We would like to be the first introduce you to the rising star that is hair artist Illy Lussiano but the truth is there is a good chance you’ve already seen her work somewhere on the internet. Case in point,a baby hair image [below] whose endless reposting was capped by Buzzfeed, who included to illustrate an article on the trend. And while braids are the trend du jour, the uniquely sure-footed Lussiano has been working with heavy hitting clients from a young age with one of her first jobs (at the age of 22!) as a regular stylist and colorist for Naomi Campbell. Since then she has landed a number of top jobs ranging from magazine cover credits styling Azealia Bank’s hair to lookbooks for piping hot retailer Kith NYC. When we interviewed Lussiano, she was busy prepping for her first hair art pop-up exhibit (which took place earlier this month), reflecting her vision of her work as an artistic endeavor, one whose goal is “a sharing and listening process where I am helping you bring your vision to life.”
Snobette: What projects are your currently in the midst of?
Illy: Currently I’m putting together my first pop-up shop. It’s a hair art pop-up experience.
Snobette: What was the thinking behind a pop up, what was the goal?
Illy: I wanted people to see and feel what hair art is all about, bring the true you to the forefront. There are a lot of people who come in and get their hair done and then there are those who are intrigued but haven’t experienced it. The idea is to engage with what I do. The pop-up softens the intro and let’s people know what is different about me.
Snobette: What are some of your more recent jobs you feel excited about?
Illy: I recently did my first cover story with Azealia Banks for Loud & Quiet magazine, a British publication. I’m also featured in this month’s Fader magazine. It’s the first time I’m featured in the story rather than behind the scenes
Snobette: Is Boston were you born?
Illy: I am originally from Boston, though I’ve lived all over New England.
Snobette: Looking at your upbringing, what do you think led you to where you are now as an artist, stylist and entrepreneur?
Illy: From a young age I was big into art, and was lucky to have a mom and family that recognized and supported my interest, plus they were smart and resourceful and made my education a top priority. That led to me being accepted into one of the city’s top private schools with a great art program. Things took off from there. Plus my mom was always dressed to the nines.
Snobette: Did you go to college for art?
Illy: I did, but instead of the coursework, I found myself always talking to my professors about their life experiences and thoughts. Something wasn’t clicking with the work and after one semester I dropped out and enrolled in hair school.
Snobette: How did you make it to New York?
Illy: A professor had come to get her hair done after being referred by her students and told me, “You don’t belong here.” I was a little thrown at first but figured out she was saying I needed to be somewhere bigger like New York or Los Angeles. From that night forward, I prepared and researched how to get myself to New York. Almost everyone told me I was crazy and was setting myself up for failure, which motivated me more. I did my research and found a salon that looked like it would be a good fit. Two months later I got on a bus to New York, got an interview on the spot, was offered a position the following evening and started my new job the day after that. In three days my life changed forever.
Snobette: Seeing you in person, it’s obvious you have a certain level of presence and confidence that’s unusual for someone your age.
Illy: I move to the beat of my own drum, always have and I always will. But like everyone else I’ve gone through points in my life when I’ve been the least confident person in the world.Over the last two years I’ve done everything in my power to gain that back. I’ve had to coach myself through it. One thing New York has taught me is that no one is going to give you anything. But I never want to look back and think I didn’t do something because of someone else.
Snobette: So even though I’m seeing this breakout star in reality there was some building that went into that.
Illy: Right now I may be getting some airtime, but I’ve been working non-stop to bring this to fruition. I’m the product of adversity so I’ve done everything in my power to coach myself through life’s obstacles so I can be the best possible me. You get what you give and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s about keeping your head up and working hard.
Snobette: Braids and baby hair are a huge look right now one that’s now worldwide. What is your thought on the trend?
Illy: For me personally, I’m all about authenticity. If you’re going to be inspired by the look, that’s awesome, but it’s important to use someone who is skilled and well versed in the culture or don’t do it at all. Why have a knock off when you can have the real thing? And I think what upsets people is when the look is done with a lack of care. That ethos is just as important in the hood as it is on Madison Avenue. If you shop 5th Avenue with an obvious fake Hermes, you’ll get the same reaction. Everyone thinks the same thought. Everyone appreciates the real thing.
Snobette: What’s hot right now in hair?
Illy: Haircuts & actual hairstyles, I feel like there is a new generation of young women and men who are beginning to embrace themselves and who they want to become and many of them haven’t had a real haircut. They’ve had a trim. It’s just hair, it will grow back. The thing to remember about braids is that they are temporary.
Snobette: So while you have received a lot of attention around braids, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Illy: The very tip, that wasn’t planned or strategized. I’m a true artist, I can create anything on the spot and as people have begun to see and trust my abilities, there’s been a lot more variety and creativity.
Snobette: If someone comes to you with a picture of work you’ve done and says, “I want this,” how do your respond?
Illy: It depends. I’m hear to give you what you need not necessarily just what you want. It’s about finding yourself with your new haircut. It should be a dialogue about who the person is looking to become then figuring out how to make that a reality. The idea is to maximize the man or the woman in the chair.
Snobette: What goals do you have as an entrepreneur?
Illy: My only next step is to open up a shop because a daily retail operation can anchor you. For a solo artist and entrepreneur, if you’re sick one day, it’s all out the window. And I’d like it to be a full-fledged experience. One that speaks to a lifestyle of taking care of yourself.
Snobette: As you grow and expand your craft, what is the internal or external hurdle you have experienced that tends to hold you back?
Illy: I think I’m so used to do everything myself, but I want to be better at growing a team, which is so important and so worth it. When there are more people there are more visions and everyone gets to go to another level, not just you.
Snobette: What was your lesson of the year 2014, what did you take away?
Illy: The busier I am creating, the happier I am. I had forgotten that when I had entered the starving artist lifestyle. I went through the experience of hardship and the emotions of stress and once I got busy again I felt happier.
Snobette: Do you work seven days/week?
Illy: Lol I’m never not working, No days off!
Snobette: From a creative perspective, what are the top 5-10 things that have shaped you the most over your life whether a song, a work of art, a magazine article, a cousin, a class, a city, diet, exercise, the sky is the limit.
The Alchemist (Paulo cuelo) and Siddhartha(Herman Hess): Without those two books I wouldn’t be where I’m at. Reading is a major factor in my life.
Lil’ Kim is huge for me. The “Crush on You” video (below) teaches you everything about switching up your style.
My family is a melting pot so they’ve been a huge influence. You can learn a lot about yourself through interactions with other people.
My best friend, Tiffany Chan, she’s helped train my eye and taught me an appreciation for the meaning of quality in the world of photography and design
Solitude is a huge thing and so important for me creatively.
Vidal Sassoon is major for me. If you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best.
Snobette: Who is the dream client or job wish you’d like to put out to the universe?
I’d love to create with Nicki Minaj. But I have so many visions for so many people though she’s the first that leaps to mind.