With a spectrum of interest and imagination far broader than the editorial stylist label– Peter Gray is recognised by not only his lightness of touch with hair but his depth of personality and perspective, writes INSTYLE's Cameron Pine.
In 2012 I met Peter Gray in Paris. He’d just completed a massive campaign job for L’Oréal Professionnel, and with brands throwing contracts at him you wonder why he hasn’t been stitched up as a Global Creative Director for any of our leading global powerhouses. It is what Peter hasn’t accepted that makes him so interesting and he has the editorial world lining up for more. The truth is, back when working on this 2012 released global campaign, L’Oréal Professionnel wasn’t convinced of his work and vision, being so different to anything they had ever done before, but in the end they loved it, his hair ‘dresses’ campaign became a global focus for the brand and rather than take on an exclusive role with the leading company, Peter has continued to manifest and weave his style across the globe – one that now lets him arrive at a non-exclusive contract with Moroccanoil.
“It takes huge balls on a companies behalf to say ‘we love what you do and we are not going to constrict you’. It allows me to bring the best of all the brands I’ve worked with over the years,” Peter said. he no doubt cites this relationship as a very precious one. His ‘work’, despite him making it sound like it is far from it, transcends the countless VOGUE covers from advertising, editorial, session and custom projects as interesting as his personality. First and foremost Peter has no ego, he’s too tapped into external intelligence to make hairdressing just about him – his work and persona speak for itself. It’s hard not to crush on this severe state of open-mindedness for a hairdresser of his calibre.
Peter Gray for Vogue China
Present at Hair Expo exclusively for Moroccanoil, Peter’s ‘session editorial’ bunch were a very diverse mix of stylists all looking for the session editorial zeitgeist from a man of many talents. While at Hair Expo, Peter also formed part of the Global Morph show featuring Sharon Blain, Tracey Hughes and Lucie Doughty. Following on from Morph Peter presented a six model collection for Moroccanoil where the less than a dozen guests were able to stay, interact and produce a live photo shoot.
“I want to get people involved and reach people again in a genuine way rather than in that mass market way,” he said. “It’s important to make ourselves think again and create an environment where people can interact and share the accidents, the ‘happy’ accidents,” Peter said. Having worked with so many brands from the Aveda tribe where the socio-political aspect of the brand is just as important as the skill to brands that are all about shifting as many SKU’s as possible, right down to the small brands – it’s perhaps Peter’s perspective and the way he looks for the life in others that make him so valuable. Not only does his portfolio of work from Hermes to VOGUE China and back to his creative roots again speak for itself, the refreshing part is that Peter speaks for hairdressers and creatives – finding talents and interesting people that contribute to the greater good everywhere he goes. “People ask me sometimes ‘where does the creativity come from’. Everyone is creative but it’s about how interested you are in what you’re doing that determines this.”
“I work in fashion, it’s ageist, sexist and sizest. I loved a recent job where I worked with a transsexual person – a size 12 Russian girl that was really about pushing the boundaries.” Gray has worked with With a spectrum of interest and imagination far broader than the session stylist label – Peter Gray is recognized by not only his lightness of touch with hair but his depth of personality and perspective, writes Cameron Pine. The Gray Scale an 87 year old model, a scientist and everything else you can imagine and what he really wants to push is the aspect of inclusivity in fashion and hair - he believes there should be no stereotype. He has also been working on Noise shows which have become big in the UK, Richard Ashforth, Peter and the guys from X-presion all form a very ‘loose partnership’ and really it’s just about creativity. Noise was once a year but now it’s “out of control” with Peter and the gang pulling huge venues and crowds on a regular basis. Peter’s an advocate for making hairdressing more accessible and cooler, “one particular model was surprised I asked her to speak on stage but I wanted her to share who she is and that she’s not plus size to me, she’s normal,” Peter said.
Peter Gray for Another Man
Peter recently worked with a young designer, Demetra from Sydney while on his visit. He’s really obsessed with working with people who do something different in the locales he visits. Demetra is 23 years old and Peter says having worked with McQueen, she is giving this fashion queen literally a run for her money. “She’s putting images of Syrian refugees on her garments, everything she is doing is different.” Peter said. For more than 17 years (of his 30 in the industry) his published work is all shot by a photographer called Sunsbo – Peter admits that he has had a relationship as a photographer’s hairdresser and not a stylist’s hairdresser. He’s like a vampire to the unordinary and the unusual that a lot of hairdressers would bypass to stay on track to their ‘type of work’ or a certain level of notoriety. But for this man it’s about developing his own sense of dexterity and own sense of fashion. “You know what hairdressing can be like, it can be a little cheesy, can’t it?” he said. For Peter there’s literally no grey area, no dark side of his art, just an open mind primed for exploration and further satisfaction in the areas in which he lives. His advice to other hairdressers? To look at photographers and photography and the history of fashion. He says to try and steer clear of fashion mags. “I feel like it’s a toxic virus that if you start looking at what’s around now you think your work needs to look like someone elses,” Peter said.
Wise words from a man that is not just about the still image. He’s also in the film world, having done ‘stuff’ with Deborah Milner. After being at McQueen for 17 years, she is now writing and directing films. “Social media for me is more about self-aggrandising
than it is about connection. It’s not my scene at all. I’m a back screen boy. Once I’m on a shoot I’m not a platform artist and I’m not the best on stage but I always focus on retaining my own voice, I just don’t have that ‘showiness’ for platform,” he said. Weaving in and out of creativity, a lot of people in an industry like hairdressing say they are creatives but as Peter points out, they are really just towing the line and to this day the most exciting creative process for Peter is still pulling the kit out and seeing what he is going to create – think Picasso and Frances Bacon. On a shoot he is in his element and back when he worked at Sassoon’s he says he was ‘rubbish’. I did my job but I was slow and wanted to create. “I can thank Simon Ellis (a Schwarzkopf hairdresser also in town for Hair Expo) for getting me into session hairdressing early,” Peter said.
He was allowed to be himself early on in the piece too, Peter was lucky to grow up with an eccentric academic of a mother. “I was wearing velvet green flares at seven years old. I loved going to the salon with her but I never did hair. I also used to love going to the barbershop with my Grandad – I admire the precision of a barbershop but I love the flamboyance of editorial.” Growing up in Zimbabwe probably also had a lot to do with it – Peter was super out there with a crazy fashion sense before moving to London at 21 and Manchester in the late 80s. “It was the summer of love where teen music videos made their way in and indie was a real thing,” he said. The allure of the disco ball and the daring side of those who like to dance the night away, Peter exposed himself to skills you couldn’t learn ina classroom. He says to this day that it was drag queens, Eurasia and working with Andy Bell that got him into fashion and now you can say that he has become a teacher, a collaborator, worked on product development, consultancy and worked in a six floor Sassoon salon, all seemingly in his spare time.
It’s true that hairdressing is a playing field of what Peter says are tree huggers, thugs, animated figures and sometimes angry environmentalists or perhaps that’s just the psyche Peter gets into when he reads mostly autobiography’s and not fashion magazines or online forums like many hairdressers. Blessed to have a home and exist in all three cities of London, New York and Toronto, Peter lovesto work all over the place and be in the best areas when he is there. In New York he is on 37 between eight and nine – an old garment district, yet he loves the dynamism. He also lives in Kensington in Toronto which is like Camden was 15 years ago in London – he’s at the epicenters of creative expression and this is reflected in his work. His work is truly extraordinary and never boring – from larger than life shapes to completely customized texture, I don’t think anything he creates has ever been seen before. It seems to have a lot to do with the fact that he has no plan at all. “You paddle out and you paddle like hell. Sometimes it’s flat and sometimes there’s amazing waves and you get out past second break.” This was just one of the many amazing life analogies that came to Peter while he was on vacation in Hawaii. Just like theinspiration he gained while walking through Brunswick street in Melbourne during Hair Expo Peter says, ‘It’s good to see where the real people are.’ “We get five year plans drummed into us – ‘you have to be successful in five years or you’ll be a failure’.
Work with whoever you want to work with. Life is not a series of images in a book.” Fighting for individuality and injecting a sense of intelligence into hairdressing, Peter is calm, intelligent but fiercely aware of his place and everything he touches seems to evolve. He’s the man that will do a show with 25 young designers and discover before anyone else that 10 of them are world class.
The Modern Times shoot can be found in the July/ August edition of INSTYLE.