As a gay woman in the male-dominated profession of hairstyling, Holli Smith has used her medium to challenge conventions of gender politics and queer identity, working for brands from Balenciaga to Calvin Klein .
Born in Ada, Oklahoma but raised in Salinas, California, Smith has been working with hair since 1992, when she attended Wayne’s College of Beauty in Santa Cruz straight out of high school. After gaining her licence, Smith worked as an intern for hairstylist Yoshitoya in Palo Alto and later as an assistant to Guido Palau , who noticed Smith two years after she moved from San Francisco to New York in 2000.
Smith’s work draws from the aesthetics of early 2000s rave culture and her personal immersion in the LGBTQ+ community. She has spoken in the past about the potential for hair to be a political statement, saying in an interview with Models.com that “hair has always been this material that you can use to turn some of the normal rules about identity and gender upside down.”
She has styled hair for brands including Balenciaga, Acne Studios , Opening Ceremony, Kenzo, Calvin Klein, Lanvin and Proenza Schouler. She has also styled hair for multiple i-D covers and editorials — often teaming up with photographer Collier Schorr — and is a contributing beauty editor for Dazed magazine.
Smith is based in Brooklyn, New York and is represented by Art Partner.