A Hairy Situation: Arlette Pender's Twist on Fashion

Hair care expert Arlette Pender of Hairloks by Arlette has been working in the business for more than 30 years. She's created fantastical afros, dreadlocks and

cornrows for Essence and Vibe, hosted African-American hair care workshops for white moms of bi-racial or adopted children, and toured the country doing hair for "Milkshake" singer, Kelis.

Recently, Pender has become known for another type of creative endeavor: functional clothing and accessories made out of hair.

Sounds crazy, right? To Pender, it's a perfectly natural extension of a lifetime working with real hair and synthetic hair products. "To me, it's not creepy at all," she quips. "Then again, hair has become a part of my life and the creative part of me would include it as art in other areas of my life."

Pender's colorful designs certainly aren't for everyone -- but it's hard to ignore the artistry that goes into making one of these fashionably twisted accessories.

More hairy fashions after the jump...

Pender isn't the first person to come up with the idea. Similarly hair-raising designs were featured on an episode of America's Next Top Model, and Lady Gaga was spotted sporting a funky human-fur outfit at a New York club last October.

Dashonna doubles as one of Pender's models.


But unlike Gaga's stringy monokini, Pender's designs features sleek, hand-braided hair extensions placed onto existing garments.

Though clients occasionally call to borrow the infamous Gaga-inspired rainbow dress she premiered at a runway show and competition last fall, Pender considers her current fashion line -- including several dresses, jackets, hats, purses and even sneakers and shorts -- prototypes best used as costumes.  

It takes Pender and her assistant, fellow hair care specialist Dashonna Johnson, several hours to put together just one dress. And that's not counting the time it takes to braid the hair. "In some cases, the clothes are made on a living mannequin," Pender explains. The models lay on the floor in the base garment while Pender glues on the braids.

How long will one of these outfits last? Let's just say it's not something you break out of your closet every week. "They have to be repaired periodically, depending on how much wear the outfit gets," says Pender. "Life expectation is not very long."

Catch Pender in action at Hairloks by Arlette, inside Signature Salon Studios at 7000 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 1652. Look for new fuzzy fashions inspired by celebrities at a runway benefit show for Purses & Love on April 28. 

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden