The great American essayist Fran Lebowitz famously said, “you’re only as good as your last haircut”, and while we acknowledge that this is an analogy not designed for literal interpretation, it’s hard to deny that a great haircut can be a revelatory experience.
Janelle Chaplin has been delivering revelatory hair experiences to girls since high school.
The gorgeous, irresistibly spirited and hilariously candid brunette is the global Creative Director for Australian hair care brand O&M; you’re probably familiar with the cool, minimalist packaging design (which is 100% recyclable to fit the brand ethos of being gentle on the body and the environment).
Janelle recently moved to New York City from London to “spread the O&M love” and launch to the US market place, but in the same tradition of musicians who discover their genius in the bedroom or garage, Janelle discovered hers in her mum’s kitchen.
“When I was in the 10th grade, I began styling my cousin’s and her friends’ hair for graduation formals. They said it was better than any professional styling they’d had done.
Does criticism get better than the wise, comparative appraisal of teenage girls?
“I bought a doll head and used to pause the Oscars and replicate the ‘dos of the actresses,” Janelle says. “I drove my mum bonkers with hairspray all up in her kitchen.”
With O&M going from strength to strength on American soil, recently landing stockists the calibre of Net-a-porter and space.nk – plus a concept store in the increasingly style-centric meatpacking district, Janelle is not a woman with piles of time on her hands. Despite that – perhaps to no one’s surprise – she always looks categorically awesome.
Hers is the enviable, pre-Millennium aesthetic of those beautiful, polished babes of the old Hollywood era – a look that requires major commitment to grooming and a general palpation of sass. “More, more, more!” she laughs when we ask her to put her signature beauty look in words. “Lash, cat eye and a matte red lip – Ruby Woo by MAC is still my number one.” And her personal approach to style and beauty is all about extremes.
“I either go all or nothing. From a simple moisturised complexion with a curled lash to a bold blow-out that’s borderline drag! He he!” And Janelle applies the same attitude to her choice of footwear: “I have always been both a heels and sneakers girl, however, my heels are EXTREME – so it’s either Nike AirMax or seven-inch heels: NO KITTEN HEELS ALLOWED!”
As for her fabulous hair?
“I like a classic bob,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of one-length hair – so Forties, so classic. I’m blessed with the natural texture of my hair when brushed out, but a few truckloads of volume wouldn’t hurt. I’ve always said: ‘I’ve got big hips, I should’ve been born with bigger hair!’”
When we had the pleasure of spending time with Janelle Chaplin we were reminded of the famous Fran Lebowitz quote about good haircuts, but perhaps our favourite recent quote is the one Janelle – a great hairstylist – offered as her words to live by: “At the end of the day we all die and a dog will piss on our grave – we may as well do it all while we’re here! LOL!” Not bad. Not bad at all.
Photography by Soraya Zaman.
Words by Susannah Tucker.