Hairstylist and wig maker Tylaria Thomas uses hair as the canvas for her avant-garde design style.
By Kelsey Roslin
When her hands paint the perfect natural highlight on a client or shape a wig into an electrified lime green and purple mullet, hairstylist and wigmaker Tylaria Thomas says that’s when she feels like she is doing God’s work.
“Maybe that’s dramatic to say,” says Thomas, “but over the years I understood how special hair really is.” She knows that the right hair can serve as the foundation for a person’s self-expression. It can be the perfect element that ties an outfit together or the reason someone feels ready to take on the day, so she loves being able to fulfill whatever hair means to her clients.
Black women have long known that hair is magic, power, art and a medium for personal expression. But in an industry that’s historically centered around European beauty standards, even the techniques to tell a story through this medium aren’t regularly created with ethnic hair in mind.
“As a Black woman in the hair artist community, it has definitely been quite the ride,” she shares. “It has to be understood that hairstylists that cater to ethnic hair types are doing such an amazing thing. We research, we test products, we experiment with techniques because there were no textbooks in cosmetology school that instructed us on how to properly care for our hair. It’s an everyday challenge to expand knowledge on all hair types. But it’s definitely a fight I feel is worth advocating for.”
Inspiration in the Avant Garde
Growing up, Thomas found inspiration everywhere. The avant-garde looks in films and fashion drew her eye, but so did her own family’s style. She would experiment with her natural hair, but she didn’t know how to create the exact looks she wanted. This led her to explore extensions and wigs as a means to create art. She began wig making and hairstyling early in her high school years, and she’s been doing it professionally since 2017.
At 23, her career has already seen some incredible highs. In 2021 she landed her first feature in Vogue when she worked with model Nicole Trunfio. Which led to Thomas doing Simone Biles’ hair for the cover of The Wall Street Journal.
When rapper and self-proclaimed pop-punk princess Rico Nasty took the stage at the 2021 Rolling Loud festival in Miami sporting a flaming-red mini mullet—à la David Bowie—Thomas was behind the look. She toured with Rico Nasty and Playboi Carti for two and a half months, creating show-stopping hair moments. Imagine long, crimped jewel-toned lilac waves, handmade stencils used to spray a pop of pink onto an icy wig and a “Dirrty”-era Christina Aguilera-inspired look. The experience is a high she rode until hitting her next milestone: opening her own salon in Downtown Austin.
Opening on MLK Day, TressDeco is named for the beauty renaissance Thomas sees society currently undergoing, combined with the innovation of and experimentation with hair in the art deco period. She went into business with her partner, musician Kenny Casanova, to create a communal space. Half of the location is his recording space, Swaycon Studios.
A visit to TressDeco is designed to be very personal. At booking, customers fill out a questionnaire about their preferences. Thomas’ goals are to give everyone a celebrity experience and to create a custom look that’s as unique as her clients. She offers a wide range of services. From extensions and wig making to hair coloring, all easily booked on her website.
“Both TressDeco Salon and Swaycon Studios were created to give people from all walks of life a safe space to express themselves,” Thomas says. “Hair and music are two mediums that we have seen people find their biggest release in.”
They want LGBTQIA+ and POC communities to know that spaces exist where they can feel welcome and supported—no questions asked.
As for Thomas’ style, it’s not one to be pinned down or labeled. In the last year she has been inspired by the punk and alternative scenes she loved growing up. As reflected in her shags and mullets. She sees herself as a chameleon and dedicates herself to making sure she doesn’t stay in a bubble. She’ll continue to draw inspiration from her main influences of music, art and fashion as she shows the world and the industry what she can do with hair as her canvas.