Q&A: Hair sculptor and designer Brianne Jeanette

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From the May 22, 2014 edition

Brianne Jeanette started in fashion as a model, but now the hair sculptor and designer would rather let her creations strut down the catwalk.

After showing her own line of hair-based garments, her sights are set on creating fashion rather than modeling it. Her over-the-top hairpieces have brought the creative vision of photographers and fashion designers to life, but Jeanette is ready for her own collections to take center stage.

I made my first mini-collection of clothing for this year’s Alternative Fashion Week completely out of hair. I had never done anything like that in my life. It took tons of hair, and I spent a lot of time scowling and cussing, but in the end it all came together beautifully, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Needless to say, the people at the hair store know me by my first name.

I started sculpting hair to save money. When I moved from Jacksonville in 2009, I started as a model. I didn’t know any hair stylists or industry people, and I couldn’t afford to go to a salon every time, so I had to figure out how to style myself for shoots. Before long I started working with Laura Dark Photography and the Alternative Fashion Mob. As of right now, I’m fully booked until August.

Cosplay websites were a huge learning resource. Hair sculpting is a pretty niche market. There aren’t a lot of hair sculptors out there putting videos on Youtube. I learned several techniques from cosplay websites. The characters people portray [at cosplay conventions] typically have crazy hair, so I learned how they would create those looks. I also studied the Rococo period, and the wig techniques they used then to create dramatic hairstyles. I go through a lot of chicken wire, sculpting foam and paper mache.

I’ve recreated art pieces with my hair sculptures. The shoots I work on are generally very stylized, so I’ve had to construct some crazy things with hair. I’ve made everything from birdcages to cupcakes, to a flame-retardant piece we could light for a client’s birthday. For one particular shoot, we were re-creating this beautiful Geisha swan from a Crystal Silva painting. The thing ended up being two feet tall, and I had to engineer it from the inside out.

Designing has been more rewarding than modeling for me. Showing my first line instead of modeling somebody else’s line was so much more fulfilling. I was almost in tears during the reception. We were shooting photos of the models outside, and passing cyclists actually stopped and got off their bikes to check out what was going on. I didn’t get that kind of satisfaction as a model.

Photo by Meghan Ralston