At first glance, these pictures seem perfect, each model a paragon of beauty. Look closer though, and you’ll notice a pimple here, a red eye there. These photographs haven’t been retouched. And the model’s faces are free of makeup. A beauty story without makeup or retouching? Why not—after all, statement-making hair was the story from the spring runways.
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not every hairstylist would jump at the opportunity, but Dennis Lanni was game from the get-go. An editorial darling who works with photographers such as Terry Richardson, Ellen Von Unwerth and Guy Aroch (who photographed this portfolio), whose advertising clients include Missoni, Barneys New York and Uniglo and whose runway work includes Vivienne Tam, MaxMara and BCBG Max Azria, Lanni is incredibly grounded. Literally. Organic is one of his favorite words to describe his work. “My philosophy is to make the girls look as beautiful and angelic as possible,” he says. “When I show up for a job, I’m thinking how can I apply myself to this picture without overpowering it with gimmicky ideas.”
Best known for his deftness at creating texture and volume, Lanni’s goal here was to masquerade his presence at the same time. “I wanted the hair to feel very organic, like I wasn’t there, as if it’s untouched and the models were born this way,” he says. His modesty belies the painstaking techniques he’s developed during his 20-year career. The son of a barber, the New Jersey native apprenticed with his father before landing a job at Bumble and bumble in the late Eighties. While his style perfectly dovetails with the prevailing hair trends for spring—curls, ponytails and teased textures dominated the catwalk—Lanni’s goal isn’t to be hip, but rather to provoke emotion. “I never think about trends,” he says. “I think about words—I always want to create something where you need words to describe it.”
For the looks seen here, Lanni used a cornucopia of products: Bobby pins, tissue paper, thread, paper clips, curling irons and reams and reams of hair were wrapped, rolled, bound and woven. The stylist then went to work snipping, fluffing and brushing, creating continually evolving styles that riffed on a central theme. When asked to describe his technique, Lanni’s favorite word crops up. “I don’t really have a specific technique,” he says. “It’s very organic. I process everything I’ve ever seen anyone do. And then some. It’s like cooking and it’s how I keep my enthusiasm for loving what I do.”