Breaking Down Perfection
From creating Geisha do’s in Tokyo to founding his own barbershop in Shoreditch, famed hairstylist Asashi Yamaguchi shares his journey with Beauty Papers.
Interview Maxine Leonard
You were born in Japan and trained as a hairdresser in Tokyo. What was the start of your journey?
I used to go to my local barber shop when I was 15 and knew this was the job I wanted to pursue. I moved to Nagoya when I was 18 and started working in a hair salon and trained there. At 23, I moved to Tokyo and start assisting a session stylist. My ambition was to move to London, so I jumped on a plane in 1998 and continued my career here.
You shot a hair story using traditional Japanese hair accessories; was this geisha hair something that was part of your training in Japan?
Yes, I trained with geisha hair in the first hair salon I worked at in Nagoya, it was very much part of my formal training. My roots are in this practice and the salon was very traditional. Their approach was to teach us to master the craft and skill of traditional Japanese hair. This training set the foundation for me, and is something I cherish. There is great skill and method to Geisha hair – it is not for the everyday.
When you moved to London you opened a barber’s. Can you tell us a little more about the salon and what inspired you to create the space?
I moved back to Tokyo for a short period of time. Upon returning to London in 2012 I found a space and opened my barber shop call ASASHIBARBER. This project had been my dream since I was a teenager. The concept for the space was to create a unisex environment where clients can come to a small, quiet space and have a one-on-one experience.
It was important to me that clients felt comfortable and had a barber’s where they can relax whilst having their haircut. I created the space myself, sourcing traditional barber equipment. It was a labour of love, and it was important to me for it to be authentic. There are only two chairs. In the future I would like to include wet shaves and Japanese traditional head massages too.
He (Araki) likes the process to be collaborative so suggested I cast the girls as I was doing the hair. Although this was a challenge this was also a privilege. He has an amazing spirit and is full of energy.
You have shot with legendary photographer Araki. What was this experience like for you?
ARAKI is one of my favourite photographers. Growing up in Japan I was very aware of his work, so to shoot with him has been an honour. It was a great experience. He likes the process to be collaborative so suggested I cast the girls as I was doing the hair. Although this was a challenge this was also a privilege. He has an amazing spirit and is full of energy.
How important is it for you to challenge the traditional beauty ideals within your work?
I draw inspiration from my culture, and for this particular editorial it was important for the team that the models were all Japanese. I want to challenge the tradition by breaking down the idea of perfection, which in Japan you don’t do!
What are your favourite hair care products?
I like using oils in the hair. I love Moroccan Oil and always have it in my kit.
What’s your beauty obsession?
Hair, hair, hair.
What’s next? Please tell us about the hair wax you are working on.
I am in the process of creating hair products. The first product will be hair pomade, which I am hoping to launch in Summer 2018.
I have been using lots of different hair pomades, but I never found one I love, so it pushed me to look into designing my own. It has been a challenge but I am looking forward to having it in my kit.