June 20, 2022
text JESSICA BILAVSKI
interview FRANSJE LANGEDIJK
photography JULIA HEIJLIGERS
When Julia Heijligers shaved all of her hair three years ago, she found herself making wigs as a form of liberation from society’s urge for classification. We sat down to talk about finding shelter in alienation, the importance of collaboration and the joy of bringing your alter ego alive.
What can a wig do for a person?
“A wig can help you detach from yourself for a while. This will give you a liberating feeling and space to express areas within yourself, which you normally do not dare to express. With a wig, you can easily step into another role. Wigs are a way of expressing myself, just like my other work. Everything I do arises from a feeling of alienation. By making wigs, I create a world in which I feel recognised. The more wigs I made, which were a reflection of me, the more I felt in the right place.”
How do you want others to interpret your wigs?
“Wigs serve as a reinforcement of a concept of the maker. They add a reality that is being put down, therefore the spectator gets a better insight into the concept. My work arises from a feeling of alienation, it mainly focuses on character studies. What happens when there is no fixed framework to classify someone? How does one’s behaviour/habits influence this classification? And how come these alienated characters find shelter in alienation? The wigs I make are inspired by those who live on the margins of society.”
What do you mean by the margins of society?
“By that, I mean living outside the norm. I myself, for instance, live on the margins of society, I don’t feel comfortable with a ‘normal' life. I do not want to obey what is expected from an average person. For me, these expectations mean that you study, you get a job, then a house and you are in a relationship. A lot of people think that ticking all those boxes, means having a good life. I do not agree with that.”
Where do you get your inspiration from?
“My work is mostly made in collaboration. The best way to work for me, is to see the person for whom the wig is for. I try to create a wig that matches a character. The most important part about making a custom wig is that the customer feels comfortable wearing the wig and that it tells the story that the customer wants people to receive. The wigs are supposed to create an alter ego of the customer instead of creating a persona who doesn’t represent them. Besides this working method, I also take a lot of references from the Renaissance — Galliano for Dior is my favourite designer, and Mugler of course.”
Do you only make wigs in collaboration now or are you also making wigs just for yourself?
“I’m currently only making wigs in collaboration. This way of working fits better for me and I can balance it well with my independent work.”
On what base do you choose to either work or not work with somebody?
“I can very much relate to the projects of most of the people that have approached me to collaborate with. So far, it happens quite naturally. When it comes to social responsibility, I try to work thoroughly and stay critical of my work as a white wigmaker.”
NOT JUST HAIR
Is there a particular type of customer that is interested in your work?
“My customers are pretty diverse, mostly they just want a certain type of drama. People are looking for something that makes them unique. The shapes I make are very eccentric. The drama is about exaggerated shapes and this shows that it’s not just hair but a wig. I’ve never had a customer who wanted it for daily use, they are not that wearable. Actually, I am quite satisfied with my customers and the fact that my wigs enable my customers to distinguish themselves. I often work for fashion but recently also started working for theatre and art performances. I would love to see it develop more in music performances as well.”
You just told me you get a lot of references from the Renaissance and fashion designers, but you also work with specific wigs for the right person. How would you describe your aesthetic in 3 words?
“Sculptural, dramatic, characteristic.”
Even though you have been making a lot of wigs to match the people who wear them, what message are you trying to communicate in general?
“Wigs represent an exaggerated version of characteristics that can be overshadowed and suppressed due to society. By creating exuberant shapes for wigs, it’s almost impossible to look away. Because of the aesthetic value and meticulous attention I give to wigs, I discharge the negative connotation which gets linked to some part of our character which we prefer to hide.”
Do you have a favourite wig?
“I’ll show you. These are my first wigs, they were meant to be for me. They are very sculptural and dramatic and that is why I liked them so much. The wigs play a lot with alienation, which I personally find a very interesting subject. Making sculptural wigs gives me more space to work less commercially. With this way of working, requirements like comfort do not apply.”
Yes I agree. Do you actually wear these?
“Yes, that is me in the photos, heavily edited of course. But I have only used the wigs for the pictures. When I make wigs in a collaboration, I enjoy bringing characters to life, but this stands beside my opinion of the wigs themselves as an object. The moment I make wigs in collaboration, it gets value. In my perception, this happens when the wigs, the person and the clothes all come together. Within a collaboration that is when I get my satisfaction. My first wigs are more sculptural which creates a static art piece on its own. The wig itself then quickly becomes more exciting, and with collaboration, it is more about how the wig goes hand-in-hand with the rest, not how the wig is on itself.”
Do you think wigs can have a social or political statement?
“Yes, at the moment this does represent an issue I am concerned about. I am also still looking for an answer. I feel like I will find this more in collaboration than with myself.”
How do you engage in this?
“I try to consciously choose the people I don’t want to work with. Because I find the meaning of collaboration more important than the financial aspect. By applying for funds, I hope to get more space to push this further. My interest then lies mainly in collaborations with artists.”
You also work in fashion, what is your view on the current state of this industry?
“I can find myself less and less in this industry. Trends are going too fast, brands focus too much on mass consumption instead of quality. But I’m happy to see that it gets more inclusive and that clothes aren’t always made specifically for men or women.”
Are you trying to change this industry?
“As I mentioned earlier, I try to choose the people I work with very consciously. Subjects like inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community are something I find important. The people I work with should have the same morals as I do about this subject.”