Similar to the makeup we artfully apply to our face, our hair is also a canvas for self expression and a reflection of our personality. Think about it: You create voluminous curls when you’re feeling fancy and free; run a flat iron through your tresses to appear sleek and chic; and pull it back into a chignon for a classic, confident look. But believe it or not, even the simple act of taking a brush to your locks is a form of expression, as you are expressing your desire to look presentable and well-groomed.
No one understands this creative and personal connection to hair more than a stylist. These pros use their medium -- whether it be a pair of scissors, a styling tool or hair dye -- to make others feel beautiful. Pretty powerful, right?
But we’re not the only ones who get to feeling warm and fuzzy about hair stylists. Shu Uemura Art of Hair recognizes stylists as artists in their own right and even created an event to celebrate and showcase their talents: Enter the Gallery of Style. This global competition gives stylists an opportunity to show off their skills in front of the industry’s biggest names. The theme of this year’s competition, Tokyo Vibe, invites contestants to create their own interpretation of Japanese style.
We spoke with five of the 15 semi-finalists who gave us the inside scoop on the inspiration behind their looks as well as some tips to make them our own!
If you haven’t already, check out the complete gallery of looks on the Shu Uemura Art of Hair website and vote for your fave look by May 20! We have to say, it was tough to pick just one. These creations left us speechless.
The Inspiration Behind This Look:
“When I first heard the theme -- Tokyo Vibe -- Japanese women came to mind. I've always been mesmerized by the beauty and adorableness of Japanese ladies. My look was inspired by these two characteristics, resulting in a modern geisha style. I wanted to make sure the products I chose didn’t alter the texture I created and that the hair supported itself.”
You Can Do It, Too: You can achieve this modern geisha look. Here’s the quick play-by-play:
Step 1: First, prep your hair. It’s best for hair to have some grit to it, so second or third day hair is ideal. You can also spritz it with a texturizing spray like Depsea Foundation and/or Ample Angora.
Step 2: Section off the front top of the hair, from temple to temple and tie or clip it so it’s out of the way while you work on the rest.
Step 3: Next, you have the option of adding a bow to the style (this is totally optional). If you’re opting for “no bow,” divide the hair all the way down the center. If you’re including a bow you need to create a triangular section just underneath the crown with the point in the low nape of the neck. Depending on the desired placement of the bow, you will brush or comb this section smoothly upward and secure it with an elastic hair band (the base of the ponytail will be just below the bow).
Step 4: Split the remaining hair down the center. Now, you can either twist or braid each section upward to the front temple on each side.This is the point of the style that you can get creative, as there are so many variations of braids and twists. You can secure each section by using a tiny elastic band or bobby pin and tuck the ends into the top section.
Step 5: If opting for a bow, now is the time to add it. Just divide the ponytail into three sections and gently back comb them, making sure they keep some smoothness.Take the center section and, using an elastic band, create another ponytail but, upon the last wraparound, only pull the pony through halfway. This will serve as the the right side of the bow. Next, using another elastic band, repeat the previous action on the left section of hair in the ponytail, again pulling the last section through halfway. The remaining right section will be wrapped around the center and secured with a bobby pin.
Step 6: Curl and/or crimp the top section of hair and set with pins as they cool. To complete, lightly back comb the curled pieces until you achieve the desired fullness and shape, then pin them in place. Take a final look at everything, make any adjustments necessary, then finish with Sheer Lacquer.
The Inspiration Behind This Look: “My desire was to interpret the bobs that you see on the women of Tokyo in an exaggerated way. I wanted to create a bob with a texture that felt young and fresh, but that would also fit right in with the oversized fashion associated with the city.”
You Can Do It, Too: “Texture is everything right now, and curls -- while timeless and beautiful -- can be yawn-inducing when worn day after day.” To up your texture game, try this fun tutorial:
Step 1: Take a thumb-sized section of hair, spray it with Texture Wave, and fold a hair-length piece of aluminum foil around it “hot dog” style. Now fold it up like an accordion and hit it with with a flat iron for five to ten seconds (five seconds for fine hair, ten seconds for thicker hair types).
Step 2: After the foil has cooled, pull it out. Brush the hair out and spray with Texture Wave again. Do this to create zig-zag tendrils around your face while the rest of your hair is pulled back into a sleek flat-ironed ponytail. You can also create a high ponytail on top of your head and follow these steps to create a modern version of the messy bun.
The Inspiration Behind This Look:
“(I was inspired) by a juxtaposition of traditional Japanese influences and an explosion of all things modern. These two concepts intersect in my creative interpretation of Tokyo Vibe. The fluidity and movement of the hairstyle were inspired by my study of the dragon -- it plays against the modern vibe of all things Tokyo. ”
You Can Do It, Too: “When I’m looking for a casual look with a rebel twist, this is a go-to style.” Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Start with a center section on top of the head and pin so it’s out of the way. Slick the side sections back so they gather into a low, medium, or high ponytail (whatever you prefer).
Step 2: Curl the center section away from the face with your favorite curling iron and pin the curls into place as they cool to keep their shape.
Step 3: After they’ve cooled, release the curled hair, apply Texture Wave and Volume Maker at the root and back comb to your heart’s content until you get the lift and volume you desire.
Step 4: Wrap the ends of this curled section around the ponytail and pin to secure. Finish with Sheer Lacquer to hold your look all night.
The Inspiration Behind This Look: “I was inspired by Japanese nature. The fluidity of waves, the forest and mountains were all aspects in my creation.”
You Can Do It, Too: “The essence of my style is in the wave and texture. Before pinning your hair to the side [in a messy bun or loose pony], prep dry hair by adding wave with a curling, crimping, or flat iron. Use a liberal amount of Texture Wave before pinning hair to the side with hair and bobby pins. For a more wearable look, bring the shape lower and closer to the front.”
The Inspiration Behind This Look:
“Japanese street style is all about standing out. Decora girls love to make a statement. I was inspired by the bright colors and decorated hairstyles worn in Harajuku fashion. My look was influenced by their eye-catching fringe and double ponytails.”
You Can Do It, Too: “Bangs can change your look dramatically. This is a fun and easy way to update your style without committing to the chop.”
Creating Braided Faux Bangs
To create this look start by sectioning out your bangs and two side sections aligned to where you want your bangs to lay.The two side sections are where you will start and end your braid (French, Dutch or fishtail) while incorporating hair from your bang section as you braid across. To tame those flyaways, use Shape Paste. You can also pull on the completed braid to loosen and create a fuller effect.
Creating Amped-Up Curls
Add some texture and volume to your curls! As you curl your hair take each section, starting from the top, and lightly back comb the hair toward your scalp, moving down until you reach the bottom of the curl. This is a quick and easy way to make your hair appear more voluminous.
To provide good grip and texture use Texture Wave prior to curling and braiding the hair. Play with your part, by creating a zig-zag line that both complements the edginess of the look and creates the illusion of thicker hair.