Art from hair

Everything Charlie, n’est-ce pas?

© Alice Blangero

Charlie Le Mindu creates art from hair and completely overturns our expectations of hairdressing. Mademoiselle Lili is always amazed at what he makes out of hair.


For instance, recently at Place des Pyramides. For centuries, she’s been sitting atop the equestrian monument: Jeanne D’Arc/Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine. But on that day, she was the paragon of punk with her head adorned with a golden Mohawk. The passers-by lapped this up as they pulled out their smartphones to snap pictures of the original icon and post her on social media channels all around the world. The culprit: Charlie Le Mindu, enfant terrible of Parisian coiffeurs. A wash, a trim and a blow-dry – the 31-year-old stopped doing this a long time ago. At age 11 he was sweeping up hair in a salon in the provincial town of Bergerac – and the manager predicted he would have a promising future as a hairdresser. “She said I had the perfect wrist movements”, he smiles. She was right: These days, he performs on major stages, adding a new genre to the world of art: that of hair artistry.

© Palais de tokyo

He began his career as an apprentice in Bordeaux, moved on to underground clubs in Berlin, and was then called to London to create extreme haute coiffure hairstyles for the upmarket department store Harrods. But it wasn’t until he started making crazy wigs and dresses from real hair for Lady Gaga that he really became famous. For a few years, he drove through the streets of Paris with his scooter pimped out with hair extensions blowing in the wind. Now he lives in Los Angeles. He regularly performs at major museums from Paris to Monaco. His style is a mix of revue, fashion show, dance theatre and freak show. In Palais de Tokyo he had a guest act with “Charliewood”, where strange yeti creatures tumbled around in full-body costumes of silky hair, lit up by strobe lights. Not forgetting Fondation Cartier with the show “Paris hait le gris” where the dancers from Crazy Horse danced around to techno sounds, practically naked and scantily clad with bizarre hair masks. At Centre Pompidou he staged a type of interactive TV show for teenagers where they could dream they were in a ghost world by donning costumes and wigs. For the great choreographers of our time – from Philippe Decouflé to Robert Wilson – he designs spectacular stage outfits and masks made of hair. “Hair develops its beauty in movement”, he says. “I love seeing it dance”. He was inspired by the drag queen scene of Brazil, where he became interested in “Bate Cabelo”: a type of hair dance where the actors wildly shake their heads – a ritual that found its way to South America from the African country of Ethiopia. Charlie Le Mindu is probably the craziest guy in his industry. This spring, he will travel through Europe with a new big tour, entitled Cabaret Charlie, and I’m already excited about it – right down to the tips of my hair.