Meet Tuttii Fruittii and Toni Tits, the klowns fighting the power

Meet Tuttii Fruittii and Toni Tits, the klowns fighting the power

They are hair sculptors, make-up artists, performance artists and fashion stylists just to name a few. More recently, Tuttii Fruittii and Toni Tits have had to become activists in order to fight for their home, a building in Deptford (South East London) that congregates several other artists under the same roof. 

Photo by Pedro Matos

Photo by Pedro Matos

We arrive to what used to be the schoolyard of the old Tidemill School building in Frankham Street, Deptford, to find Tuttii and Toni and their wondrous caravan. The vehicle has been completely transformed into a magical hair sculpting studio. “It’s really important to feel inspired. That’s why the salon is a sensory experience”, says Toni.

Inside the Tuttii Fruttii TechniKolor Hair Sculptor salon, you’ll find a scenario so colourful and fun that is matched only by the look of its founders. “I’ve been obsessed with clowns ever since I was a child. They’re my biggest inspiration”, says Tuttii. She is joined in her clown obsession by Toni, who co-founded the salon. 

Photo by Pedro Matos

Photo by Pedro Matos

The creative duo is joined by other costume designers and performance artists in the old school building, now serving as a creative hub in the middle of Deptford. But not for long. Late June, Tuttii and Toni found an eviction note from Lewisham Council stuck to the gate asking them to leave the premises.

“We were like ‘what?’. We’re still paying our monthly fee to the guardianship. So we spoke to Newbould Guardians and told them that we had a letter from the council asking us to leave and basically they told us that this wasn’t the case and that we should stay put and keep paying our monthly fee”, explains Tuttii. “But actually Newbould Guardians had fallen out with Lewisham council – whom they were getting the building from. The council had told Newbould Guardians that we had to get out, but they basically didn’t follow on what they were supposed to do. They had fallen out with the council and they were taking our money as well. It was all dodgy.”

Photo by Pedro Matos

Photo by Pedro Matos

Property guardian schemes emerged in the early Noughties as an answer to London’s housing crisis. At first, it appeared to be the perfect answer, as they provided cheap housing solutions attracting artists and creatives to old schools and empty office blocks that were either awaiting refurbishment or demolition. “But an investigation shows that property guardians are part of a growing underclass of renters with severely curtailed rights who live in miserable and legally dubious conditions”, write Lucas Amin and Margot Gibbs in an article for The Guardian. “Meanwhile, the companies that operate the schemes are thriving in austerity London’s housing crisis, where they make profits by turning former public sector buildings into substandard accommodation”.

Tuttii and Toni joined forces with the neighbourhood to object to the eviction. Because the guardianship didn’t give them their deposit money back, they have decided to stay and fight. After taking the case to court, they were allowed to stay until October and say they will stay for as long as they can.

“Deptford is going through a gentrification phase as are all other areas around London. The main goal is to build flats and get all commuters and city workers here. That’s the bigger plan for Deptford and we’re not encompassed in that at all and neither are all the working class, low income people that live in this area”, says Toni. “Obviously this phenomenon is symptomatic of a larger problem which is that local and artistic communities are all being pushed out. Losing this space is going to change the artistic scene around here”.

Besides being evicted from the place they consider their home, Toni and Tuttii are also being forced to relocate their workspace as the caravan will also have to leave the old Tidemill School. But for Tuttii, the next step will be finding a space for her salon. “I’m so sick of being moved around places. My plan was always to have my own hair salon. I’ve just started with the caravan because I couldn’t afford to have a hair salon and I just loved the concept of being put in a different situation and having your hair done and I wanted to transform it into my vision. I just want to get a proper shop!”.

The duo launched a crowdfunding campaign and organized fundraising events to collect money to make Szer London Hair Sculpting Salon come true. But after the eviction notice, the dream of a “proper shop”, as Tuttii calls it, had to be put on hold.  “We raised about £4,000 after all of the payments had been taken out. That money has been put aside and our plan now is to get a creative loan because £4,000 is not enough to open up a shop. This is something I’m going to work on during winter. Because we’re having to move house right now, I have to put all my focus into that.”

Even though their clients come from all over London and further, both are determined to not leave the area. “We just love Deptford. It’s our home”, says Tuttii. And Toni adds that “Hair sculpting is rare, so there’s been a lot of interest. We angle it to be affordable as well. You can’t really get the services that we offer anywhere else at our prices. People from all around the world that are passing through London they come and see us”.

The different concept behind this hair salon, starts with the peculiar way Tuttii addresses hair. “I see hair like a canvas that I layer up using the razor and the clippers. I build the hair up more, like sculpting a block of wood, and then just add the colour like you would a painting.”

Her mum was a hairdresser and quite early on Tuttii started experimenting with hair. “At school I would try to do a fade-on on some of the boys’ hair and completely fuck it up. And then I would have their mums phone me saying ‘What have you done to my boy’s hair?’. I’d always get into trouble”. Since those early days, Tuttii has worked in several salons all over London, mainly barbers. “I prefer to do clipper work. Even though there’s clipper work in ladies I just love barbering. With the hair sculpting I did want to make it more like for ladies as well because it is very popular for ladies to have shaved heads”.

Complementing Tuttii’s artistic vision, Toni highlights its activist side. “The project is anti-elitist. Some people might think that because we’re so out there that might make clients feel uncomfortable, when, actually, more often than not, it’s the opposite that happens. People really respond to it as a unique experience”.

Photo by Pedro Matos

Photo by Pedro Matos

Both Tuttii and Toni embody the ideals that they preach. Changing their look to fit their mood and experimenting with colour from head to toe. Inspiring as that may be, they are aware that that freedom can also be a bit scary to potential customers that are not as adventurous. “It can be intimidating to people to come in the salon, because they think something like ‘Oh God, do I have the style to come in?’. But it’s for everybody and I can create any look for everybody whether it’s just classic or extreme. The customer gets the look that they want”, reaffirms Tuttii.  

“That’s what’s lacking in the world: authentic, unique experiences. Everything is quite regimented. The fear of being outside of the box”, argues Toni. “It’s empowering to people to know that your identity is your own and anything can be beautiful. You can make everything sexy if you believe it and you own it”. These girls certainly do.

Can't get enough of these girls? See more pictures of them HERE and follow @szer.ldn and @tuttii.fruittii on Instagram, 

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