Whether they’re snipping hair into sleek, sculptural bobs or molding it into a dramatic updos, hairstylists are true artists. Shu Uemura Art of Hair is honoring hair innovators by hosting the 3rd annual Gallery of Style competition. They challenged hairstylists working in Shu Uemura salons to create, photograph, and submit an avant-garde look that embodies the competition’s “Tokyo Rama” theme (in other words, a style that riffs off Tokyo’s diverse landscape, combining the concepts of modern design and traditional architecture).
Now, when you see these looks, your first thought is probably going to be: These are so cool! And your second thought is probably going to be: But who would ever wear this kind of thing around town? A valid point—but these works of art can be easily reimagined to fit everyday life. Travis Valdez, education development manager for Shu Uemura Art of Hair, explains how he and his team translated last year’s semifinal looks into totally wearable street styles.
LOOK #1: Lived-in French Braid by Nicole Tomasch
“To me, ‘Tokyo Vibe’ is the harmonious combination of tradition and trend. My interpretation is a style that embodies the history of the culture (Geisha and Samurai silhouettes) and the creativity of modern trends.”
“Crimping is an easy way to create volume and texture. The side “Dutch” French braid enhances the edginess of the look and is a nod to the braids in the avant-garde style,” says Valdez.
Blow-dry your hair to help your it absorb the mousse.
Step 3: Crimp the hairline
Take a one-inch section of hair at the hairline. Starting from the scalp and working your way down to the ends, crimp hair with a crimping iron. Continue crimping your entire head of hair in one-inch sections.
Step 4: Make a braid
Separate a one-inch section of hair on the opposite side of the fuller side of your part. Separate into three equal pieces and start to French braid inside out (instead of pulling each section of hair over the center section, pull under); secure with a hair elastic.
“I was born and raised in Japan. I was inspired by Japanese nature. The fluidity of waves, forests, and mountains were all aspects that inspired my creation.”
“To make this look better suited for everyday life, we make the waves a little looser to add more natural movement, turned a low side ponytail into a ‘cord’ braid that we twisted into a loose bun, and we left a few strands around the face and draped over the ear to give the style a soft, flirty feel,” says Valdez.
Let hair air dry and then rake through hair with your fingers. Mist Sheer Lacquer throughout the strands.
Step 4: Create a low ponytail
Leaving out two-inch sections of hair above each ear (clip these sections back to keep them temporarily out of the way), pull strands into a low side ponytail at the nape of the neck and secure with an elastic. Separate the ponytail into two sections and twist them in opposite directions. Tease upward to add texture if needed.
Step 5: Twist and pin
Twist each section up to the hair elastic and casually pin, allowing pieces to fall naturally out of the messy bun.
Step 6: Add face-framing sections
Release the sections of hair above the ears to frame the side of your face. Pin any remaining loose strands into the messy bun if needed. Finish with another layer of Sheer Lacquer.
Look #3: Pumped up Ponytail by Jennifer Gillis
“Tokyo vibe—a juxtaposition of traditional Japanese influences and an explosion of all things modern. Fluidity and movement were major themes in my creation, as a result of my study of the dragon and its tradition in Japanese culture.”
— Jennifer Gillis
“A high ponytail is always flattering. This look gives you just the right amount of lift at the crown, plus the perfect amount of volume and definition in your ponytail,” explains Valdez.
Step 1: Separate the crown section
Section off about four inches of hair on the top of your head, starting at the hairline and moving back to the crown. Clip in place.
Step 2: Make a ponytail
Pull remaining hair into a mid-height ponytail.
Step 3: Curl front sections
Take front section of hair out of the clip. Brush through and spray with Sheer Lacquer for hold and shine. Take a one-inch section from your hairline and curl it away from your face using a one-inch curling iron. Clip curl in place to help it set and let it cool.
Step 4: Curl and clip up
Divide the remaining hair in that front section into two more sections (one in front of the other) and curl and set each section, so you have a row of three clipped curls.
Wrap remaining pieces of hair around the base of the ponytail; secure the ends underneath the ponytail with a bobby pin. Tease the ponytail with your fingers and spritz hair with Sheer Lacquer.
Look #4: Teased Ponytail by Karly Cagliani
“I was inspired by Japanese street style, more specifically the bright colors and decorated hairstyles worn in Harajuku fashion. My look was influenced by their eye-catching fringe and double ponytails.”
“This is about contrasting textures. You have sleek, polished hair on top and then a full, matte, textured ponytail. It’s a runway-ready look that feels completely right for real life too,” adds Valdez.
Apply the product from your hairline to the nape of the neck, and then smooth hair back into a low center ponytail; secure with an elastic.
Step 3: Curl the tail
Take a one-inch section of hair in the ponytail and wrap it around a ¾-inch curling iron to create spiral curls. Curl the entire ponytail.
Step 4: Apply texturizer and tease
Dust three clicks of Volume Maker from mid lengths to ends to add volume and texture. And then tease the hair in the ponytail using a teasing brush.
Step 5: Cover the elastic
Take a one-inch section of hair from the ponytail and wrap it around the ponytail elastic; secure the ends under the base of the ponytail with a bobby pin.
Step 6: Spray for hold
Mist Sheer Lacquer on the ponytail to keep the teased hair in place.
Look #5: Textured Mohawk Braid by Summer Verrett
“Japanese warrior meets Tokyo 2016. This is a style that reflects Japanese culture of the past and present. It’s timeless.”
“A textured mohawk braid is fun and unique—but can be tricky to pull off. This chic, easy-to-create version is actually multiple ponytails that have been ‘Frenched’ together,” explains Valdez.
Step 1: Make a small front ponytail
Grab a one-inch section of hair at the hairline and pull it back into a slightly off-center ponytail and secure with an elastic. Clip the ponytail off to the side.
Step 2: Add a second ponytail
Create a ponytail of equal density right behind the first ponytail and secure with a hair elastic.
Step 3: Split the two tails
Split the first ponytail into two equal parts. Pull the second ponytail through the center of the first ponytail and clip to the side.
Step 4: Keep making small ponytails
Take tails from first ponytail and create a third ponytail. Split second ponytail in half and pull the third ponytail through the center and clip to the side. Continue this pattern down your head; secure end of mohawk braid with a hair elastic.
Expand each section with your fingertips, and then spray the mohawk braid with Sheer Lacquer.
Look #6: Half up Top Knot by Jasmine Galazka
“I was inspired by Tokyo’s modern architecture as well as the historic Geisha-inspired bun. The ladder braids represent sticks, which were used by Geishas in their hair to ward off evil.”
— Jasmine Galazka
“With just minor tweaking, the avant-garde top knot becomes a polished day or night look. It’s a go-to look for second or third day hair—simply apply Shu Uemura Shape Paste to add hold and texture,” says Valdez.
Step 1: Pull into a high ponytail
Section off the top three inches of hair and pull strands into a high ponytail; secure with an elastic.
Step 2: Tame with molding paste
Take a dime-size amount of Shape Paste and rub it between your palms, then spread it onto your ponytail for hold and control.
Step 3: Braid the tail
Separate hair into three sections and braid the ponytail; secure ends with an elastic. Add thickness by pulling the braid apart starting at the bottom and working your way up.
Step 4: Create a braided bun
Twist the braid around the base of the ponytail, pinning as you go along to keep the top knot in place.
Step 5: Fluff the bun
Pull hair apart a little to expand the top knot and then apply Sheer Lacquer.
Step 6: Smooth and add shine
To smooth the hair outside of the top knot, apply a dab ofEssence Absolueon your palms. Press palms through the hair, from mid-length to ends.
About the Author:Lesley Rotchford is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering beauty, health, fitness, and entertainment for 18 years. She was an executive editor at Women’s Health and prior to that held editorial positions at Self, Cosmopolitan and Allure. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Self, Health, Shape, Allure, Cosmopolitan, In Style, Redbook, Seventeen, Fit Pregnancy and Baby, and other magazines. She lives in New Canaan, CT, with her husband and three sons.