In the rarefied world of high-concept hair design, is there anyone more in demand, more accomplished, or more endlessly inventive than Guido Palau? The 52-year-old stylist, who grew up in England while the brittle sensibility of punk morphed into the lush romanticism of 1980s New Wave, brings a spirit to his work that is at once anarchic and soulful, spare and rich. Known to just about everyone in the fashion industry simply as Guido, he estimates he does about 110 fashion shows a year. His extended reign at the top of his profession is no mere fluke. Designers love him because he understands that hair needs to communicate a point of view -- it's not incidental to what the models are wearing, it's part of it.
"I was always inspired by style, but I just didn't know it [as a child]," he says. "I was always very attracted to the sort of person that stuck out -- Boy George, David Bowie, Roxy Music. There was something different about them because you knew they were people who had something to say."
It's hard to imagine a better submersion in Guido's world than his latest project, Hair, a new book in collaboration with the photographer David Sims, in which his cast of young subjects is simultaneously menacing and vulnerable, not quite of this world. "I didn't want to pull from street references," he says. "I feel those have been quite played out, so it was a way to describe a new kind of youth that I wanted to talk about. You know, kids are on their computers a lot of the time. They're more alienated, more dissocialized, and so there's this very pallid complexion in them, and a weird, unsettling kind of deadness."
As to the secret of his success, Guido attributes it to "hard work, determination, never giving up, always being open to learning, never resting on my laurels." In the 1980s, when he was starting out, there was no blueprint for achievement. "I started my career because I really didn't know what else to do," he says. "I took one turn, but I very easily could have taken another and ended up in a salon working behind a chair." That's one salon we'd have been all too happy to frequent.
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