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Marc Rieke's Wigs

Remember when we interviewed Patrick Mohr a while ago because we were so intrigued by the bald and bearded creatures he sent down the runway? Well, he told us who was responsible for making models look like aliens, and turns out it was Marc Rieke, a Berlin-based hair and make-up artist, who has also done some impressive stuff for Bernhard Willhelm and half the German film and television industry. We went to his store for a chat, where he sells custom-made wigs and other things made out of hair (like mustaches and eye lashes), in case you’re interested.


Vice: Hi Marc. How long have you been doing crazy stuff with hair?
Marc Rieke: I've been doing hair and make-up now for about seven years, and I've owned the store for about 5 years.

So is it like a dream come true for you?
No, no. It was kind of a coincidence. I wanted to study fine arts, but didn't get accepted the first time I applied. Then, a friend of mine who studied hair and make-up, convinced me to have a look at her job. I always had this weird idea of "hair and make-up," but one day she asked me to pose for her and they stuck beards on me and made me look like an authentic, bald, 90-year old man. Somehow that impressed me so much I could imagine doing it myself. So then a place became available at this hair and make-up school and I started immediately.

Good stuff. You also work on films and television, right?
Yes. Well, I focus on hair and wigs, beards, lashes--everything that can be made out of hair. The jobs I do are primarily for cinema and television. I worked with Helen Mirren once, she's an incredible lady.

How about the fashion shows?
For fashion shows, they request me when hair gets too complicated for the normal hair and make-up artists to deal with. It's mainly the bigger pieces and things that have to be manufactured separately, like the huge Bernhard Willhelm hair-constructions.

About those wigs, were they as difficult to construct as they seem?
Building the form was not the problem, it was relatively standard. The problem was their weight; it was impossible for the models to wear them for over half an hour, and the show was meant to be in a showroom. Bernhard also didn't want to fix them with straps, it had to look as natural as possible, so that wasn't easy. We made five wigs and worked on them for about 300 hours. Later the Groninger Museum of modern and contemporary art in Groningen, Netherlands, bought them for the retrospective on Bernhard Willhelm.


Bernhard Willhelm in the Groninger Museum

How does the communication with designers like that work?
I always get a kind of mood of how they want it. Bernhard for example gave me some watercolor drawings that he wanted me to transform in a pretty exact way. Patrick Mohr gave me more stylized instructions, he just told me he imagined it, but we immediately realized that we were speaking the same language. We connected, so it was great to create this amazing result from a vague idea together.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Patrick Mohr looks?
The connection to Patrick was purely by chance. I got to know a photographer through Bernhard Willhelm, who knows Patrick very well. One day, he told me about Patrick's idea of sending these androgynous, asexual creatures down the runway. I thought models with normal beards would be a bit too stereotypical, so I suggested to use angora hair, a very fluffy hair. That feminine, soft hair, combined with the typical position of male hair growth, worked really well. Oh yeah, and we used the bald heads also to de-individualize them.

Where do you get all that hair from?
We get it from distributors from Russia, Czech Republic, or Ukraine. That hair has a similar structure to ours. Sometimes, families pass by to donate us their hair, and teenagers even come and sell it to us.

Wow. That’s pretty weird. What was the most exciting project you've worked on?
Definitely the Willhelm wigs, because of the dimensions. But the most sleepless and nerve-wracking project was when we made all the wigs for The Baader Meinhof Komplex. Film is a much bigger challenge than fashion shows; everything needs to be perfect because you'll see every tiny detail. Fashion and film people are completely different, and those two worlds rarely cross paths, but I love working for both.