Girls spend a lot of money and a lot of painful hours having hair removed from their bodies. What's up with that? If you'd told chicks in the 70s that in the future looking like a plucked chicken would be what was expected of women 365 days a year, they'd have balked. Likewise, hairstylist Charlie Mindu loves hair so much he’s like, “Why would I just style the hair on someone’s head when I can put beautiful tresses in extreme and exaggerated shapes all over their body?” (We’re paraphrasing here.) The shapes this Bergerac-born man can coax out of a bunch of hair are truly insane: cones, lip-shaped hats, flying saucer fascinators; hair with right angles so sharp a carpenter and his spirit level would bow down and worship Charlie's precision lines. The 26-year-old guerrilla snipper has gone from cutting the hair of clubbers around Europe, to styling the locks of Peaches, Grimes, Lana Del Rey, and Florence Welch (he’s the colorist responsible for turning her hair flame-red, thus influencing the styling of Mulberry’s SS 2011 catwalk show). A surreal and experimental wigmaker and fashion designer, the Frenchman’s elaborate and weirdly erotic, hairy designs have been flaunted by near-nude models on countless fashion week catwalks, and by Lady Gaga, you know, just around town.
Noisey: When did you start hairdressing?
Charlie Mindu: I was 13. My parents are gypsies and I stopped going to school and started working in a traditional, grandmother-style hair salon. Then when I was about 15, I worked in a punk hairdressers in Bordeaux, where I learned about [cooler hairstyles]. I was 17 when I moved to Berlin on my own. I had no money and I couldn’t speak German or English, so I started doing haircuts for queers in nightclubs to make money.
That's an unusual career trajectory. What was your strangest job?
I think it was when I used to shave the bears in the dark rooms at Berghain/Panorama Bar in Berlin. That was the weirdest hair-cutting job ever.
But now you sort out Lady Gaga’s locks. What’s the best look you’ve created for her?
The one in the "Bad Romance" video: she was wearing my lips wig backwards on her head. We were trying to recreate the looks from the McQueen catwalk [in Paris, 2009], but doing a different version, so it looked the same from the front, but it was my lips at the back.
What was the first hairstyle you fell in love with?
The one that struck me the most was Cher’s red wig in the “Believe” video. I was really young and it was funny to me because she looked like a drag queen.
Peaches in her nightie, chillin'.
Is that when your fascination with wigs and hair extensions began?
It was since I started hairdressing, really. I fell in love with them because I could create anything with them. Wigs can change the face of someone so easily and quickly. But I started making them in 2006, for Peaches. She wanted very long hair, to her feet. After that, I started to do different things. I made her a huge hairy monster costume and I created enormous wigs for her backing dancers, The Tranimals [on her last tour]. Peaches wanted to cover their faces so that they were genderless.
What’s great about working with Peaches?
I can do what I want every time. She’s so easygoing and creative, which is inspiring. She cares about her image, but she doesn’t care about being pretty. I think everyone should be like that. If a woman wants to be hairy, it’s normal, it’s just nature and there should be no judgment. They don’t have to get a bikini wax every day. I love punk and heavy metal music and heavy metal women like [former Runaways guitarist] Lita Ford because they’re strong like that too.
What’s the best wig you’ve made?
The one I did recently in the new Basement Jaxx video for “Back 2 The Wild.” It’s like a cone head with braids on it. It’s actually very African and tribal.
You’ve done a lot of work with musicians, are you picky about who you style?
I have so many celebrities that ask me every week—like big girl bands—whether I can do their hair, you know, like Essex girl style. But it’s so boring, I just can’t say yes. I prefer working with people that are more underground and are more open about their image, because then their hairstyle is more of a collaboration. And most importantly it’s the best shop window for me to the wider public.
But you’re not averse to shocking people? You’ve sent naked models down the catwalk before…
My specialty is to make wigs and for those looks I wanted the women to show that hair and nothing else. But it was really annoying that everyone was shocked about it. If you go to any museum, you always see naked people in art, but in fashion people are so stuck up and find it so scary. I love strong women that are proud of themselves and I just wanted to show that on the catwalk.
And for your other catwalk shows?
My first one in 2009 was scandalous too because I made a burka from rats and mice. I wanted to use fur, but I didn’t have any money so I went for the cheapest fur, which was from rats and mice. A friend of mine does taxidermy so we bought the rats and mice from the pet shop—they were dead, obviously, the snakes had eaten them—and then my friend taxidermied them. But it was a big scandal. If I had have used fox fur, no one would have said anything, but because I used rodents…
So there wasn’t a political message behind it?
No. I just needed to be cheap.
Grimes – “Genesis.”
Has a job ever stressed you out?
Yes, the first one was when I went on tour with the B-52s. I was really excited about getting to do their huge beehives and I love their music. But when I arrived on the first day of their comeback, they refused to do the beehive and they just wanted really normal hair, so I was a bit disappointed. They just wanted really normal waves; it was nothing as amazing as their beehives.
Hair by Charlie Mindu, photos by Ellen Von Unworth.
Who of your clients has surprised you the most?
Lana Del Rey always wants to go bigger. I’ve never put so many extensions on someone’s head. I’m sure even Katie Price doesn’t have that many extensions!
Lady Gaga on a UK talk show.
Giving a whole new visual reference for the cuss "helmet hair."
Charlie's work for Chanel. Great. Now we want some sorbet.
Kate conducted this entire interview wearing one of Charlie's braided masks. What a trooper. She's on Twitter - @KateHutchinson.
Style Stage is an ongoing partnership between Noisey & Garnier Fructis celebrating music, hair, and style.