INTERVIEW with ALI PIRZADEH
The world of hair styling sometimes seems to be rigidly divided into two broad groups: those stylists that simply ‘do’ hair and those that create it. London-based editorial hair artist and wig maker, Ali Pirzadeh, falls firmly in the latter category.
One glance at his work and it is clear that while he is quite able to produce the standard magazine aesthetic, that is seldom what he finds himself doing. Drawing on classic art, painting and sculpture for inspiration, Ali sees hair visually in terms of shapes and forms. For him, hair could be less about strands but the raw material for a post modern installation piece.
When he isn’t busy with his sculptural mannequin art or working with fashion muses Desiree Mattson or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, he is making how-to videos on how to expertly affix the handmade, custom wig creations from his company, AP Wigs. But before you are thinking about labelling him a hair snob, you might be surprised to know that at the end of the day, one of his recommended hair tools is a good old scrunchie.
We recently had the pleasure of talking to Ali about his art, inspiration and how hair can be used to tell a story.
Image by Ali Pirzadeh.
You are originally from Iran but ended up studying hair in Stockholm, Sweden and are now based in London. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I was born in Iran but my family moved to Sweden when I was 4 years old due to the revolution and the Iran/Iraq war. I was always creative growing up but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. After studying economics for two years I just decided that economics definitely wasn’t for me. At the time my sister had just finished her studies to become a hairdresser and was working in a salon and that is how I decided on the route I wanted to take. I left my studies in economics and soon started my adventure into the hair world. In Sweden you study hairdressing for 3 years to get your diploma and during those years I also assisted in salons and started to have my own clients. Later on my sister and I opened a salon together with a friend and that went very well but I always felt I wasn’t fully content and I always wanted more.
I didn’t know that session work was something I could pursue until a makeup artist friend began to send her models to the salon where I worked. I would style them but didn’t reflect on the possibilities until an agent called me and asked if I would be interested in working through them. From there it all went relatively quick and I started working full time as a session hairstylist traveling the world. I decided to move to London and this is where I have been based the last 10 years.
How would you explain your particular approach to hair and what or who has been your biggest influence?
I think hair is a great tool for storytelling and I think that is where my strength lies. Hair styling is one way you can bring to life a specific character you are trying to portray. A difference in texture tells a thousand stories! And hair is also a material you can shape and sculpt with, and I use it as a tool to paint patterns and shapes. I think basic hairdressing school teaches you a basic way to do hair and I do think it’s important to have that core training- but then learn to let go and experiment. As for what inspires me, it can vary depending what I am in to at the moment. But I always seem to look towards art, paintings and sculptural work. I am also very inspired by certain leading ladies of the past… for example Jean Shrimpton, Jane Birkin, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren. I am especially fond of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Hair by Ali Pirzadeh. Photography by Desiree Mattson.
We love your creative use of hair, especially your sculptural mannequin work. What was the inspiration for this?
I have always seen shapes and love the sculptural aspect and so working with hair in that form is way for me to fully express myself. I find it very satisfying when having done a mannequin or model, stepping back and seeing the overall feel of the creation. I think everyone has different strengths and mine has always been visualizing shapes.
Hair by Ali Pirzadeh. Photography by Desiree Mattson.
You have an amazing wig company called AP wigs. What is unique about your wigs and what would you like people to know about them?
Well I have always LOVED the power of transformation and that’s where the wigs come in. Why limit yourself when you can change it up! AP wigs is a wig line where every unit is handmade and custom coloured- so the craftsmanship is there and is definitely an important core concept of the company. We also work with charity and with women that for medical reasons are in need of wigs and that is also one of the main reasons I started AP wigs.
Vogue Italia. Hair by Ali Pirzadeh. Photography by Camilla Akrans.
If you could go back in time, whose head of hair would you most like to style? Who would you love to style today if you had the opportunity?
I would have loved to have worked with the famous Persian singer GOOGOOSH before the revolution or been a hairstylist on a Fellini film such as Satyricon. At present I would love to work with Cardi B since I think we would have so much fun working with different wigs and looks. Another director I dream of working with one day is Pedro Almodovar.
What do you love most about working with hair?
The creative process of portraying a character and telling a story. Behind every picture there is always a deeper meaning and it means the world when the audience can see and feel that just by looking at the image.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Hair by Ali Pirzadeh. Photography by David Ferrua.
What are some of your top tips for healthy hair?
I think there are some easy steps that most everyone can take to protect the overall quality of their hair. For example, if your hair is longer make sure to put it in a top knot before going to bed. Use a softer elastic such as a scrunchy and not a tight elastic band. My dear friend Dariia Day has a a brand called Bydariiaday that provides silk based pillow cases and scrunchies that are great for ensuring your hair doesn’t break while you sleep. I always also suggest doing an oil based mask once every 2 weeks. I usually use a blend of argan, almond and rose oil and massage it into the hair, starting from the ends and working upwards. Make sure you do this when your hair is damp and avoid the roots if you have a tendency to have an oily scalp.