An Interview With Guido Palau: Meet The Man Behind Fashion Week’s Favorite Hairstyles
February 21, 2017
Guido Palau’s career spans decades in the beauty and fashion industry and his name garners the highest praises throughout Fashion Week and beyond. Whether he’s creating sleek ponytails in Milan or crafting an avant-garde updo in Paris, Guido Palau’s iconic looks are far-reaching. Each style he crafts comes from a place of deep inspiration and often times influences the most notable trends of the season.
How did someone from a small town in England become such a renowned hair artisan? We asked him.
Guido's Start in Hair & Fashion
“I was always inquisitive about style and inspired by fashion and beauty magazines featuring the works of notables such as Barry Lategan, Bruce Webber and Dutch hairstylist Christian whose freestyle approach pushed boundaries of his time,” states Guido. “Then it was during the early 80s when subculture movements like New Wave, Indie, and Goth co-existed and shaped a creative set that changed hair trends in cutting and coloring. All this sparked my interest in hairdressing.”
From there, he began his career as a stylist at the Vidal Sassoon salon in London. After eighteen months behind the chair, the soon-to-be hair superstar moved on to work more in an editorial role where he would become a key player in the world of fashion hairstyling.
After his time at the salon, Guido was asked to work as an assistant to a hairstylist on a Woman’s Weekly photoshoot. This shoot served as his introduction to the world of fashion campaigns and runway shows. It gave him the opportunity to see what the world of fashion had to offer him and implemented a path that would soon field his artistic expression for hair.
What really catapulted Guido’s career, however, was his work on the infamous George Michael music video, “Freedom! 90.” This iconic music video featured fashion superstars such as Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell. In fact, his work for the video earned him the Sassoon Stylist of the Year award at the British Hairdressing Awards in 1990 – a title he would win again three years later.
From that point onward, Guido became an established name in fashion. In 1994, Calvin Klein reached out and offered him the position of lead hair stylist for his Fall collection. As the stylist’s first fashion show, he brought a unique perspective to a classically American brand. “It was the grunge period with Kate Moss, very undone, grunge. At the time it was a very new aesthetic in hair,” states Guido.
This grunge look struck the fashion scene of the 90s and Guido’s status as a trendsetter became solidified. From there, he began working with fashion powerhouses such as Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, and many more.
Guido's Presence at Fashion Week
His work became highly sought after and Guido now leads between 30 to 40 shows during each fashion week season. On average, Guido and his team use close to 300 cans of Redken hairspray creating the looks backstage.
“There's no real way to prepare for the mayhem of Fashion Week. It’s like a whirlwind and when it hits there's little time for anything else,” Guido states. So little time, in fact, that the stylist only slept for two hours before the Louis Vuitton show in 2014. Talk about a busy man.
“There is always a mixture of excitement, tension, adrenaline, time restraints, directing and inspiring teams of people, and a lack of sleep,” Guido mentions. “Fashion week is certainly exhausting, but it also motivates and inspires me each season. I’m always trying to create new techniques with the help of products and forward thinking.”
So, how does one person find enough inspiration to create looks for almost eighty runway shows a year? For Guido, it isn’t as hard as you might think.
“I find inspiration absolutely everywhere from literally walking down the street to looking at architectural designs to subcultures and music. The good thing is when you travel around as much as I do you can get inspiration from many different countries. Each place has its own personality so I get my inspiration from museums, art, exhibitions, music, architecture, design from all over the world. Changes in hair and fashion always come from inspiration we get and it's everywhere. It’s always evolving from something we've seen before in the past into something new. I’m always looking for the next.”
Beyond his own inspiration, Guido also works with a host of individuals when creating looks for Fashion Week. “A lot of my inspiration comes from working with great people. I am very lucky to be able to work with the most creative, designers, makeup artists, stylists and photographers in the business and to work with the fashion-forward thinking company Redken.”
It’s these partnerships that help to craft each individual look he creates. Beyond working with the best of the best, Guido also mentions that the work of the designers themselves has a big impact on the final hair look.
“First, it’s all about the clothes and understanding the kind of woman and character the designer imagines and the message the designer wanted to portray through the clothes. There is always a story and surely it’s important as to where she’s from. It’s important for me to understand exactly all those details to create the perfect look for this woman.”
It’s this type of female-centric focus that’s at the heart of Guido’s work. . “I’ve always tried to push boundaries, make people look at things that maybe they don’t think are kind of conventional, or in the kind of guidelines of what is sometimes ‘good taste.’ You know, I’ve often worked on textures, shapes forms that would probably question a lot of people’s idea of beauty and I think you know, we’re being pushed all the time now, young people are their way forward in the kind of the way they look. They’re confronting people—with the whole gender fluidity thing and the trans thing. Young people really have a voice. They’re really transforming themselves to be who they really feel they are.”
Fashion & The Everyday Woman
It’s no secret that many of Guido’s signature looks tend to lean more toward the avant-garde than traditional styling looks, however, don’t let these over-the-top looks fool you. As Guido mentioned, there are plenty of ways that these looks can translate into everyday life.
“As it’s well known, today’s women are always informed, updated and connected. They’re always online with their smartphones and tablets. They’re daily updated and they can see their favorite celebrities changing their looks even 4 times within a week! So, it’s really important that salons can be constantly informed about what’s going on, paying attention to fashion magazines, red carpets fashion shows,” Guido states.
“What women want today is something really more simple than 20 years ago. They want to be beautiful (of course), natural but also unique. That’s why details are crucial.”
So, if you’re looking to change up your everyday hairstyle, Guido suggests starting small.
“I think, you know, even the simplest thing, like changing a part, can really change your face. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. So if you’re always used to putting your hair on the side, just shifting it a couple of inches over to the middle can really transform your face. We get very locked into the way we look and we feel that that’s the only way we can look, and then when we look at people like actresses or music stars, pop stars and things, and then we see them transform their look we’re kind of envious, but really, I suppose what they have is a lot of people around them telling them they look great, and then they have a hairdresser—they sort of are given the confidence. I think a lot of real women lose that confidence and we have to find that back within ourselves, and you know, maybe if you’ve got a great hairdresser, who can suggest ideas, but it can be small things—changing a part, leaving your hair to dry naturally, not grabbing the hairdryer, trying different products to achieve different results.”
In fact, easy styles like the traditional ponytail can be elevated with small, simple changes. Even through, it’s almost everyone’s go-to style, simple tweaks can take the look to a whole level.
“Don’t underestimate the power of the pony. The hair equivalent of a classic white shirt; it’s incredibly versatile,” he said.
Add decorative bobby pins, tease your ends, slick down your roots—there are tons of ways to take your classic white shirt hairstyle to a fashion-forward level. These small tweaks are what Guido’s style is all about.
"Just because the hair looks minimal doesn’t mean it’s simple. There are a lot of layers to it, a lot of things and products to make that simple hair look as dramatic as it is. That’s the new kind of sophistication,” Guido states.
Beyond styling, it’s also important to note the power of a great haircut. Whether it’s an awe-inspiring set of wispy bangs or an Instagram-worthy lob, a haircut can honestly change your entire persona.
“Girls are much more kind of easy about transformation—cutting bangs or layers, or even extreme cuts. For the real woman—I keep saying the “real” woman, women at home, women reading this and all that—to get a few layers cut into your hair could be the first step, it grows within like six weeks, you’re sort of pushing your bangs away, you’ll then start another phase with your hair,” Guido mentions.
So, no matter if your hair is long and luscious or short and spunky, Guido believes that how you wear your hair should be an individual choice regardless of what’s trendy.
Besides these classic mainstays in his kit, Guido also believes that everyone should try Windblown 05 Texturizing Spray. “Well, I think Wind Blown 05 is my one that I keep banging on about because it’s one of those products that is so transformative in texture, but also so un-scary for women, and I think that’s really key for a successful product. I think Wind Blown gives you some great texture that you haven’t got there, some great volume in your hair, so that is a great product.”
Want to find out more about Redken’s Global Creative Director, Guido Palau and his styling must-haves? Check out @Redken5thAve on Instagram for the latest updates for all things hair.