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Strange Beauty

Creative HEAD hosted a spine-tingling evening showcasing the beautifully dark work of Johanna Cree-Brown

Johanna Cree-Brown, Director of Special Projects at Trevor Sorbie, is someone who creates. What she sees in the world around her – whether that’s browsing Instagram, exploring galleries and exhibitions, or simply taking a couple of days off “to ease up a bit” – is transfigured into the most extraordinary of hair creations: shimmering floor-length wigs made out of holographic ribbons (the result of an ongoing study into the reflection of light upon human hair); big, bold, intricate braids wrapped in tape and echoing the rich heritage of Mexico’s indigenous communities and artisan spinners, weavers and embroiderers (something Cree-Brown had sought to showcase in her hair for the V&A’s Fashion in Motion series with Mexican designer Carla Fernandez); sleek, poker-straight synthetic hair adorned with brightly coloured tendrils of quilting thread, wrapped around boards to create just the right amount of tension… “I like taking things that don’t cost a lot of money, and creating something luxurious-looking out of them,” she says.

With her eye for the avant-garde, her passion for editorial styling and her absolute commitment to collaboration and team, Cree-Brown was a fitting subject for Creative HEAD’s Featured Artist Live sponsored by BaByliss PRO – a unique live event concept and format led by the artist presenting – and no wonder that even on a filthy-cold and wet November night, people travelled from all across the UK to see her in action.

In one room, Cree-Brown explored her love of the surreal, presenting four black mannequins with holographic hair blowing in the wind – and one white mannequin, submerged in a tank of water.  A “living mannequin” (aka model Sophie) wandered among the audience, wearing the same holographic hair “like a girl from the near future”. Cree-Brown paid credit to her team, explaining how it had taken them six months to create these looks, often spending a lot of their own spare time on the project.

Next door, an on-set experience that saw Cree-Brown work live on three models alongside make-up artist and key collaborator Lan Nguyen Grealis, surrounded by trestle tables covered in the tools of her trade, Polaroids from a shoot she’d been working on earlier in the day, and a retrospective of photographic work she’d created in recent years (“It makes me feel slightly nauseous to see how many different styles I’ve worked on!” she exclaimed).

And in a Q&A session with Creative HEAD Editor Amanda Nottage, Cree-Brown revealed that what pushes her creatively is the desire to break boundaries – “To push myself to do more, and never to repeat myself” – and that her collaborations with the multi-media artist and film-maker Roger Spy are the most fulfilling she has ever experienced.  “You have to go out and test a lot to find the people you want to work with,” she said. “Roger and I complement each other perfectly and we communicate so well.”

Creative HEAD’s Featured Artist Live series is sponsored by BaByliss PRO, and every guest left the event with a gift of a market-leading BaByliss PRO tool.