September 26th, 2014
For some, the journey towards a life in fashion is a matter of happenstance, but for others, it’s a case of manifest destiny. After ten minutes with photographer, Luigi Murenu, it’s hard to imagine him being in any other business. His engaging personality seems tailor-made for fashion’s relationship-centric inner circle, but it’s his discerning eye that positions him as one born for the visual rigors of a fashionable life. Sitting in the bespoke parlor of his Chelsea home, one is immediately taken by the design and precision of the surroundings. On his walls, lush paintings from Argentine surrealist, Leonor Fini, hang: a quartet of well dressed skeletons with contrasting personalities and a rich history of their own. “She was a character,” he tells me, voice lowering as though sharing a secret, “best friends with Anna Magnani, but at the same time a protege of Salvador Dali, I love her paintings – it’s my fantasy to have a surrealist way of seeing things. It comes out in my work, I think, that emphasis on grandness.”
Grandness is an understatement; Luigi along with his partner Iango Henzi have amassed a body of work that is visually stunning, modern, and provocative. Open up any of the world’s finest fashion glossies, and you’re sure to see a Luigi & Iango portrait either on the cover or within the editorial pages. Vogue Japan, Vogue Germany, Vogue Italia, and countless others have embraced the duo’s signature style and regularly feature their work. Anyone familiar with fashion knows the story of Luigi as an iconic hairstylist, but his contributions to fashion extend beyond hair. Photography represents Murenu’s passion and the ultimate showcase for the full scope of what he can do. His transition into photography was as much about expressing his unique point of view as it was about harnessing all his talents. “The past four years working with Iango it brought out so much in me. It wasn’t only about hair, it wasn’t only about the photography, it was about a vast scenario. I had always loved to get involved in shootings that way, but now that I’m doing my own shoots, it’s like I have found my voice.”
And what a voice it is; in keeping with his appreciation for glamour, Murenu and Henzi have crafted a well-edited portfolio of work dominated by portraits of the world’s most captivating women. Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and more have been transformed by Luigi & Iango’s lens. The pair eschews stripped-down naturalism in favor of a modern take on supreme beauty. A Luigi & Iango portrait presents its subject at their best: luminous skin, elegant dress, and, of course, a spectacular coif to finish things off. This commitment to beauty is part of Murenu’s DNA and is a uniting factor amongst those with the utmost respect for the women impacted by their aesthetic. Just as Yves Saint Laurent couldn’t take the sight of a woman “rendered pathetic by fashion,” Murenu is uninterested in making his women look like anything less than goddesses.
The ease with which Murenu has acclimated himself to being part of a photographic duo may have something to do with his innate understanding of the collaborative process. The essence of all partnerships stems from collaboration, and after years on set, it’s a skill that Murenu’s honed to perfection. “There are certain artists who prefer to work with just one photographer all their lives, but I had the opportunity to work with many and I think that was crucial. It was like going to a great school in a way. It allowed me insight into different perspectives, different ways to work, I was able to collaborate with so many people I respect. Not just photographers, but big stylists, the greatest makeup artists – I can keep going until tomorrow with names of amazing people!” Being surrounded by talent has a way of bringing out the best in oneself, and Murenu credits these formative experiences with helping to form his aesthetic.
Murenu’s storied training ground served as a starting point for developing his own ideas about imagery. Great pictures are the result of great teams, a fact he readily acknowledges. “Everything – from the styling, the makeup, the hair, the attitude in general – that’s what makes pictures. It’s the combined knowledge of everyone on set.” Still the appeal of being at the helm of a project proved irresistible; even before being officially signed as a photographer Murenu’s creative vision dictated the look and feel of the images he crafted in collaboration with Henzi. Luigi’s eye for detail and hands on approach impacted everything from the final product’s mise en scene, to the poses of the models, making his role all-encompassing and one that he relishes. ”As a hairdresser, I could only bring one element to the production. Now it’s like I have to be in control of every element of the shoot, and that I’ve arrived at a point where I’m controlling all aspects of the image gives me so much freedom. It’s the most freed you can be as an artist and it is really a luxury.”
Together Luigi and Iango have refined a style that is instantly recognizable and built a thriving career as sought-after image makers. To make a jump from one side of the business to another is a game of chance, but for Murenu, the rewards were well worth any risks involved. “When we began, I wanted to create something and so I took the risk and did it. In life you have to risk. My life is always in a state of change, I’m a Gemini so I like to evolve. I don’t want to just stay on the same level, I like to keep moving further up.”
Text by Janelle Okwodu
All photos courtesy of Luigi & Iango
I love Luigi – he’s a creative person with a very good eye and I support his work.
He is a master of his craft, a true perfectionist! His transition into photography shocked the fashion world…but not me!
– Kate Moss
Luigi is a very special person to me. He has always made my woman look beautiful and feminine, but always with that edge. We share a strong and faithful vision, in everything. He makes me dream. We do not only have a working relationship, which I cherish very much, but we are a real part of each other’s family. I couldn’t be happier that he is taking such a beautiful step forward.
– Riccardo Tisci
Luigi is one of my most trusted collaborators – I am excited that he will be channeling his artistic vision in a new direction and I wish him every success.
– Frida Giannini
Armed………… an aura of crystal, pure energy, loaded.
A camera in one tight fist, a can of hairspray in the other, both are loaded and ready to shoot.
His focus complete.
The shadows are long and drawn, Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western.
Luigi is ready at Sunrise, Hair kit Holster on hip.
No one knows which fist he’ll draw first, lightening fast before alighting on his subject with the precision and discipline of a Dancer on opening night and the transparency of a Spanish veil, the bells toll, his Catholic roots.
A laser sharp eye, expressive wrists like Astaire, agile as an Autumn leaf caught in October gales.
Technique his swagger, like that of a Skate border yet as refined as a Fragonard.
He paints with light.
Bold colored strokes of emotion.
He paints freestyle.
Streaks of passion.
A mane of luxury, you want to hold.
This is real luxury.
Big hair without structure,
Small heads with.
Whatever it takes to achieve the desired shape, evoke the Line, frame that Face unknown as of yet, the dynamics scream across the page.
The hidden structure, he deconstructs.
Old newspapers, corrugated cardboard, a scrap of Goya Lace discarded on the floor all become accomplice in creating his Line, his proportion and blown together, like so many aspire to.
Movement, the face, he understands the fleeting moment of Fashion and the Power of Hair.
In many ways he reminds me of Charles James but with Hair.
Volume with class, lightness of touch, living, breathing touch me now Luxury.
He adores Women and they in turn Worship him, it’s just the way it is!
He sets the barre high, we can only gasp in wonderment.
Friends in Nirvana, we share a creative passion for Beauty.
With Luigi Time stands still, an electro shock, high-pulsed energy that leaves me in a meditative state,
– John Galliano
I am not surprised that Luigi has become a photographer. He always takes surprisingly professional pictures of the models when we work on my shows at Pucci. I think it is a natural transition for someone of his caliber, talent and eye for beauty to evolve in his work.
– Peter Dundas
Luigi is a perfectionist who has an amazing eye. I think it was a completely natural progression for him to go from hairdresser to photographer. He approaches everything with enthusiasm and great humor, so we’ve had lots of fun together. When I work with Luigi I just sit back and let him create; I trust in him and his work.
– Naomi Campbell
His involvement in the creative process and global vision clearly transcends beyond his role as a hair stylist and taking photographs was the logical next step
– Linda Evangelista
I have worked with Luigi for over 25 years, he has an amazing eye and fantastic taste and it doesn’t surprise me that he has chosen to make the transition to a photographer. His passion for both hair and photography is inspiring. I love his and Iango’s work, they are an amazing team!
– Claudia Schiffer
Luigi has always been a maestro of hair… but is clearly also meant to be a photographer. Being in front of his lens makes you feel like a goddess.
– Stephanie Seymour
Luigi, He is blessed with so much creativity! Whatever he puts his mind to, becomes a piece of art! An amazing person and my dear friend
– Natasha Poly
Luigi and I have worked on so many shoots together with him as a hair dresser and he’s always had a keen sense of style, beauty, and all things fabulous. He is a force of nature. It doesn’t surprise me that he is now a photographer. I am so excited for the next chapter of his creative life
– Karen Elson
I remember the first job I did with Luigi very clearly. Not only because he was an amazing hair stylist but because it was clear that he was in love with all things in this industry. If he could have, he would have done every part of the shoot himself. Not that he doesn’t have the utmost respect for everyone who does their job so well but because his love for the project drives his desire to make the photos absolutely perfect. And he could make it perfect, all by himself. Luigi can do hair and photography immaculately. I have no doubt he could do sets, makeup and production equally as well. Luigi doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. If Luigi told me he could catapult to the moon, I would believe him. He has a drive like no one I know.
– Maggie Rizer
Luigi… where do words begin to describe his passion? The transition for him to go from being one of the worlds greatest hairstylists to photographer shouldn’t surprise anyone that truly knows him. He has been brewing creativity on both sides since I’ve known him, he knows us girls inside and out and only wants us to be our most beautiful and for this, I am thrilled!
– Carolyn Murphy
Luigi has always had a great eye and is an extremely creative talent. The photography is just an addition to his talent.
– Joan Smalls
Luigi’s photography has the ‘same sophistication!’ as his hair.
– Carine Roitfeld
Luigi is a Vulcan, he’s a voice and he has a powerful aesthetical vision! He needs to express this energy! Plus any kind of change is great and takes lot of new good things!!!
– Anna Dello Russo
Luigi’s passion and dynamic personality have always been the backbone of his distinctive and masterful work with hair. Now, to see and experience him apply that same exuberance to photography is phenomenal. He is undoubtedly poised to create a legacy in not one but two facets of the fashion world.
– Patti Wilson
Luigi is one of the most passionate people in the industry I know. I assume it’s his background as a hairstylist that makes him care about even the smallest detail while composing his shoots. He has a vivid interest in literally every component on set. He strives for perfection in every detail but never gets distracted from the “bigger picture” – his personal vision for the message of the whole shoot. Luigi has the attitude of a real artisan combined with a wonderful sense of humor.
– Christiane Arp
Luigi has such incredible energy, passion, and a very high level of professional skills. It is evolving into a complete vision and aesthetics that takes form in photography which is a natural progression for someone like Luigi who has such an explosive, creative personality
– Giovanna Battaglia
Luigi is an amazing hairstylist with an incredible sense of aesthetics and an unmatched eye for beauty. When on a photo shoot as a hair stylist, I can see his talent goes way beyond styling: he knows what angle to shoot to make a woman beautiful, how to work with light to make hair sublime and I was therefore not surprised to see him venture into photography. His photography speaks for itself and is the best proof of his talent.
– Vincent Nida, International Director of Kérastase