Everyday ease

“Hair can transform someone” – legendary hairstylist Guido Palau on his new product collection
By Mary Cleary | Fashion | 15 March 2024

When I go to meet Guido Palau at the Zara Hair pop-up outside the Centre Pompidou, my hair is a mess. The pouring rain outside has made it frizz out to cartoonish proportions and, as I notice on the pop-up’s mirrored glass walls right before I sit down for our conversation, I didn’t even remember to straighten my part.

But that’s OK, because despite being fashion’s most prominent hair stylist – the go-to name for brands like Prada and The Row, the man who did the hair of all the supers in George Michael’s Freedom! ‘90 music video and the iconic Kate Moss advertisements for Calvin Klein, not to mention hundreds of other editorials and campaigns you’ve no doubt seen – Guido Palau has, as he tells us, “always been inspired by the things that aren’t perfect in hair, the messiness.” And it’s that appreciation for the ‘realness’ of hair as it is seen on the street that has shaped his new collection of hair products with Zara.

GALLERYImages from Guido Palau 'Hairtests'

Informed by Palau’s 30-plus years of experience, the collection consists of six products that form the backbone of any stylist’s kit. “This feels like a luxury product, for not luxury prices,” Palau says, talking us through the collection. And even though that might sound like a pithy marketing tagline; it is, as this writer finds out later when using the products, completely true.

Palau is aware that a high-street fashion behemoth like Zara might seem like an unlikely outlet for professional-level hair products; and so he has worked with design firm Baron & Baron to create Memphis-inspired packaging that upends expectations. “Packaging is important because you have to be attracted to it,” he explains. “Do you want to grab it, smell it and then actually put it in your clean hair that you’ve spent 25 to 30 minutes preparing?”

That understanding of how the products will be used in a day-to-day context has informed every aspect of each product. Even though Palau’s career has revolved around the runway and the photo studio, it has still afforded him an understanding of the emotional and transformational power of hair for every woman.

“I’ve worked with so many models and even girls who have the most iconic hair,” he says. “The girls who make everyone say – ‘I want my hair like that.’ Even that person has a problem with their hair.”

“With hair, you put it up in a ponytail because you’re working, you put it down because you’re meeting your girlfriends,” Palau continues. “You can feel envy for someone with great hair, or use it as a device for flirting. I’m fascinated with it – obviously, because I do it for a living – but when I start talking about it I realise it’s not as simple as just creating a hairspray, but thinking about what women actually like to do with their hair, and how do they like their hair to feel, to smell.”

For Palau, the most appealing part of working with hair has always been its character-building quality, its ability to radically transform the way someone looks or feels. “Hair is a great indicator or a great illusion of something,” he says. “That’s what the fantasy is with hair. I’ve always loved the way hair can transform someone, and it doesn’t have to be radical. It can be as simple as changing a parting or just blowing your hair out, and you can pretend to be something else.”

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