Didier Malige grew up in Paris and was not particularly interested in hair, still he chose to become a hairdresser. His mother ,who worked in a veterinary clinic where one of the Carita sisters was a costumer, got him an apprenticeship in the Carita salon. This was pretty much the way he became involved in fashion.
Didier started working at the Carita salon in the mid-sixties, while he was still living with his parents. At that time Carita was one of the top beauty salons, with about 125 employees. Women who could afford it, would come back every two or three days to get a ‘do’. It was a set, with teasing and hairspray (Elnett was huge those days). In France they were a little bit backwards when it came to trends: the leading country was definitely England, where everybody wanted to be a hairdresser, manager or musician.
At that time for photoshoots, it was a different system: ‘You used to go to the studio, you did the hair and you left. They were using a lot of hairspray, doing up-do’s, nothing was really moving, so there was nothing more to do once you set the hair.’ Models were also more handy and could correct their hair themselves, also because it wasn’t as precise as nowadays.’
After his apprenticeship at Carita’s, Didier went to another really big salon, Jean Louis David, who also came from Carita. He was still assisting other hairdressers and didn’t really have any customers. Around that time there began a demand for hairdressers for magazine work and that was the beginning of Didier Malige’s career as a hairstylist. Not many were working as a hairstylist and he very quickly began working with Helmut Newton, Bob Richardson (father of Terry) and sometimes Guy Bourdin. Because Didier didn’t speak much English, there wasn’t much verbal communication, it was more about naming a movie as a reference.
In the seventies Didier went to America and worked for Glamour and Mademoiselle. ‘Photographers are very opinionated about what a woman should look like. Some give you a little bit more freedom than the other, but they definitely see a woman one way. Helmut Newton’s woman may have shorter or longer hair, but it was always the woman who goes to the hairdresser every day, who doesn’t really have an occupation except maybe taking care of certain man. (laughs) Or be taken care of. You had to be technically very good for that hairstyle.’
Over the decades Didier Malige collaborated with many famous photographers including Patrick Demarchelier, Athur Elgort, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Sorrenti, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, David Sims and Mario Testino. His ability to not only style, but flawlessly sculpt both men’s and women’s hair led to develop long-standing relationships with the houses of Dior, Dior Homme, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Raf Simons and Hedi Simane. As chef-de-cabine, recently Didier worked with Hedi Slimane on Slimane’s first women’s fashion show for Yves Saint Laurent.
BOY CRAZY. Photography: Hedi Slimane for NY TIMES T magazine fall 2011
Prada Homme campaign photography: David Sims
Prada perfume, Candy
Vogue Italia cover photography: Nathaniel Goldberg
I-D cover with Lara Stone photography: David Bailey
V magazine cover photography: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
Didier Malige loves to do fashionshows, deciding together with the designers on the look for the models in the catwalk. He worked with Proenza Schouler, Giorgio Armani, Philosophy, Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Botega Veneta and many others. He has a collaboration with (another hairstylist/hairdresser) Frederic Fekkai and his brand for over two decades.
Didier Malige is an undisputed master of his craft and especially enjoys collaborating with photographers and editors who allow him the freedom to realize his vision. He believes that the biggest compliment he has received is learning that someone has become a hairstylist because they were inspired by his work.
He is living together with his partner Grace Coddington (read: Grace Coddington, a legend in her own time, part 1&2) for over 25 years, whose style he describes as very feminine and fashionable without being too obvious.
I admire Didier Malige, specially for keeping a ‘young vision in his work’ all those years. If you look at his recent work, it’s hard to believe he’s already in the business for many decades, this is probably also the reason why younger people in fashion love to work with him!
A variety of recent work
Didier Malige, The Master