marie Antoinette wigs at the Met’s Model as Muse exhibition, and Katy Perry’s retro wave on the June cover of Vanity Fair, has been devoting his time to peinture of late. He kicks off his first ever solo painting exhibition at the Paris Comme des Garçons store today. We caught up with Monsieur d’Ys after a day of installation setup for a tête-à-tête.

You’ve had this long-standing work relationship with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. What’s the process like working with Rei on a show?
Working with Rei, it’s always a surprise. We’ve been working together for almost 23 years now. Maybe two weeks before the show, she’ll give me some background. For example, she’ll say, “Black and gold.” I’ll work on it and then we’ll see each other one day before the show to fine-tune the look. I respect her a lot. She gives me a lot of freedom but at the same time I try to find an idea that she is going to like. I like to think between the two of us there’s this osmosis of creation.

When you first started your career, did you ever think you’d have the creative reins to take hair to, pardon the pun, such heights?
No, not at all. I never wanted to be a hairstylist. I just wanted to create, to do things that didn’t exist yet.

Now you’re showcasing your first painting exhibition. Are there similarities or differences between working with hair and paint as a medium?
People know my wig creations but not my paintings. For me painting, drawing, and doing hair are similar. At the very beginning, I was painting and drawing. It was only after that I started doing hair. I treat hair as if I’m painting. During shoots, I think of all the people I work with as canvases.

Is fine art where you find the most satisfaction creatively these days?
Definitely. It has been always like this. To create is my life.

What do you think of Lady Gaga? She seems to have a penchant for outlandish wig and hair pieces.
I met her in 2009 in Grace Coddington’s office. When I first met her, I didn’t know who she was. The meeting was to prepare for a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz: “Hansel & Gretel,” and in the story Lady Gaga was playing the witch. For the meeting, I went with some of the wigs I made for the Metropolitan Museum. I tried a white wig on her and she really liked it. She’s really inspiring. Ours feelings about art are really close.

What other projects do you have coming up?
I don’t know yet. My motto is “go with the wind.”

Photo: Ilker Akyol

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