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PEOPLE IN FASHION: The man behind the models on the cutting edge

Guido is the hair stylist who can make or break a model's career with this season's seminal fringe or essential crop - and the designers don't think he's half bad either. James Sherwood met him
You'd expect hair stylist Guido Paulo to scatter names like confetti. Six years ago, Calvin [Klein] plucked him from the new London scene to style Kate [Moss] in a campaign shot by David [Sims] in New York. Versace used Guido exclusively for his famous Avedon portfolios with Stella and Amber. Even this year's model, Karen Elson, owes her signature fringe to Guido. Not one of the aforementioned came higher than "the boy they all copy" in The Face's annual 100 Most Influential People in Fashion list. Last month, he signed a five-figure contract with Nicky Clarke as stylist at large. Who would have thought?

"Well, I never thought I'd get here," says Guido with a shrug. He is wearing his work uniform: knackered deck shoes, shorts and baggy T-shirt. He has five o'clock shadow (it's breakfast). There is no hint of the polished facade we are used to seeing from celebrity hairdressers on Style Challenge. "Donatella always teases me about my look," says Guido. What would Charles Worthington give to drop that name so effortlessly?

Far from being a handicap, the little-boy-lost image has undoubtedly aided Guido's meteoric rise. Once he gets backstage at a catwalk show, Guido is a different animal. "I have this reputation as being a real... well, very hard. The same girls always show up late and you have to bully them into the chair. It's like: `Sit down, shut up and let me work.' You've got to behave like a stern father with them. Then, there's the girl who was `It' last season feeling neglected. You'll have to pay her a bit of attention and build up her self-esteem. There's a lot of paranoia if Guido's styled one girl and not another."

Despite talking occasionally in the third person about himself, Guido is intentionally low on both profile and pretentiousness. "You want to know what it's really like backstage before a big show? Tense. I feel nauseous and get extremely uptight. Then you wait. Some of the bigger girls arrive 10 minutes before the show. The hair will take 20. There is one shot at perfection and everyone is judging you. Afterwards, I feel completely drained. I criticise the work and never, ever feel 100 per cent happy with the result."

In an industry that feeds on young blood,this 32 year old has held his ground. For the past 10 years, Guido worked as the Toni & Guy stylist at large, earning a retainer in exchange for "Guido at Toni & Guy" magazine credits. Styling new girl Kate Moss for a David Sims' The Face shoot launched Guido in New York. "It was the era of grunge which totally shook fashion around. And not before time," he says. "Calvin took all of us as a package for his new ad campaign. We were a cocky, young, English gang let loose in New York and we had what they wanted."

"Ironic, really," he says, "When Vidal Sassoon fired me at the age of 21. My manager said I'd never make a hairdresser. I'd been travelling for a year and came up to London from Bournemouth [where he was born to a Spanish father and English mother] with no clue about where my life was going."

After working round "literally hundreds" of salons, Guido started to assist a senior stylist on photo shoots for Women's Own. "Oh, the glamour of it all," he giggles. "Did I think I'd hit the big time when I styled a Slimming cover on my own for the first time." Did he frame the covers? "No, but I think my mum's still got them. I don't keep any of my cuttings. My agent has them all." A cursory glance at Guido's latest book is like a guide to seminal advertising campaigns of 1997. "I am lucky now to have the luxury of time on a photo shoot. I remember spending two days on a shoot with David Sims - who's my best friend - trying to get the look right. I was distraught because it wasn't working. But photographers like Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Avedon and David let me work until we get it right."

Before the interview, a hairdresser breathlessly lectured me on Guido's philosophy of "hair architecture". "What?" he says. "I don't know anything about architecture. I think about girls I know when I'm working. I think: `What would a funky young girl like Kate do to look glam on a night out?' If Stella wanted to look punky, how would she do it? That's my inspiration. Everyone has input but nobody actually tells me what to do. Gianni [Versace] just used to say: `Guido. darling, do someseeng beooteeful.'"

Guido is as responsible for the longevity of a girl's career as a designer. "Sometimes, you need to take the clothes and the girl in a new direction," he says. "When I cut Karen Elson's hair into the off-centre bob, we sat in a hotel room and had a bottle of wine together before we cut the hair . I've had Stella in a salon for eight hours bleaching her hair for Gianni. At 11pm it started falling out, so I thought it was light enough. When you see the pictures three months later, you don't think of the pain."

Guido has bought himself a new London base and the time to take a month off. This season he will be working the London shows, a fashion pit stop Guido has rarely made. But the pace is not slacking. His diary is co- ordinated for months in advance. When asked if there are any sacrifices he had to make for the nomadic life, Guido peers from under his fringe and says, "Love?" With those puppy-dog eyes? Are you kidding?