From celebrities like Lady Gaga to fashion brands like Chanel, Eugene Souleiman’s artistic mastery has made him an icon of style across the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries. As any artist will tell you, keeping an open mind is key to cultivating creative ideas. For Eugene Souleiman, Wella’s creative director, being open to new concepts also means never taking yourself too seriously. “Humour is a very good leveller, and it keeps you open and objective,” says Souleiman, adding that he’ll never stop learning. After putting his children to bed at his home in London, Souleiman made time to speak with Salon Magazine about his outlook on trends and what it means to be a hairstylist in today’s world of global beauty.
Salon Magazine: You started your career in the early ’80s. What has helped you maintain your creative eye?
Eugene Souleiman: I think in a more abstract kind of way—it’s just very innate to me. Shapes, texture and colour: These are the three key elements that a good hairstyle should encompass, and I happen to think in this way.
SM: With today’s access to trends from around the world, where do you see the next great trend originating from?
ES: Japan. It’s a country where I feel very much at home, so it’s an amazing place for me. I’ve never really been one of these people who is into routine. I thrive on things changing constantly at a faster pace.
SM: What does the concept of global style mean to you as a hairstylist?
ES: There is a more open-minded view of what is beautiful now—there’s a lot of diversity. For instance, a fashion show in London is either very raw and low-key or crazy; in Milan it’s more sensual and sexy or intelligent and minimal; and in New York it’s very wearable and believable.
SM: You talk about imperfection in hair, yet your work is flawless. What is the secret to finding that balance?
ES: The secret is to start with a clean base and to layer products. For instance, when we work on Chloé, we create a beautifully groomed centre part look that falls into the eyes. The look has more natural movement, so I’ll use a hydration spray at the roots and ends, along with a bit of drying powder underneath to create volume. It’s really about understanding how to work with the products in different ways and how each product can be layered to create the look you want.
“Every fashion house has a different energy and point of view that feeds me. I look at doing something that is a complete juxtaposition yet it would fit the collection”
SM: Working with celebrities, what’s the process of creating a look that is really defining?
ES: With Lady Gaga, it was funny because we were talking and I just suggested cutting her hair off because no one really knew what her hair looked like anyway. I love Björk and her free spirit. She has such a childlike quality. We always have a great exchange of creative ideas and she’s wide open to trying new looks.
SM: Can you speak to the importance of collaborating?
ES: There’s an emotional side to doing hair: If they aren’t someone whose work you respect, it’s difficult. You get different things from different people, but it’s chemistry really. Josh and I collaborate together and we’re always working as a team. It’s so important to have the support and respect of your colleagues.
SM: As a global creative director for Wella, what does the next trend evolution look like to you?
ES: More artisanal, with smaller businesses and shops evolving and growth that isn’t big. There are pockets of people doing interesting things. I look at what’s around me in the world. I’m very into pop culture, and I have a huge comic book collection. We build on a certain vibe and, from the back of our minds, the vision comes through.
SM: You worked with Trevor Sorbie for a decade. What would you say was your biggest take-away from that experience?
ES: I’m very lucky to have had the background of training with Trevor Sorbie and that Sassoon element to my work. I’ve had a very strong and eclectic training and, as a result, I have this menu of techniques that I’ve been taught, so I go with the flow.
SM: What do you see as your next step?
ES: I would like to teach. One of my assistants told me people really enjoy being on my team and that they learn as we all learn. I’m also in the process of building my studio, and I’m working on an idea for an atelier for myself because I always go into other people’s places and have never had my own.