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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 27, 2006

Hair Sculptor

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Model Kim Kim helps stylist Leslie Palombo get the twist just right in a class led by Luigi Murenu, reflected in mirror, at Chinatown's J Salon, one of two salons in the nation chosen for the training session.

BY JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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When celebrity stylist Luigi Murenu came to Honolulu to work with local models, he chose a stylish twist as his look of the moment. Inspired by pikake and orchids, he wanted to use flowers in the models' hair, and this style is very compatible with that. Tips to do this on your own:

  • When pulling your hair back into a braid, ponytail or chignon, use even tension and comb the hair back with a fine-tooth comb or Mason Pearson-style brush.

  • To create a twist, split a ponytail in half and twist the two pieces in opposite directions. When they are as taut as you can manage, twist them together and tie them at the bottom.

  • Use product such as Kérastase Gelee Aqua Proof as a last step to smooth out flyaways around the face.

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    Murenu taught stylists at J Salon how to put an Island spin on a sleek twist style he originally created for the models in a Paris Emanuel Ungaro show this year.

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    One of the world’s top hair stylists, Luigi Murenu, works on a sleek style for model Alicia Marshall at J Salon on Nuçuanu Avenue.

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    Luigi Murenu reveals his secret ingredient for sleek styles: Kérastase Gelee Aqua Proof, to stylist Siulo So as she works with model Tiana Tong.

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    Even tension is a key to getting the sleekest possible braid, according to international hair stylist Luigi Murenu, seen here, center, giving a lesson to Gary Casupang, left, and Joe Randazzo, right, the owners of J Salon, on model Alicia Mashall.

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    Luigi Murenu travels surrounded by an entourage. He is among the world's most elite hair stylists, placing his hands on the tresses of Madonna, Janet Jackson and Scarlett Johansson. He transformed Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Britney Spears for covers of W magazine. He created the hairdo for Kate Moss on a recent cover of French Vogue.

    His expressive styles have been key to the look of runway shows as diverse as Prada, YSL, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, Ungaro, Gucci and Viktor & Rolf. He has worked on advertising campaigns for Stella McCartney, Jil Sander, Pucci, Fendi and Hugo Boss. The most famous photographers in the fashion world call on Murenu — among them Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Steven Klein and Juergen Teller.

    No wonder there was palpable excitement in Honolulu when a local salon was honored with a visit.

    J Salon on Nu'uanu Avenue won an all-day training session with Murenu because it had the highest sales west of the Mississippi for Kérastase styling products. For the past three years, Murenu has been creative artistic consultant for Kérastase Paris, a high-end line of hair products. Only two salons in the nation — one east, one west — were selected for the class in runway-ready hair.

    Murenu approaches hair as sculpture, and he exudes a bold confidence softened by genuine warmth. He is known as "the pioneer of the new big hair," as illustrated by Janet Jackson on the cover of October's W magazine.

    This isn't the helmet hair of "Dynasty." It's a soft, feminine, wavy look. "I had to give emotion to the hair with volume. I have the courage to do it," he said.


    For his J Salon training session, Murenu chose a sophisticated, sleeked-back twist he originally created for the Ungaro runway show in Paris.

    Joe Randazzo, owner of J Salon, and his team of stylists gathered models from among the salon's clients. Murenu was ecstatic.

    "I love Polynesian people; they are so beautiful. I feel so honored to touch their hair," he said with characteristic Italian appreciation for beauty. (He was born in Sardinia.)

    The feeling was mutual.

    "Ohhhhh, I can't believe those hands touched the hair of Ma-donna and Jessica Simpson," gushed model Meg Akim.

    When creating a new hair concept, Murenu often compares hair to fabric, using loads of Kérastase products to create the look of velvet, satin or patent leather. For Honolulu, he was inspired by the patent-leather look. He achieved this with massive amounts of Kérastase Gelee Aqua Proof, a product designed to protect hair from the sun that is also ideal for holding down sleek styles.


    When Murenu and his entourage arrive for a Paris, Milan or New York fashion show, they travel with, or acquire, as many as 7,000 hair pieces, 40 hair stylists, 50 cargo-size bags of equipment, and hundreds of wigs, braids, fringes, curling irons, straightening irons, crimping irons, hot rollers, double-wave irons, combs and brushes.

    At the age of 42, after 25 years in the hair business, Murenu is at the peak of his career. His focus now is to make stars of his assistants, Aki (from Tokyo) and Kuri (from Kyoto). Secure in his professional life, he is generous in sharing with up-and-coming stylists.

    What's next? After just 16 hours in Honolulu, he was off to Paris to shoot the Yves Saint Laurent ad campaign; the next day, he planned to fly to Miami for a Chanel fashion show.

    Fashion shows can be crammed with stressful moments. Models are notoriously late, often leaving Murenu and his crew with only 10 minutes to complete the hair. He thrives on the pressure, however: "It takes a lot of energy, but it brings karma and balance into my life." Running every morning and deep breathing also help, he added.

    "When we do the fashion shows, I say we have been to the Olympic games," Murenu said with a grin.

    Murenu fell in love with Honolulu and said he can't wait to return for a much longer visit. His rope pikake lei was a constant source of pleasure for him, and he planned to take it to Paris. "I'm a cultural sponge," he said. "We'll have to incorporate this (lei) into our summer styles."

    Stay tuned for Island flora on the Paris runways.

    Reach Paula Rath at paularath@aol.com.