Virginie Pinto Moreira on the Beauty of Unconventional Hair

When hair takes on unconventional, audacious energy it pushes the limits of what is possible, mutating the mundane. Virginie Pinto Moreira knows this feeling all too well as her sculptural, colorful hair designs have transformed the shape of braids, dreadlocks, and curls for numerous editorial clients like Dazed, i-D, and British Vogue. There is a radical direction to her hair that takes elements from the haven of beauty supply stores and salons then daringly turns the most conventional styles on their head.

Of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau descent, Pinto Moreira’s international upbringing has had her living in Portugal, France, and now has her rooted in South London where she’s connected with her contemporaries like Campbell Addy, Ib Kamara and the leaders of the fashion photography guild Paolo Roversi, Mert & Marcus, Juergen Teller, and Tim Walker. Celebrities like FKA twigs, NAO, Solange Knowles, and Kelela have flocked to the track-slayer, weave layer, and baby hair slicker to mold their tresses into imaginative constructions. spoke to the hairstylist about how she got her start, being on the fringe as a “third culture kid”, and how the nature of adolescence drives her work.

How did you first start doing hair?
I started doing hair on myself from primary school as I grew tired of my mum plaiting my hair. I would stay up all night either braiding it or styling and applying rollers, getting ready for the week with a fresh style. It became an innate ability which I didn’t notice until my friends would ask me to do their hair. Then it became my designated position, my rat tail comb was an essential part of my school uniform. This continued through the years from braiding on the school bus to being the go-to hairstylist for my peers and their projects, from shoots and videos to simply getting them ready for their shows.

Does Cape Verde or Guinea Bissau influence your work in any way? How was the experience when you moved to London?
My background is full of different influences and being from these countries in Africa meant that I had had to dig deeper than what I was presented to me in Portugal, France, and England. I realized I had a void of unsettling feelings which I knew I had answers for but didn’t know what questions to ask. They call it being a third culture kid, where you know that where you live isn’t where you belong and where you actually originate from is too far away.

Having an innate ability to create was my saving grace. I was happy with my ritual of doing hair and making something from just a feeling. For me, this is where I met my dearest peers such as Carrie Stacks, Ib Kamara and Campbell Addy who could not only relate to my void, but were also shaping innovative ways of thinking and demonstrating ideas about their identity. I’m constantly inspired by them so it makes it easy to create with individuals who are always set to push the narrative.

You always play with sculptural, long lengths and bold color in your work – what beauty codes do you think are important to stand by and on the flip side, break?
You must understand the foundations of any craft in order to create something new. I was trained in a salon from the age of 15 but never actually styled on the shop floor because I didn’t want to do routine blowdries or wash and sets. I was mostly interested in doing shoots for my friends and from early on I realized I believed in bespoke alterations. Which is the only rule I stand by! What’s important to me is that the individual is clear about what or who they want to turn into once I’m done with them. A collaborative basis is where the rules get broken. I never wear the same look for too long, so I’m a walking billboard for my customers. I’ve been lucky to attract individuals, artists, and customers whose objectives are to not be afraid to shake things up. I’m grateful to have built a career based on fulfilling their deepest hair desires. I just love avant-garde hair.

You mentioned some of your constant collaborators but how did you first start working together?
Carrie Stacks and I went to school together. She studied at Central Saint Martins so I would come and do hair for school projects. From then I was recommended to other students and it was just a snowball effect. It was love at the first shoot with Campbell Addy and Ib Kamara, who I also met when they were finishing at CSM. Growing with them has been wonderful, especially how they’ve instantly embraced my contributions to their visions. Mischa Notcutt I respect greatly for her vision and creativity and was a major key as she introduced me to artists like Kelela and Arca.

Working with Kelela was really cool because I was able to experiment with her dreadlocks like attaching crystals to making them extra long and wrapped around her whole body – I like to think that was an awakening of a big trend across all hair types. Working with Arca was also special as she showed me the beauty in the raw and carnal. Designer Mowalola who I’m very proud of for unapologetically carving her own lane in fashion. Working with FKA twigs was magical as she’s a wonderfully collaborative artist and she has a clear direction of feelings she wants to convey, especially with braids and dreads.

What inspires you in beauty and beyond?
Secondary School kids inspire me the most. The inquisitive nature of adolescence can lead you to make specific decisions that shape your identity and what you want to get into when it comes to your looks. Also, Black African women and features in the beauty world. I have to give credit to being a Black woman and realizing the many times you’re not given the spotlight on how much you constantly impact trends. So, I’m happy the rest of the world is starting to acknowledge and celebrate Black beauty.

What do you think people get wrong the most when it comes to working with hair?
“I don’t think it will suit me.” Believe in endless possibilities and options. It’s all in the confidence of how the person carries the style.

What advice would give to young creatives wanting to connect with mentors already in the business? How do you normally connect with assistants?
I like organic connections. The advice I would give to young creatives is to be both humble and confident. Be ready to put in a lot of free work too. Carving your own identity in your own time will be good for inspiration but also being part of the bigger picture. Finding a mentor is great but that means ego must be left at the door.

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