As the latest Colour Influence Project gets underway with Zoë Irwin and Wella Passionistas, we caught up with some of the team to hear about the importance of Afrofuturism
As a trend expert always looking to the future, the idea of Afrofuturism appealed to Zoë as a way of respecting and looking to the past, and “seeing this with a futuristic vibrant lens.” She says: “Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens,” and the response from the Passionistas has been “just wonderful, their energy and creativity is incredibly uplifting.”
“I felt it was important to make my new task in the Colour Influence Project about Afro hair and Black hair history,” says Zoë, Wella Professionals UK colour trend expert.
“It was really important to me that the project was equally led by Wella Passionista Marco Dias – their life, thoughts and knowledge are so valuable and the project had to be authentic. My idea was to guide Marco through how to set tasks and inspire the team,” she explains.
As co-lead of the project, Marco (pictured above) has been introducing more Black culture, Black hair and Black history to their fellow Passionistas. “Afrofuturism is an aesthetic, trend and a movement which is known already in African cultures,” they explain.
“Avant garde hair is something very well known in African cultures. Braids, cornrows, dreadlocks and Afros are more than interpretations of textured hair – they tell stories. The importance for the development of the trend depends on the understanding of the existence of the trend. For us as hairstylists, it’s crucial to know our references and also where they come from. Only then will we see a greater development of the trend going forward,” Marco states. “But the change has already started, as perception in society starts to shift and there’s an increase of diversity, visibility and inclusivity in our industry, and in the mainstream media.”
The Colour Influence Project focuses on learning the history behind a trend, movement and/or social culture, and how it influences society or vice-versa.
As part of the project, the Passionistas have been working with Marco and Zoë in lockdown via a WhatsApp group and Facebook, where they share content, ideas and communicate with each other. “There’s a lot of research, watching documentaries, reading books and articles. We have Zoom meetings weekly, where Zoë and I introduce new material and tasks to the Passionistas. We work on more mood boards, sketching hair and completing photo and video tasks,” Marco says.
Originally from Brazil, home to a rich African culture, Marco says the project is “personally connected” to them. Inspired by the history of Black hair and culture, Marco references Afrofuturism’s grandfather Sun Ra, an American artist, jazz composer and cosmic philosopher. Other inspirations for the project include musicians like Missy Elliott and Solange Knowles, writers Ytashal L. Womack and Octavia E. Butler, as well as the blockbuster movie Black Panther.
“The response from the Wella Passionistas has been incredible. We are all learning about Afrofuturism together, and this makes us more connected. It gives us a better and stronger sense of community. I hope they’ll take not only the aesthetic/visual side of the movement but also the socio-political context of it, understanding the importance of Black culture and history in our society today, yesterday and in the future,” Marco adds.
Daniel Couch, head of colour at Russell Eaton
“Working with Zoë and Marco has been amazing. I have really enjoyed having a new focus and throwing myself into the research. The mixture of Zoë’s creativity and Marco’s passion for Afrofuturism has been so inspirational.
My work on this project is heavily influenced by the freestyle jazz musician and cultural icon Sun Ra. My secondary influence was taken from traditional tribal African hairstyles. Sun Ra’s inspiration came from many places, an amalgamation of Egyptian and African styling with a space age futuristic filter. This is Afrofuturism at its best.
This project has been the best kind of learning curve. Not only am I developing my skillset with textured hair, but I am also learning so much about the cultural and historical aspects of Afro hair.”
Katie Ottolangui, colour specialist at Flint Hair
“My experience of working on the Afrofuturism project with Zoë and Marco has been eye-opening. I’ve learnt so much about Black history, which I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know enough about before, and I still have so much to learn.
My favourite part of the project so far has been putting together my mood boards. It’s something I really love doing. I’m particularly fond of strong, poppy and neon colour palettes which you see a lot of in Afrofuturism.
I have found my inspiration for the project by following certain hashtags on Instagram, watching videos on YouTube and just trawling the internet. I’m also seeing a lot of Afrofuturism influenced stories in current fashion magazines such as POP and Vogue. It’s such a broad movement and there is so much out there to research.”
Thomas Frear, freelance hair artist
“It has been an incredible experience with Marco and Zoë… a cultural, social and political learning experience. It has enhanced my knowledge of Afro hair, as well as the history that comes with it.
My favourite part of all of this is being able to have conversation and friendships with all the Wella Passionistas. It’s been a real pick-me-up to keep socialised through lockdown with our weekly Zoom calls, and really getting to know everyone more and more.
With lots of amazing resources that Marco and Zoë have given to us, I went down the route of finding queer, Afrofuturism artists, especially through the art form of dance. Ivy Monteiro is wonderful – I found them on YouTube and Instagram. We need to keep our brains as motivated, happy and as loving as possible during lockdown. Enrich your minds with culture, art, documentaries, painting, music, sewing, designing… as many creative activities as possible..”