Currently reading : “Chop House” (Charlie Le mindu by Ben Perdue)
“People think I do millinery but I’m shit at making hats,” says hairdresser Charlie Le Mindu, clearing himself a space amongst the magazines, brushes and discarded cans of product littering the sofa in his cramped Shoreditch salon. “I don’t want to be known as a designer. I make wigs.” Whichever way you look at, it the puckish 22-yr-old has carved out a living by cutting hair. Whether it’s attached to the heads it came from still or not.
His 5 o’clock client passed me on the stairs and we have a free slot before the next punter buzzes up from the street. So I get the grand tour. “You know Gemma Slack? She used to live in here,” says Le Mindu, opening the door to a single room with a mattress and some bin bags. The only clues his designer friend had ever been there. And that’s the tour over. Le Mindu lives in the tiny flat above, which is in a shit state too he confesses. You come here for a haircut, not to admire the interior décor.
With a client base built on word of mouth, Charlie Le Mindu had a strictly underground following until he showed a collection of wigs for autumn/winter 2009/10. An insane combination of unworldly creations that ranged from skull-topped cascades of curls and fountain-like deconstructed beehives, to towering drapes of vermillion fringing and rat skin headpieces. Not that his skills were previously underrated. His regulars are as likely to come from Knightsbridge as Shoreditch. Ladies who lunch and club freaks alike. “I don’t like cool kids. I like interesting people,” he says, combing a hand through his peroxide blonde shock of wavy hair. “I’m like a gypsy. I can work anywhere. I’m not tied down to any particular style.”
This transient edge developed after Le Mindu moved from his hometown of Bordeaux to Berlin. Using skills perfected over seven years of study for a formal hairdressing diploma back in France, he opened regular pop up salons at club parties. “The nightlife is great there, much better than London. I met Peaches at one of my pop up salons and now I do her hair. Everything started form there. But after three years in Berlin I couldn’t party anymore so I moved to London to concentrate on work.” Which has grown into a career that spans styling at shoots and fashion shows, touring with Berlin hell-raiser Peaches as her official hairdresser, and making show-stopping shaggy sculptures masquerading as wigs.
Le Mindu admits that he was in a “fucking dark mood” when he created his latest collection but while he never set out to shock, one piece in particular has polarised opinions of his work. A wig covering the head like a ski mask, stitched out of whole rat pelts. “After I showed it, PETA called me up and were like, ‘what do you think you’re doing?’” laughs Le Mindu. “‘What if you used baby skins?’ I told the girl on the phone that next time I’d be using her vagina to make earrings instead. She hung up. They’re like fascists. I wish they had threatened me properly. That would have been even funnier.” But joking aside, if Le Mindu could use human products like skin, bones and teeth he would. “I like everything that relates to the body. If I could use human skin to make clothes they would be amazing. I love all skins, not just the usual animals and fish. I think I have a different view of sexiness than everyone else. I like things a bit mental.”
Next season promises to be a happier affair with Le Mindu planning wigs for other parts of the body this time too. So PETA activists beware because merkins look set to make a catwalk comeback. His work may not be for the easily offended but Le Mindu does have a positive message. “Wigs aren’t only for people with cancer and drag queens,” he says. “I just want to show people that everything they thought was ugly can be beautiful.”