Aside from memes and cute pictures of puppies, you can always find me in some dark, isolated corner of the room screenshotting beauty inspo. Kelela is a constant on my camera roll. The Take Me Apart musician's locs are always styled impeccably: neat and cut into a razor-sharp bob. Double-tapping whatever she posts is a given, but I didn't just "like" her spread from the recent Fader cover story. I loved it.
"The original hair-spiration came from a broad amount of sources," Notcutt tells us. "For example, Kelela is Ethiopian and there are so many amazing traditional hairstyles that we got inspired by. Also, '70s crystal hats, chandeliers, and Nina Simone. We really wanted to re-interrupt and try and make something just as inspiring in a contemporary way."
For this shoot, Johnson cut Kelela's hair into an asymmetrical bob before adding the jewelry. She moisturized her hair a tiny bit for shine, but didn't want the locs to be too slick or she'd risk the gems flying all over the place. "We use a needle and thread, and actually sew them onto her locs individually," Johnson explains. "Every last thing you saw on her hair, from the pattern of beads and hoops, were all hand-sewn. I put an adornment to each loc. I had to clean and dry my hands really well beforehand so they wouldn't slip. There was lots of knotting involved in the process."
"Lots" is an understatement. Each look took about 45 minutes to an hour to attach the adornments. "Locs are pretty delicate," Johnson says. "They look really tough, but they're not." Johnson estimates that more than 100 hoops and more than 100 crystals were used on each respective style. For each loc, there were at least three or four decorations attached. And in case you were wondering, the adornments aren't heavy. Well, not that heavy. "Comparing all three, the hoops are heaviest," she adds. "And because we use so many per loc, they were a little heavier on head than the beads were. But she's used to wearing adornments, so she can handle it. It was really rough keeping them in there, though. I kept little gold safety pins in between each hoop so they'd stay."
The "don't try this at home" warning is often misused and clichéd, but you might want to listen this time around — unless you've got a clear schedule. "If you're doing this on your own locs, it'd probably take an hour to attach the adornments," Johnson says. "I wouldn’t embellish each loc, either. I'd stagger them, or use less beads. It's more practical, but still really beautiful." Either way, Johnson says that these usually only last until the end of the day. Box braids are a better option, as they're synthetic (and tougher).
As for Kelela, we'll probably be seeing even more shapes and colors attached to her own locs, something I'd gladly spend a day (or two) gazing at. "Kelela is known for her dreads and we want to figure out how to show them in different unexpected ways," Notcutt says. "The adornments have been such an evolution."
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