"We've got a client walking over," British hairstylist Tuttii Fruittii explains over the phone. A muffled interaction occurs, then she's back seeking the bearings of our transatlantic conversation. She picks up where we had left things: "When do I feel most beautiful? I want to feel most beautiful all the time." The immediacy of her answer also seems to crystallize what she hopes to provide her clients at Tuttii Fruittii London "LadyBOI Hairsculptors." Her namesake is a nonbinary salon in southeast London's Deptford neighborhood, co-founded with her friend Toni Tits.
Both of them are "doing lots of hair patterns" on-site, enjoying a spaciousness they don't take for granted. Before moving to their current spot they operated out of a caravan, providing clients off the street with what they advertised as technicolor hair sculptures. It's a specifically queer operation that exists "for the people: all hair types, all genders," and part of a neighborhood effort to push back against the more rote forms of expression that accompany gentrification. "This shop that I've got at the moment has been here 75 years, been a barbershop. I've been trying to get it for six years. I basically wanted to keep it going, wanted to keep the history alive."
Fruittii, whose background is in working in barber shops, is disarmingly casual over the phone, inviting me in to get my hair done as if I'm down the street. When asked about their influences, she shouts for Tits to chime in for the list, which includes Walt Paper, Tank Girl, Nick Cave, Picasso, Grace Jones and Salt-N-Pepa. "Girls Aloud!" Fruittii adds to the list, to Tit's startled but accordant laughter. She adds, "To be honest, we get inspired a lot by ourselves. A lot of the time we get inspired by ourselves and our own artwork."
OUT: Are you calling from the salon?
Tuttii Fruittiii: I am, yes. We've just finished doing hair, so I can have a little chat.
What's it like having more space after having formerly run the salon out of a caravan?
It's really, really nice. It's just a dream come true. It's still quite a small shop, but it's perfect-sized. We've only been open four months, so it's still pretty fresh, but it's doing very well at the moment.
What does it mean to you to be a non-binary salon?
It means that anybody's welcome, it's a comfortable space for everybody. Especially with queer and trans people, they do find it a little bit uncomfortable sometimes walking into certain salons. Some salons you go in, and you feel a little bit intimidated. In here, it's very casual, relaxed, and it's real. It's not an awkward space. It's important that nobody get left out.
In addition to being a safe space for the queer community, Tuttii Fruittii has played an active role in the fight against gentrification.
I've been in Deptford for 10 years. They're actually spending quite a lot of money in Deptford. They're planting new trees, ripping up the soil, making new paving, they're just cleaning up the area. There's also the side of it we don't like, which is loads of flats popping up, and they've been wiping out a lot of communities. There's a lot of city workers that are in Deptford, so I don't know that they spend that much time here. Our client base is very versatile. This salon is for the people.
Do you think of glamour as a survival skill?
Definitely, 100 percent. That's definitely what makes me happy. Number one, for me, is always about my appearance, the way I look, that's what I care about more than anything. It's definitely about survival.
What are ways what's on your head helps with what's in your head?
When you're getting your hair done it's very therapeutic. When you've got someone touching your head it makes you really relax. If you have a vision already, and someone creates exactly what you want, that's going to make you feel good. You've gone from how you looked before and into another, newer version of you, a fresh version of you. That's going to make you feel good inside. It's going to be good for your mind.
Even if someone comes in, and they don't really know what they want, you bring up ideas, you make them feel comfortable. They know they're in good hands. You create something that's completely different from what they usually have. An important thing for us is that when you come in the shop you go in feeling like you, and you come out as a new version of you.
Hair is a language. It's almost like you're translators of what your clients are confiding in you.
Exactly, yeah. It's true. That's really true. We sort of create something around their personality or anything they're inspired [by]. It doesn't even have to be a hairstyle, it can be anything that inspires them. We can create a style around that. It's very important to us that we really show their personality.
Are there ways Tuttii Fruittii is distinctly English?
It's not distinctly English. It comes from my soul, and my business partner's. It comes from our creative vision. It's really clown-y. Me and my business partner, we are clowns anyway. For us, it's [about] not having any boundaries. It's totally about expression, dressing up, creating some characters, becoming shape-shifters. Our style is kind of a style we created ourselves. I don't want to be put into any sort of category. We're trying to create something that's fresh. It definitely has a British side to it.
Do you see Tuttii Fruittii expanding in the future?
That's what we would love to do, yes. We're about to launch a product range at the moment. Once this shop really kicks off, we hope to do one in Sweden. Barcelona, as well. We would definitely like to open up as many as we can. I would love to.