Alexander Kinds

Have you ever pondered the potential connection between KISS, John Malkovich and Marina Abramovic? I certainly hadn't until I met Alexander in his studio in Antwerp. Little did I expect that hair would be the common thread among them. Originating from a typical Flemish household in Bruges, Alexander now globe-trots to craft, style, and bind the hair of numerous gifted actors, musicians, and opera artists. In this Journal entry, he offers us a peek into his life and home.
Good morning, Alexander! Thank you so much for welcoming us into your home. How are you today, and what's most alive in you today?

I'm doing great, thank you! I’m feeling especially good today because my partner and I are heading to Bali this Saturday. It won't be our first time visiting, but the island never ceases to amaze me.

We'll be basing ourselves in Ubud, staying with a dear friend who has been living there for years. From there, we'll be venturing out to explore more of the island, taking in its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. I'm particularly looking forward to visiting some of the local temples, soaking up some sun and connecting with the wild Balinese nature.

One of the things I love most about Bali is the warm hospitality of its people. They have such a deep connection to their land and their traditions, and it's always a privilege to be welcomed into their communities and learn from their wisdom. So yes, I'm feeling very much alive today, and filled with anticipation for the adventure that lies ahead!

That sounds like an incredible getaway! Be sure to soak up some of that Bali sunshine for the rest of us. To dive into the interview, I'd love to learn more about who you are, Alexander. How did you become the renowned wigmaker and makeup artist you are today? What inspired you to pursue this path, and what challenges did you face along the way?

My name is Alexander, and I'm 52 years old. I grew up as a middle child in a traditional, Catholic family in Bruges, Belgium. As a child, I was always very active and creative, spending most of my time outdoors.

Though my creativity wasn't always encouraged or understood at home, I found ways to express myself through activities like skating and BMXing. And I also found an outlet for my creative side in fashion, helping my mother pick out fabrics and even designing my own pants, which she would lovingly sew to fit me perfectly.

Despite the challenges I faced in expressing myself creatively, I never gave up on my passion for art and design. In a way, it feels like my journey to becoming a wigmaker and makeup artist was always in the cards, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

I attended a Catholic secondary school run by nuns, where I was one of the first boys to be admitted. From the start, I stood out from my classmates by choosing a course called 'bio esthetics,' which encompassed a variety of beauty-related subjects like hairdressing and makeup.

However, in my fourth year of study, I hit a stumbling block. Due to the predominantly female student body, the school didn't offer massage therapy as an option for boys, and I was forced to choose hairdressing as my specialization. While I was disappointed not to be able to explore all aspects of the beauty industry, I remained determined to follow my passion and carve out a unique path for myself.

Was It at this stage that you learned the wig making techniques?

After completing high school in Bruges, a classmate and I decided to pursue an additional year of study to obtain a more comprehensive technical diploma. It was during the Grime program that I first learned the fundamental knotting techniques.

During that time, the final opera production directed by Gerard Mortier, a renowned Belgian opera director known for his innovative approach, took place at the Muntschouwburg. It was a production of Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen,' a grand opera cycle comprising four individual operas. Approximately 45 makeup artists were required for this production. Alongside some fellow students, we traveled from Antwerp to the Munt and underwent a skills assessment test. Both my classmate and I were among the students granted an internship for that production, where I acquired most of the skills I currently utilize.

The following year, I enrolled in a private school in Brussels, and in the evenings, my girlfriend and I continued working at the Opera, assisting with hair and makeup during the plays. Eventually, a team member in Brussels left, and I was offered his position. What initially started as a part-time student job in the evenings evolved into a full-time position.

During this period, I also had the opportunity to meet Peter Owen, one of the industry's greats, known for his work on the movie Dangerous Liaisons with John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. He took me under his wings and imparted the skills necessary for the business. It is his passion that I inherited, and it continues to drive me to this day.

What was the experience like serving as the head of hair and makeup at the Opera in Amsterdam?

The previous head of hair and makeup, who was a former colleague from my time in Brussels, recommended me to the board when he departed. I eagerly seized the opportunity as it felt like the natural progression in my career after spending fourteen years in Brussels. From an artistic standpoint, it was an incredible journey. The available resources, both in terms of production budget and the freedom to explore artistic expression, were exceptional. The transition from a team of five to a team of twelve had a significant impact on the creative process. In addition to overseeing opera productions, we were also responsible for ballet productions, which added a fulfilling dimension due to the variety in productions.

Working closely with the costume department, comprising over 40 people, elevated our creative endeavors to a new level. Early in my career, I recognized that hair played a crucial role, perhaps even more than makeup, in transforming a human face into a different character or time period. The close collaboration with the costume department enabled us to achieve a fully coherent transformation. Amsterdam provided an amazing working experience, involving frequent travel and collaboration with exceptionally talented individuals like directors Robert Wilson, Pierre Audi, William Kentridge Costume Designer AF Vandervorst and set designer Anish Kapoor.

After your time in Amsterdam, you returned to Antwerp, correct?

Actually, I never lived in Amsterdam. I commuted back and forth from Antwerp to Amsterdam, often staying just one night, which eventually took a toll on my well-being. At that time, my two kids were still young, and I realized I wasn't being the present and involved father I wanted to be for them—something I missed in my own upbringing. This realization led me to make a conscious decision to move closer to my kids, striving to be a more involved and genuine dad. It was a choice driven by a desire to break a cycle from my adolescence that I didn't want to repeat.

I then joined Opera Ballet Flanders, which brought me back to Antwerp. Adjusting to working with a smaller team after the vast possibilities I had in Amsterdam was a shift, but working with remarkable individuals like Marina Abramovic, Christoph Waltz, … and collectives like FC Bergman compensated for it. Collaborating with artists of such caliber, whose work I deeply resonate with, was a dream come true. Contributing and infusing a part of myself into the art they create was immensely fulfilling. The fact that artists of this stature recognized and appreciated the value of the work we delivered provided extra motivation to continue creating.
Are there any other projects that will always hold a special place in your memory or that you would be eager to take on? 

I'm genuinely grateful for the numerous projects I've had the opportunity to work on. My time at the Opera provided a diverse range of projects, making it incredibly interesting and enabling me to focus on refining and enhancing my skills as a wigmaker, team leader, and overall individual. Since starting my own company a few years ago, I expanded my scope, shifting my focus from Opera and Ballet productions to the realms of movies, music, and beyond. I'm open to any request that comes my way.

One of my dreams was to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, Peter Owen. This milestone was achieved last year when I worked with and for John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Kate Philips on the upcoming film "The Yellow Tie." Another enjoyable project from last year involved collaborating with Elan Ben Ali and Tijan Njie on "Girl You Know It's True." Taking a completely different direction, I had the opportunity to work on a project for the Belgian Red Devils, where we brought legends Guy Thys and Raymond Goethals back to life.

Is it accurate to say that your primary focus these days is on wig making? Are you still actively working as a makeup artist as well?

It's never been an either-or situation for me. While the craftsmanship of wig making is a significant aspect, correctly applying and grooming it on the talent is equally crucial for the wig to achieve its full splendor. This is where issues often arise, especially when a less-than-perfect wig isn't applied well. Directors may be hesitant to use wigs, fearing that they might appear unnatural. Hence, having a proficient hair and makeup team accustomed to working with wigs is extremely important.
I was on the hair and makeup team for the Zillion movie, and my main gig was taking care of Barbara Sarafian. It's not the usual drill to be assigned to just one person, it's a whole different vibe. Getting to focus on one individual lets you connect on a deeper level, and it's pretty satisfying. Like, you're not just doing the standard routine – you're really getting to know the ins and outs of transforming the person in their character for the big screen.

I've also had the privilege of being part of the band KISS ‘s world tour as their production stylist—a completely different scene but equally fascinating. I had the unique opportunity to join the team midway through their Europe Tour, after they had been working with the same crew for over 30 years. It presented an interesting challenge to quickly integrate and get to know each other's working styles. Fortunately, we all demonstrated a willingness to collaborate and recognized each other's strengths, leading to an amazing experience during last year's Australia tour. The camaraderie and synergy we developed were truly special, and it's an experience I will always cherish and can continue. I am genuinely grateful for their openness and the valuable lessons learned from working with such seasoned professionals in the music industry.

What do you think you would be doing if your career path had taken a different direction?
I'm confident it would involve something creative. I have a deep passion for photography, architecture, interior design, and more—my interests are diverse, but they all revolve around bringing beauty into the world and some form of crafting process. I'm not sure if I could envision myself in another profession. I thoroughly enjoy delving into all of the above, and my role as a wig maker, coupled with the opportunity to travel extensively, allows me to seamlessly combine my varied interests and connect with many fascinating like-minded individuals.
While engaged in the intricate process of knotting a wig, I spend a significant amount of time seated. This provides the perfect opportunity for me to absorb new information about my other interests. With the abundance of engaging podcasts and audiobooks available, I can easily fill my seated time with insights on a wide array of topics—a definite win-win situation for me.

Thanks for letting us in on your life, and we wish you all the best for your upcoming projects. Make sure to follow Alexander on Instagram to see what he's up to. 

Styling and Production Gijs Grondelaers
Photography and Text Wouter Struyf