Chignons begone. Charlie Le Mindu takes the métier of hairstyling to wholly new—and otherworldly—dimensions.
The Frenchman uses hair to create everything from clothing to art. He’s worked on extensive editorial projects and advertising campaigns, had a book published, worked with Lady Gaga and partnered with various ballet corps.
“What I look for is details,” said Le Mindu, “and what the message behind beauty is, basically. I don’t really care if something is beautiful [visually], because we all have a different perception of what beauty is. I want to see a message behind it.”
These days he’s often found designing costumes—which generally integrate a hair element. In April his designs will appear in a performance in Geneva of “Massacre,” an interpretation of “The Rite of Spring,” and Le Mindu recently worked on “Sleeping Beauty.”
Sometimes he integrates makeup-related details into the clothing, as well. But it’s nature that inspires him most, he said, speaking from a road trip in Palm Springs, Calif.
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“I love nature, mountains. I love exotic plants so much—their shapes,” said Le Mindu, who has taken a course in ikebanart, the Japanese floral arts, where he learned to create balance between positive and negative shapes in a vase.
He’d recently wrapped an ikebanart shoot for which he made plants out of hair and other natural elements.
Le Mindu is also inspired by architecture—especially Brutalism (in sync with his adoration of techno music)—and industrial locales.
He draws inspiration generally twice yearly from a trip to Naoshima, a Japanese island that is home to Brutalist art, some interspersed in nature.
Le Mindu opts out of using synthetic materials for his craft.
“You can feel the life of something made from nature,” he said.
Le Mindu spent the lockdown due to the coronavirus in Brooklyn, tinkering with new hair techniques in his studio there.
“I tried to sew. I love everything origami,” he said, adding it was good to have an extended time at home. The pandemic has given Le Mindu a new mind-set, as well—he’ll no longer work just for work’s sake.
“It will have to be with a very interesting person, character or talents,” he said. “It needs to have some experimentation in there. I do actually fewer projects, but I work more on special projects, and I give more time to a project which I love.”
Still, Le Mindu’s vantage point on identity hasn’t shifted.
“Ever since I was a kid, I never saw a person as a gender,” he said, explaining the reason his favorite hairstyle is a mullet is because that has no link to a specific sex. “I feel like beauty is really about personality and confidence.”
Among Le Mindu’s favorite projects is making creatures out of hair.
“They look like little monsters, kind of like Chewbaccas,” he said, referring to the hairy “Star Wars” character. Le Mindu leaves them in random places, like in the desert. He also drapes hair extensions over trees.
“People don’t understand what it is,” he said, adding they find it scary and strange. “I love creating random emotions out of the blue like this.”
Le Mindu got into hairstyling thanks to an emotion. When visiting his aunt’s salon in the Bordeaux countryside at the age of six, he was drawn to the happy environment. Two years later, he began cleaning the floor there and at 12 began learning the trade in earnest.
At 16, Le Mindu went to Berlin, where he took the 11 p.m.-to-5 a.m. shift doing hair in a nightclub, hoping to meet the punk singer Peaches. Mission accomplished, and they became best friends.
“I’ve done her costumes, hair and beauty for like 15 years now,” said Le Mindu. “She took care of me, and [had] me meet everyone.”
Next stop was London, where he began experimenting with hair as a material, mixing it with everything from glue to resin.
“I even put hair in a microwave to see if it was doing stuff,” said Le Mindu.
He also began sewing hair on fabrics. Le Mindu asked the stylist Anna Trevelyan, a vegan, if he could make a cape out of hair extension for her. After, he started his own fashion label.
The hairstylist staged his first Haute Coiffeur show, where the looks were fashioned from hair, in 2008. Le Mindu did six seasons in London and five during couture week in Paris. A huge creation can take eight people a month to make, while a small one might stretch over three days.
“Then I stopped and went more into performance, because I realized that what I loved also in that was the movement,” he explained.
Le Mindu worked with dancers, and that led to his own performances, such as at Paris’ Fondation Cartier and Palais de Tokyo.
“Beauty,” said Le Mindu, “is an emotion—it is creating emotions.”
Inside the Mind
What are your favorite bands?
Faire, Kap Bambino, Boy Harsher, Peaches and Faka.
What are some other upcoming projects?
I just made a new [Haute Coiffure] collection that will come out next year. I don’t know where I’m going to show it yet. It’s a whole new show and collection. I worked for two years on it.
I’m coming to Paris in February and doing an exhibition at Le Carreau du Temple. It’s a group exhibition about beauty and gender.
Where would you like to travel?
I would love to go more to Africa, for sure. I’m a huge fan of Mexico. Peru is beautiful. I love Iceland—I love everywhere.