Madelin Tomelty

Australian Hairdresser of the Year – ie. the best hairdresser in Australia. It’s kind of a big deal. And yet when I called Damien Rinaldo to ask him how it felt to hold such an esteemed title, his response was, “Yeah good, mate.”

Did he mishear me and think I asked him how he was? No, that’s just Damien Rinaldo: humble, grounded, and as down to earth as a person can be. He told me he knew he had a good chance of winning the title but it was going to take a lot of courage, which is perfectly fitting because it happens to be one of the strongest emotions conveyed by his AHFA winning collection: strength, determination, quiet confidence and courage.

“You work up to it for so long and then when it happens it just feels crazy. It was such a big journey because it was the last project I worked on with my partner, so I feel relieved to be honest.” Damien is referring to the passing of his wife, Anne Marie, which happened during the planning stages of his prize-wining collection. “It was my last chance to win something like this, with my partner, so the project held more weight than usual. In saying that I just wanted to create the best work I could and hope that people would like it.”

I think it’s fair to say, we like it… we like it a lot. One of the reasons for that is how different the portrayal of women is in his collection. Inspired by the matriarchal tribes of Borneo, where Damien and Anne Marie spent a lot of time, the hair story is defined by its incredibly strong haircuts and features braiding, wefts and even fur that Rinaldo made himself. The variety of contrasting textures creates a raw and undone effect, and suggests a new version of “beautiful” – one that challenges “normal”, preconceived ideas about what is attractive in a woman. The collection favours the idea of different, unique and individual beauty, and the inner strength that comes from this.

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