The Many and Varied Lives of a Hairstylist

José Carlos Taipa

Photo: Pedro Afonso

His start in life was not easy. But it was precisely thanks to these beginnings that he built the foundations of an astute professional career.

José Carlos Taipa is today the strong right arm of Lupa Biológica and backstage coordinator of Portugal Fashion’s team of hairstylists.

Q: Do you still remember how it all began?

A: I was 11 years old when my dad told me I had to start working with him.

I had no choice but to learn the family trade. I was the first in the fourth generation with a comb and scissors in hand. Later, aged 15, I ended up having to leave school and start working full time, first with my godfather; later on with my dad.

It still pains me a bit to remember those days. I felt deprived of the opportunities my friends had to continue studying. One day, when it was hitting particularly hard, I had a frank conversation with my dad. He encouraged me to make a go of it. From that moment on, I did everything to make every working day matter. Truth is, I did it and I continue to do so thanks to my family trade which has brought me extraordinary experiences, people and skills.

Q: When did you feel this would be your chosen profession?

A: I don’t remember exactly. But one moment for sure stands out on my journey, and that was when I met Alfredo and Fatinha. I was going to work with them Saturday afternoons, and I remember admiring the way Alfredo handled his scissors. He turned it into a piece of performance art. From that moment on, I felt that my work could be art too.

Q: Is there any moment on your journey that you feel was truly special?

A: There was one truly important moment, with a professional in my field. At the time, he was director of a runway show on which I’d worked the night before and it hadn’t gone well. I’d screwed up big time. He got the entire team together and said “from now on, whoever speaks to a stylist without my permission will be shown the door the very next day.”

I didn’t sleep a wink all night. So, the next morning I was the first to arrive, expecting to get another earful. On the contrary. He informed me I’d been given the job of chief stylist. In other words, dispite having messed up, he was promoting me for having the balls to step forward and take responsibility for my actions. I knew that was a special moment.

Q: Today, you’re Chief Hair Coordinator for Portugal Fashion. Are you used to the pressure or is it a case of getting the job done?

A: I’m used to the pressure. I was always very responsible, and a perfectionist by nature, and I work well under pressure. It would be more strange if it was any different.

Q: Lupa Biológica recently launched a book with some of your signature looks. Was it a dream come true?

A: No, I’d never been approached to do a book. I’d like one celebrating 20 years in the business, but this is Lupa Biológica’s baby.

For now, being art director of the HairBook was a wonderful experience, which I loved from beginning to end, immensely satisfying and an incredible challenge. I’m really proud of the entire team and of what we set out to achieve: being an inspiration for Portuguese hairstylists. It was a great honour, though no dream of mine, but rather something life dropped in my lap without my asking.

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