In editorial hair styling, being eccentric is the norm. But no other behind-the-scenes stylist has cultivated such a unique skill like Ryoji Imaizumi. The hair magician, who has worked with everyone from Vogue Paris to Lanvin to BMW, is best known for his use of chopsticks–that’s right, chopsticks–to create inventive, glamorous styles.
We recently chatted with Imaizumi, who’s currently on business in Japan–about his life and work.
Fashionista: How are you? What are you up to in Japan?
Ryoji Imaizumi: Well, my first reason for being here is for my work visa, but I’m also represented by a fashion photography agency in Tokyo. I work with Harper’s Bazaar, Figaro, Vogue Nippon, Elle, as well as Uniqlo, Japanese designers and Japanese pop stars and actresses.
How many flights would you say you take a year? Do you like traveling?
That’s always different. For example, I was very busy in NYC this year, so I didn’t get to fly as much as I am used to.
You work in so many areas of the business–which do you prefer–editorial, runway shows, or client work?
Well, I love doing great editorials most because it is a small group of people who get to create and communicate their message. Photography is also two dimensional, so I need to think differently for photos than for videos, which is three dimensional and involves many more views and appearances. Dealing with clients forces me to be able to clearly communicate what I want. I need to be able to convey my taste to them. For each scenario, I use different skills, and this is how I’m successful everywhere I go. I really enjoy the challenge of having to think differently for each area of the business.
You do work with Shu Uemura. What’s your role there?
I am creative director for Shu Uemura Art of Hair. My role is to create hair styles and hair techniques. I also do hair shows to educate salons all over the U.S.
You’re famous for using chopsticks in your work. What made you decide to use them as a tool?
The first time was a magic moment, and it also seemed like deja vu. I was working on a big advertising job in Saint-Tropez. It was very confusing and chaotic. The director was taking photos and moving all over the place, and he would ask me to do something all of the sudden. If you couldn’t perform, he would scream and put a ton of pressure on you. I was trying to do whatever I could to make him happy, and the only tool I had was a long U-pin. I was facing the sunset when he asked me to work with the hair, and at that moment I thought “why don’t I use chopsticks to pick up the hair instead of a U-pin?” All of the stress and pressure lead me to use the chopsticks, and now I am known for the method.
What’s your all-time favorite hairstyle?
I love making big hair with chopsticks–I guess that’s my thing, and I will always enjoy it the most. Haha. But, I also enjoy trying to create different hair styles, and I push myself to do that all of the time. Mixing classic techniques and different cultures to push my fantasy–I guess that’s who I am.
What’s next in the world of haircare and styling?
Well, I’m always working on this, but I can’t share it yet…this, I will keep for the right moment!