Iconic hair stylist Julien d’Ys creates otherworldly sculptures from wigs and found wonders

Julien d’Ys, fashion’s great hair iconoclast, debuts his new artistic career with sculptures – created exclusively for Wallpaper* – that collage together everything from wigs to dried seaweed and noodles. With photography by Ilker Akyol.

Left Image: Left, Vermeer, made from sofa stuffing and fish wire sculpture Right: painted mannequin, netting from a package of firewood, a plastic cleaning glove, and a wig moulded with acrylic paint
(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

Julien d’Ys is saying goodbye to fashion. The influential hair stylist has been one of the industry’s great renegades since the early 1980s, boasting a portfolio that includes a decades-long collaboration with Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, wig designs for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, the creation of Linda Evangelista’s bob (which she credits with quadrupling her rate), and the hair on Madonna’s Re-Invention tour, as well as working with some of fashion’s greatest photographers, such as Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibovitz, Paolo Roversi and Steven Meisel.

Julien d’Ys creates sculptures for Wallpaper*

Side view of bee sculpture made from wigs, spray paint, glitter and chopsticks, white background

The Bee, made from wigs, spray-painted with glitter, and chopsticks

(Image credit: press)

But d’Ys (born Pierrick Le Verge) always thought of himself as an artist first, and he’d been growing increasingly disappointed with an industry he feels hems him in. ‘My whole life, working for magazines and designers, I’ve created for them,’ he says. So we invited him to create images without direction. ‘Working with Wallpaper*, I was free to do something very personal, to show that my creativity can go very far away and be very extreme.’

To create the pieces here – also showcased in the March 2022 issue of Wallpaper* and on the limited-edition subscribers (opens in new tab)’ cover – d’Ys walked the streets of Manhattan, from Chinatown to Harlem, sourcing miscellanea from open-air markets and antique shops, finding creative potential in what others, with less of an eye for the miraculousness in the marginal, might simply call junk. He also went back into his extensive archives, pulling out iconic wigs and headpieces that once graced catwalks and magazine pages.

Sculpture, red clay head, black feathers, dried seaweed, and broken Japanese pottery pieces, sat on a soft grey covered plinth, white background

La Plume du Ris, comprising a Mexican clay head made by d’Ys, with feathers, dried seaweed, noodles and broken Japanese pottery pieces

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

He found pieces like the towering wigs of The Bee, originally designed for an editorial shoot, which d’Ys has now repurposed into a plague doctor-like mask and outfitted with a set of chopstick wings. And the bouffant wig on La Dame de L’Opéra, which previously adorned a Gibson Girl at the Costume Institute, but now sits on a mannequin that d’Ys painted and draped in flea market pearls. Over the course of two days, d’Ys worked in a trance-like frenzy to collage the pieces into avatars of the many characters that populate his mind.

These characters include Gainsbourg, the corn-smoking loafer with features made out of mushrooms from a Chinatown market. And La Plume du Ris, an amorphous, bird-like figure inspired by the blocky abstraction of Picasso’s portraits, featuring a white feather in homage to Plage du Ris, a beach near d’Ys’ hometown in Brittany, black wings made from dried seaweed, and hair made out of noodles.

White background, red Mexican clay head, half mannequin sculpture, with mushrooms, corn and dark brown antique fabric

Gainsbourg, comprising a Mexican clay head made by d’Ys, with mushrooms, corn and antique fabric

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

As with most of d’Ys’ work, he began with little notion of what the finished project would look like. Rather, he allowed the look and story of the work to metamorphose as he created it, careening from one character portrait to another. Throughout the process he made sketches in his ‘Wallpaper*’ notebook, recording the development of a piece or the bubbling of a new idea.

Every step of the process was captured by his longtime collaborator, photographer Ilker Akyol. D’Ys’ final creations are dream visions that blend his historic oeuvre with the quotidian detritus of modern life to create something beguiling and novel. In his opinion, the role of the artist is to offer a glimpse into an alternate reality, one that is more spectacular than what we encounter in our everyday lives.

White background, painted mannequin female head, red wig moulded with acrylic paint, bright coloured eye and cheek makeup and red heart shape lipstick, fishnet stockings mounted on a twisted wire framework

Pigalle Girl, comprising a painted mannequin head, fishnet stockings, and a wig moulded with acrylic paint

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

‘I think people need to dream more. To see more beautiful things. You look in a magazine [today] and see reality, you see the same things you just saw on the street. Everything looks real now, everything looks normal, everything looks like the way we live. For me, when you show something in a magazine, you have to be different, you have to make people react, to [motivate] their creativity.’

So we invite you to take a journey down this visual escape hatch created by Julien d’Ys and see what inspiration you find. As he puts it himself, ‘What I did here is like dreaming, it is very strange. Maybe people are going to get it, or maybe not, but I hope so.’

Project drawings by d’Ys, whitebackground, mannequin head, neck and shoulders in blue outline, facial features, one yellow and one red circle for eye sockets, some smudging to drawing

Some early project drawings by d’Ys. The original concept for the story was inspired by the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the Renaissance painter best known for his portraits made from fruit or foliage. As d’Ys started gathering materials from around Manhattan (he splits his time between there and Paris) and ideas for new characters, the concept eventually spun out the final pieces seen here. 

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

Project drawing, white background, skull and cross bones sketch in blue ink

Early project drawing

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

Blue ink project sketch on a white background

Early project drawing

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

Blue and red ink abstract project sketch, white background

Early project drawing

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

Blue and red ink abstract mannequin head, neck and shoulder sketch, white background

Early project drawing

(Image credit: Ilker Akyol)

INFORMATION

@juliendys (opens in new tab)@ilkerakyl (opens in new tab)

A version of this story appears in the March 2022 Style Issue of Wallpaper*: subscribe today (opens in new tab)!

Beauty & Grooming Editor

Mary Cleary is the Beauty & Grooming Editor of Wallpaper*. Having been with the brand since 2017, she became an editor in February 2020 with the launch of the brand’s new beauty & grooming channel. Her work seeks to offer a new perspective on beauty, focusing on the pioneering personalities, product designs, and transformative trends within the industry.