didier malige, the hair stylist behind the most beautiful women in the world
It’s no coincidence that hair legend Didier Malige’s partner has one of fashion’s most distinctive barnets. Together, he and Grace Coddington have taken the hair of the fashion world and turned it on its well-groomed head!
Photography Daniel Jackson
Emma wears jacket stylist own. Jeans Levi's
Didier Malige's journey to being one of the industry's top hair stylists began in the 60s at Carita, the crème de la crème salon of Parisian beauty, which counted the likes of Catherine Deneuve and her sister Françoise Dorléac as loyal customers. Didier is now known for his work with legendary photographers Helmut Newton, Bob Richardson and Bruce Weber; his rock-starlet makeovers for Saint Laurent; and most recently, Gisele's luscious locks as Chanel No. 5's latest femme fatale.
It was Didier's move from the Carita sisters' salon to that of Jean Louis David, now a global franchise of blue-chip parlours, that kickstarted his career as a hairstylist rather than just a hairdresser. "Jean had a medium-sized salon, but wanted to create something much bigger, so he made a studio team of maybe three or four people doing only fashion work," Didier recalls from his hotel in LA, where he's currently on a break between shoots. "I was very dedicated to my work, so maybe I did a little bit more than the others, but I was fascinated with working with a photographer as opposed to working with a client."
After spending a whirlwind few years working with Helmut Newton, Bob Richardson and Guy Bourdin, Jean Louis closed down his studio team, leaving Didier with only one choice if he wanted to stay: to return to the back of a salon chair. Instead, he followed a young French photographer named Patrick Demarchelier to the land of opportunities, America, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Often, the most celebrated of hairstylists are known because of their penchant for the lavish. Packs and packs of fake hair, accessories and Crazy Color are used to create what are arguably visual masterpieces, but Didier abides by the old Parisian school of thought - that beauty is best once slept in. "It doesn't look good if a girl has super shiny hair. It's more about broken hair or lived-in hair. It's not about super healthy hair," he says. "I still like the way French women wore their hair in the 60s. You could really touch it. There was a direction, but it wasn't stiff, there was a lot of life in it. I think of Françoise Hardy or Jane Birkin or Betty Catroux, the muse of Yves Saint Laurent. The women were extremely feminine. I like that kind of hair." Even Didier's most excessive handiwork had an element of au naturel to it. "Maybe something that people will remember is a campaign for Karl Lagerfeld where I put branches in the girls' hair," he recalls of the French fashion house's1982 campaign, photographed by Bruce Weber. The model was Linda Spearing and she had ivy vines entangled in her hair and a bundle of branches resting on top of her head which, when matched with a long, black dress, made her look like the forest's most glam of fairies. "That was maybe one of the more outrageous things that I've done."
For The Beautiful Issue of i-D, Didier tousled the tresses of some of our favourite new faces. That's what he loves most - fresh faces - and he has a talent for spotting them. "I remember, a long time ago I met Natalie Portman," he recalls of one of the most beautiful women he's ever met, "she was just a kid, auditioning for the movie, Léon: The Professional. I was invited by the director to come and meet her and see what we could do. She was extremely beautiful but also so smart. She was probably 12 or 13 years old but you could tell that that little girl was manipulating the director! She got the part and she was extremely good in the film. That's what I admire in the very young girls - how smart they can be. It was the same when I met Uma Thurman. She was a model at the time, not an actress, and she was so independent, it was beautiful. She was taking care of her family, probably financially. She was the nerve of the family."
If he had to pick one, who would be the most beautiful woman he's ever worked with? "It's difficult to say that one woman is prettier than another. It's more about who has the most style and who is the most willing to work with you. Yesterday, I was looking at Instagram and one of the people I follow posted a picture of this girl and I remembered how beautiful she was. Her name was Antonia Rizo. She was photographed by Bruce Weber for the cover of his book O Rio de Janeiro."
Antonia Rizo was a Calvin Klein model back in 1988. Look her up and you'll find a girl wearing white jeans, an open, white, denim jacket, and the longest, lushest, darkest locks you've ever seen. "When I met her, she was probably 14 or 15 years old and she was so beautiful," says Didier. "She lived in Rio, so she had incredible skin and incredible hair. She was very, very smart and all of our attention was true to her. Bruce [photographed] her almost every day for the book."
Although he may not have a signature style as such, Didier's huge body of work with Bruce Weber is what most people will recognise him for. "I did a lot of work with Bruce for many years and maybe that's the definition of my work," he explains. Together they've created some of the most beautiful, black and white images in the world, of some of the most beautiful girls in the world - Naomi Campbell straddling Mike Tyson in American Vogue, 1989, Daria Werbowy pulling faces for the cover of V's Daria issue and more recently, Karlie Kloss and Emily Ratajkowski getting steamy in the shallows for CR Fashion Book. Each girls' locks were styled to perfect imperfection, enhancing their natural beauty. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and these beauties definitely ain't broke!
Didier has been with his partner, Creative Director of American Vogue, Grace Coddington, for nearly 30 years now and alongside Bruce, many of his best images have been created in collaboration with her. But of course, what everyone really wants to know is: how much does he contribute to her famously fiery mane? "I cut Grace's hair every five or six months, but she styles it herself, she knows exactly what to do to bring it to that big mass of hair," Didier confesses. "Grace doesn't need me to do her hair, because she does it better than anybody! She is from that old school of believing that she can do it better than anybody."
Even though he has worked with the world's leading photographers and can legitimately say he's created models' trademark hairstyles (Josie Borain and Talisa Soto, among many others), Didier is one of the most modest men in an industry that thrives on vanity. "I don't know that I am better than other people, maybe I am just more devoted," he replies when we ask him how he feels about being called a "hair visionary" by The New York Times. When it comes to hair, Didier is a cut above the rest. He's worked with the best of the best and his only unfulfilled ambitions are to put his tools to the test on the locks of Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Didier Malige, you're our mane man.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Daniel Jackson
Fashion Director Alastair McKimm
Hair Didier Malige
Hair Didier Malige using René Furterer Paris
Make-up Mariel Barrera at Joe Management using Chanel
Photography assistance Peter Duong, Jake Merrill
Digital technician Karen Goss
Styling assistance Katelyn Gray, Lauren Davis
Hair assistance Takashi Yusa
Make-up assistance Yumi
Production and casting Nikki Stromberg at M.A.P NY
Models Lauren Taylor at DNA. Lena at One Management. Anne Verhallen and Drea Grady at New York Models. Stina Rapp at Women. Roxane Glineur and Hailey Baldwin at Ford. Hannah Vandermolen at Trump. Emma Stern at Silent. Devyn Galindo, Megan Jean May Collins, Taylor Treadwell
[The Beautiful Issue, no. 334, Winter 14]