We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council on “How To Become”, a video series spotlighting careers in fashion.
Introducing our brand new video series “How To Become”, spotlighting only the most innovative and boundary-pushing names in fashion. We’ve teamed up with the British Fashion Council to explore careers in fashion and their unusual trajectories, with trailblazing talent interviewed by Wonderland’s Editor-in-Chief Toni-Blaze.
Watch the interview now, or read a shortened version of the interview below…
Welcome everybody! My name is Toni-Blaze Ibekwe, I’m Editor-in-chief of Wonderland magazine and welcome to the “How to Become” series with Wonderland and the BFC. I am joined by the gorgeous hairstylist Jawara – how have you been staying creative during lockdown?
I have been mood boarding a lot. Recently for Vogue I was asked to send a picture that was going to be published of what my quarantine looks like, and I’ve been building and reading and educating myself just to try to be a little bit more equipped to do all the things that I’m trying to do once this is all over with.
What was it like growing up in Jamaica?
Jamaica was one of the most amazing places for me to grow up. I was born in New York but then I was flown to Jamaica at about three months old and I grew up in Jamaica at the height of the dancehall culture era, reggae culture era, so for me it was very vivid and colourful and just exciting and a lot of music. I remember a lot of music and a lot of great food, a lot of dancing, and excitement and I think for a kid that’s like a really a good place to grow up and I just remember it just being like a really great place for me. I lived in a house with a lot of older women, so a lot of my life choices were kind of like advised by what I would hear them say as a child and now that I’m an adult I’m realising, wow they were so wise beyond their years. And I just remember elaborate outfits, amazing food, incredible hair, like, indescribably incredible hair that, you know, as you probably can tell inspires me today. So, it was a great childhood.
Coming from a Jamaican heritage, why was that so important for you to infuse that into your work as well?
I’m never going to do anything that I’m not truly authentically being myself. And I just didn’t really see any representation of that and I think that understanding black hair culture and Jamaican hair culture is so sophisticated, it’s such a complicated way of doing hair that I felt like it will be great to fuse the two of, like, what I learned in the session world together and what I learned from earlier on, in Jamaica, those techniques. So I’ve always just tried to stay true to what I am and where I’m from and how I view the world and how we view beauty, where I’m from. I remember being a child being in my aunt’s salon day after day after day, I just loved seeing the women come in with one attitude and leave with another attitude. Coming in kind of sad and whatever’s going on in their life and leaving just very happy and I think that, like just watching them do these gravity-defying hairstyles with hair, colours, cuts, you know, Jamaican hair culture is definitely has set itself apart for me from all the other cultures that I’ve seen and been a part of and it’s amazing.
Hair by Jawara
Hair by Jawara
Who were your early inspirations?
My aunt’s name was Vanetta Bailey, and I just remember a few of her clients were like really heavy dancehall goers and these women, they would get their hair changed every few days and they didn’t believe in wearing an outfit more than once. Sometimes they looked so otherworldly it was just so insane, so my aunt was the first person that influenced me in hair. My mother is a reggae singer so I grew up around a lot of music as well and I was influenced a lot by the hair that I saw in music videos. And I really fell in love with the work of Chuckie Amos and Oscar James and hairstylists like that and then later on I started to look at fashion magazines and fall in love with the work of Buito and Sam and Luigi and you know, stuff like that is what like always inspired me and Sam McKnight was a big inspiration for me as well moving forward in the session world.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
My friend, Carlos Nizario, years ago he used to make jokes saying I was bouji-etto. It was a joke at first but actually it’s the perfect thing. I think I have an aesthetic that pulls from different different backgrounds, I think that it has a chicness to it but then it has a certain tough sweetness to it that, you know. I’ve been able to dabble in both lives and put them together. Sometimes it’s a bit weird, sometimes a bit off and sometimes its hard-hitting culturally and it resonates with certain people because people understand.
With putting together moodboards, what is you process like?
I am a reference junkie so I collect, collect, collect, collect images. I am a screenshot king, number one, number two, I go to libraries, and I used to go the the London Fashion College library all the time with a friend Liam Warwick. We would just xerox old fashion magazines all day, Vogue from 1930, culture books about Africa, fashion, art, jewellery. I’m a Pinterest junkie, I’m an old movie junkie, I watch old movies, I watch old shows, my friends like to joke and say that I am a source of encyclopaedic of cultural references because I remember every show that I watched. I collect old books, I collect old posters. My new thing now is to collect Black Panther posters, I don’t know why, but it just depends, you know what I mean, like, I watch old videos of reggae battles, dancehall battles, like anything, anything that I can find inspiration from I just watch and collect and just kind of put it in my computer in here or in, you know, my physical reference.
Hair by Jawara
Hair by Jawara
You’ve been on some amazing lists. I mean BOF 500, British Fashion Council, New Wave Creatives 2019. How does it feel? And so early on in your career?
It’s a humbling experience that, you know, it is reaching people or it is being recognised, and it feels good, it feels good to be honest.
You’ve worked with some amazing people. You’ve got FKA Twigs, you’ve got Cardi B, you’ve got Solange, Meg thee Stallion, I mean, the list goes on in terms of clientele and amazing faces. How do you feel each client has pushed you in terms of creativity?
I think working with celebrity clients has been a major part in my life, that has pushed me as an artist to understand things outside of fashion, and how people want to be represented when it comes to hair. Understanding them, understanding their needs, understanding how they want to be viewed has added to the way I see things and the way I see the world. Working with Solange, who is one of my favourite people in the world, has definitely pushed me. She’s such an artist in her mind, and when she sees hair it’s not just hair.
And you’ve worked with some amazing brands. Hermes, Off-White, Alexander Wang, Mugler, and some of my favourite work from you is the Alexander Wang campaign. How do you prepare yourself creatively for each brand?
I try to have conversations with the client over and over, and for me if I always try to imagine how can we put a new spin on something, how can we say something different that’s never been said before.
Do you have a favourite hair moment that you’ve created so far?
No I don’t, I love all of them. Talawa. I do love the stuff that I did with Solange. I do love, there’s a Vogue beauty picture that I did with the Nigerian hair wrapping stretching technique that I love and, you know, I think for the most part, like those three are some of my favourites that I’ve done.
What do you love about London Fashion Week?
London has a vibe that I don’t think you can find anywhere in the world. It’s filled with artists, and a whole new outlook on expression of self and fashion and art and music. And it’s filled with so many different people from all over the world and there’s such a feeling there that I think that inspired me to move there otherwise I wouldn’t have.
I know you do a lot of backstage work at shows and stuff like that, how do you prepare for those sort of things?
I shut down everything, I put on my headphones and I listen to music that makes me feel like I’m a teenager again. So I listen to the things that I used to listen to when I was a child and one of them being some old Jay-Z, some Foxy Brown, some Lil Kim then I go into like dancehall and that reminds me of my childhood and I listen to Beenie Man and Bounty Killer and like all those people, and it reminds me that I’m resilient in a weird way.
How do you feel like the industry has evolved and changed when it comes to diversity?
I feel like we have definitely made strides, but I do feel like there’s a lot of work to be done. I think that what’s happening right now is going to be very important in where the future of our industry goes, I think a lot more people are going to be held accountable, I think a lot more plans of actions are going to be set in place.
In terms of just the future of hair, where do you see the future of hair going as well?
I feel like this quarantine, people have been locked in houses, they want to come out and they want to be creative, they want to see, do different things. People’s hair has grown, people have shaved their hair off. I think that this time has definitely changed a lot of people and to be honest, I don’t even know if I can predict where hair is going but I do know it’s going to be a lot more creativity and people are going to do things that you’ve never seen them do because they’ve been put in a situation that they’ve never been in before and now self-expression is going to be taken to the next level once the world is back open.
What are your hopes for your career in the future as well?
My hopes for my career used to be to get to a place where I can see people like me doing what I’m doing. The hopes for my career is to continue to make art and continue to collaborate with the people that I love, but I do feel like within my career it’s my duty now to pull up other people as well, to pull in other people, to give them other chances that I probably necessarily haven’t gotten and I’m thinking very selfless when it comes to things like that.
And I’m proud of you, and on that note thank you so much for joining me on the BFC x Wonderland “How to Become” series. I’m Toni-Blaze Ibekwe, Editor-in-chief of Wonderland magazine and I’ve had the gorgeous Jawara, a hair visionary.