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BEHIND THE SCENES #2: LUIGI MURENU
TWELV's Behind the Scenes takes a step back and visits the masterminds behind the camera. Read as we host interviews and explore the lives of artists who shape the final product - directors, fashion designers, stylists, hair stylists, makeup artists, and photographers.
With the strength of Samson, Luigi Murenu brings his unstoppable creative drive to the locks of runways, fashion houses and editorials ‘round the world. His light is one that will shine for generations to come.
For Luigi Murenu, or as he likes to be called, just “Luigi”, a life of beauty was pure fate. The Italian hair stylist is the guru of choice for all the best: Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Steven Klein – and the list goes on. Now that he’s cemented his place at the top of his trade, Luigi shows no sign of slowing down. Spinning out hair perfection for years and years, Luigi credits his inimitable style, a deep respect for his craft, and a stubborn work ethic for taking him from the beginnings of his career in the City of Lights to the back stages of the world’s most dazzling fashion shows and desired labels.
Now Luigi is emerging from behind the swivel chair as he transforms from hairdresser to multi-faceted conceptualist. The indisputable god of hair looks to generations old and new of artists and collaborators to manifest his vision, leaving a trail of flawless coifs in his wake. Whether he’s designing hair for the top Paris shows or for a stunning editorial lensed by frequent collaborators Daniele Duella and Iango Henzi, Luigi can’t help but prove himself time and time again, and leave clients madly in love with his locks. The always charismatic, ever-charming hair maestro sat down with the TWELV team over espresso and macaroons in his downtown Manhattan apartment, to discuss legendary collaborations with the most innovative minds in fashion, his advice for emerging stylists, and how good hair comes only from the combination of très chic and a touch of faux pas.
To get familiar with the evolution of this master from young Italian boy to hair aficionado, we start by tracing the golden strand of Luigi’s life back to its roots. Luigi’s creative spirit quickly outgrew the academic confines of a traditional upbringing, and his destiny, as hair stylist extraordinaire seemed to be, as he says, “written in the stars.” He made his way to the fashion epicenter of Paris at the age of 18, and then it was off to London, where he quickly found work and embarked on his meteoric rise. After a once in a lifetime opportunity to style the pop icon Madonna for an appearance in London’s Top of the Pops, and being discovered by legendary photographer Richard Avedon, Luigi was on the fast track to the top, working with every major player in the industry. To this day, Luigi brings the same type of intensity, inspiration, and brilliance to every job.
Soon, Luigi’s portfolio would be overflowing with enviable images. The artist, after working so hard for so many years, finally felt confident in his career, savoring, at last, that distinguishable “I’ve arrived” moment.
He’s a stylist known for his keen knack for total transformation which, coupled with an innate style and under- standing of beauty, motivates him to continue to push the bounds of hair, beauty and fashion. His personal evolution is ongoing, and his ability to transform women keeps him in high demand. “I can’t help but transform myself, and I have the same instinct in my work—if someone is known to have dark hair, I like to take out the blonde wig.” Luigi never fails to bring the spirit of metamorphosis to his work. In one particular piece with Steven Klein, he helped transform illustrious model Amber Valetta: “We transformed her from 20 years old, to 30, 40, and 50, until she became 120 years old.” Another favorite transformation took Madonna “from a blond fallen angel look in ‘Ray of Light,’ to a geisha, all in the span of a week.” But, when asked about his great success in the industry, Luigi stays humble. His key to success, he simply answers, is “respect.” “Hairstyling is a very delicate job. You have to understand the direction of the project and fulfill every- one’s expectations much as possible, while striking a balance with your own style. It’s very important to maintain respect between collaborators. When working with hair, you have to take into account the needs of makeup artists, photographers, clients and everybody else, to make the shot something that’s very special.” According to Luigi, “style manifests itself when people have knowledge of themselves, and know how to express their personalities in a refreshing, inspiring, eccentric or rather simple way. We use style to show other people who we are, so they can understand us, and so we might be appreciated. We live in a world of appreciation.” In that spirit, Luigi seizes every moment, every inspiration, every new idea, and channels it directly into the project at hand. He is a man who is driven by passion and who doles it out in everything he does.
Every time he works with new clients, he devotes his en- tire being, at that moment, to them. “I’m really dedicating my life to them,” he explains, “I am very disciplined. I have weaker moments—I am a human being, and we are all vulnerable—but this does not mean that I ever de- liver less.” His passion lies in exchanging creative ideas with collaborators, and working with established clients, along with new talent. When he’s not collaborating with- some of the greatest minds of fashion, which brings him great satisfaction, one of Luigi’s favorite ways to find new inspiration is chatting with fresh faces in art and fashion; “I like to sit down with young people and discuss new and creative concepts,” he said. Not content to transform his clients alone, Luigi constantly seeks out collaborators for new projects, “I’m extending myself as a conceptualist. I’m still and always will be a hairdresser, but I’m also constantly growing. I continue to work with incredible people who challenge me and bring out another side of me.” From spending a short time with Luigi, it is evident that hairdressing is not a solitary profession, and he couldn’t be happier to open up the possibilities to a broader range of collaborations.
One of Luigi’s newest creative collaborations features the incredible photographic duo Daniele Duella and Iango Henzi. “I met the two for the first time in Paris after seeing their in- credible images of skulls and butterflies, and I thought, these are young people doing new work that I was unaware of, and it’s so amazing and interesting.” Luigi’s inspiration from Danielle and Iango came to fruition with the May 2012 Japanese Vogue cover, and the 2012 darkly glamorous editorial shoot, “Melancholy was the Mood,” featuring model Natasha Poly.
For Luigi, whose signature style of elegance and classic beauty leaves no hair out of place, he not only finds inspiration in the old and the new, but he also looks towards movies, theater, ballet, and Japanese culture for great inspiration. Japanese-inspired chignons for Zac Posen, ballerina buns for a Chloé show, and a “Metropolis”-inspired aesthetic for Max Mara demonstrate just how great a role these alternative passions play in the creative life of Luigi Murenu. That the look of the hair for the latest Spring 2013 Zac Posen show was inspired by “polished wood” demonstrates the enormous scope of his inspiration.
In all his work, Luigi remains extremely selective and pro- active, lending his genius to the best of the best and A-list clientele. For New York Fashion Week, Luigi styles only Zac Posen. In Europe, the list is more extensive but equally discerning, including labels such as Gucci, Max Mara, No. 21, Ports, Ferragamo, Pucci, Givenchy, Rick Owens and Viktor and Rolf. His editorial clients are also befittingly blue-chip, with his work regularly finding its home in the pages of i-D, W, American Vogue, Japanese Vogue, and Interview. His natural eye for style has earned him the trust of some of the most influential designers in the world. Luigi counts Frida Giannini of Gucci and Ricardo Tisci of Givenchy among his close friends and regular collaborators.
If not for hairdressing, he would have opted for another artistic avenue, like photography or art direction. But, even if Luigi had taken another direction in his creative career, it’s safe to say that his calling would always lead him back to fashion. He explains the current state of fashion, and how its malleable quality excites him and gets his creative wheels whirring.
“There are no rules today in fashion. You can create, define, manage, and star in any project that you can dream up. Anything is possible; there are no limits. The fashion world’s character is deter- mined by the dreams of those who are impassioned by it. At some point, you don’t want to sit down and wait—you want to transform your ideas into reality, create new projects—right now. I love to sup- port new magazines because they encourage this impulse to change and push the fashion industry forward. I love to push myself to think differently, create differently, and I like the challenge of this utter versatility.” loses touch of his instinct, and if his works are not infused with refined style, it is an art that can easily become common.”
If fashion is an ever-changing space whose limits are defined by those who explore it, then hair, too, is equally versatile. In fact, just as much as you can sometimes read a person’s character through her clothes, you can also get a glimpse at who someone is through her hair. Luigi is a man who has an automatic ability to break down a person’s personality through her hair:
“I can tell a little bit about a person’s personality by the way she looks, by the way she moves across a room, by the way that I see her hair, by the quality of her hair. There are women who like to make their hair bigger than a house, and there are many other women who like to be very simple; they’ll wear just a ponytail and they won’t want to pay much attention to their hair.”
Much more than an aesthetic element in a person’s appearance, “hair is an attitude.”
But more complex is Luigi’s conception of beauty in hairdressing. Like freckles on porcelain skin, “the chic aspect of a hair style comes from combining something beautiful with a touch of ‘wrong’ or bad taste. You can just make beautiful hair, like you’d see in a beauty pageant, but it falls flat—you must add a certain complexity that sometimes comes from perceived imperfection. It’s the intricate relationship between what is considered good taste and bad taste that makes great hair.”
Beyond the subtle mix of good and bad taste, what else characterizes good hair, for a hair deity like Luigi? From his experience with hairstyling models in a multitude of different shoots, Luigi understands “hair that’s good in pictures is hair that really respects the mood, the look, and the aesthetic of the picture—it’s whatever fits the model, the story, the make up, the clothes, the lighting, and everything. For me, that’s the best hair.” As with all great icons of the fashion world, the heart of a successful project lies in the team.
Though indisputably iconic, Luigi maintains a disarmingly humble attitude, constantly reminding himself, “I am so lucky to have what I have. My hope is that we do not forget to be appreciative of each other, and that we avoid becoming jaded.” As for advice for new stylists, Luigi cautions against letting hairdressing become an uninspired job. Said Luigi, “I think that if a stylist loses touch of his instinct, and if his works are not infused with refined style, it is an art that can easily become common”
If Luigi is aware that hairstyling can sometimes feel uninspired, it isn’t from experience. His looks pop like his personality, and every strand his fingers graze seems to turn magi- cal. Though his hairstyles continue to stun, and though he has more than enough reason to take a sabbatical from the intense study of hair he undertakes daily, Luigi spends little time resting on his laurels. In fashion, hair, and style, it’s just not about that, for him. Innovation is the life force that drives fashion forward, and in style, “it’s about remaking things; it’s about the new generation. It’s about re-plastering the old façade of fashion and building a brand new one.” For this ultimate innovator, the sky’s the limit—if you can make a hair extension that long.∞
Text: KIMBERLY CORLISS and CHARLOTTE O’DONNELL