What has been a game changer for you?
I know there are a lot of great hairdressers who could technically do certain things better than me. For me personally and for my style, it wasn’t ever about perfecting techniques in this way. It was about having the knowledge and developing skills, but even more importantly combining those disciplines with a good concept, and a really strong idea. Although this wouldn’t suit everyone, it was a game changer for me when I realised that I could have the best technical discipline in the world, but if I didn’t have an inspiring idea of how to put it into context, the quality of my technical skill was worth nothing.
Your work has a very clear identity. Is there something particular that represents your work aesthetically and has that changed throughout your career?
I think carefully about who I work with, and it’s important that we share an aesthetic and vibe. A magazine, stylist or an advertising agency will look at different portfolios and think, who is the right person for this job? These days I feel artists are better off being known for a very specific aesthetic. I got to a point where I thought, right, I know what I want my work to look like. I know I have good ideas. I’ve developed my skills – now I need to make sure I’m working with people I can collaborate with, and there’s a mutual connection. I think it can hold you back to work as a generalist, someone who is able to do a lot of everything and hasn’t got a clear identity. If someone’s work changes drastically from shoot to shoot, it’s harder for a client or creative team to understand what they’re about and if they are right for job. These days, if you look at the exciting younger artists coming through, they have an aesthetic and a style. It tends to hold together really well across the whole portfolio.
It takes dedication and persistence to create your dream job. What’s your best advice for people who would like to kick off a career in fashion?
You get a lot of very talented, skillful people working in beauty and fashion, and they can end up doing a bit of everything and perhaps being too adaptable. You need to create an authentic vision which clients can buy into and benefit from. It has to feel that you can sprinkle a bit of magic onto everything you do. It’s about making a point of difference in what is a very competitive marketplace and there’s nothing wrong with that. Competition is good. I want to go to work feeling like I can bring a bit of me to this, even if I’m doing something commercial.
If I don’t feel like that, it doesn’t feel like I’ve done a good job. It doesn’t have to be complicated or have some kind of youth culture reference. It can be something very simple, but it’s still just about adding that little something to it, which makes it clear you did it and no one else.
So it comes down to finding your own style and really daring to go with your own flow, to really trust yourself?
It takes a certain element of bravery and the whole process is a long game. I see people who join agencies and they’re not managing as well as they could be. If they are pressured to do all the jobs that come in their career can end up snowballing into nothing. It’s better to have no content than the wrong content. Especially now when everything’s on social media. You do a shoot and your work is out there so quickly, and your choices mean this either helps or hinders your reputation. Reputation is everything. It’s not just about brand alignment, or the hair, but also about behaviour and professionalism from the very beginning to the end of a job.
You’re collaborating with people all the time. How do you stay true to your boundaries and personal style?
It’s about choosing the job. I know that if I’m going to work with a certain brand, it’s going to look a certain way, therefore the boundaries are clearly set already. Then the collaboration doesn’t become too jarring, because all the pieces are in place. These boundaries help to create a space for collaboration which I already know is aligned to my aesthetic and way of working.
So if you have to share something that you truly stand by – something you want to press on to the new generation of budding hairstylists. What would that be?
It’s crucial to have your own point of view. This could be a style, a quality or a message. Then, you need to work with people who will enable you to elevate what you do and who give you a platform on which you are able to be your best. To do this, you need to educate yourself about photographers, about stylists, about brands. Do your research so that you can make good decisions about who you work with, rather than being seduced by the name of a brand. Don’t fall for that.
I think a lot of people do because they think it is going to get them to a certain place, but it doesn’t always. Develop a very strong strategy about where you’re going and who you are going to be. Really research your ideas and make sure they are strong, and you are not too influenced by other people’s opinions. And practice hard. Even now if there is something I am not certain I understand how to do, or know how to use, I will practice it until I feel completely confident with it.
From working with you, I’ve seen how it’s important to you to treat everyone with kindness and respect. What are the values that enable you to be so down to earth?
As my career develops it’s essential to me that I keep my humility. I was really inspired by Denzel Washington when he said, “when you’re at your best, when you have your finest moments, when you’re reaching the top, that’s when the devil visits.” Those words sent chills through me when I heard them because they resonate with my values so strongly. It’s a tough industry and there’s a lot of money at stake which brings a great deal of pressure. However, I feel really clear that this shouldn’t excuse bad behavior. Being unkind to others wouldn’t work for me anyway. I prefer to support people to be their best selves. In an industry with a questionable reputation in this area, I feel that we all have a responsibility to make this change and find better ways of working. There is a new generation of young creatives, photographers, stylists and makeup artists who are being successful without behaving badly. It’s so important to have humility and gratitude for where you are, what you’ve achieved, and to never forget how long it took you to get there and maybe some of the pain it caused too. We are privileged to work in our industry. When I lead my team I try to maintain a certain discipline and set a good example whilst retaining kindness and gratitude.
Fashion week was rolling on its high when the war in Ukraine broke out, which I know made you feel conflicted by working on the shows. The Balenciaga Show had a strong voice and it must have affected you a lot?
Yes, it did. I found it hard to make sense of working in Milan when the destruction of the war in Ukraine was becoming rapidly more devastating. It felt wrong to be working in a very elite environment with lots of money at stake when this was happening. It was due to Demna, the Creative Director of Balenciaga, and his expression of humanity and empathy for those in Ukraine, that I felt fashion had something important to contribute. I was working on the Balenciaga show at this time and Demna, who fled Georgia as a 12 year-old refugee, read a poem in Ukrainian while the models walked through a frozen environment. He had voiced his own concern about whether he should cancel the show, but I was really moved by his statement that said he decided not to because that would have meant, “surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years”. I thought it was beautiful the way we wore Ukrainian T-shirts and it felt like a moment which then made sense. I felt then that fashion did have the power and platform to say something important. I very rarely write how I feel on social media as I am a very private person, but the statement I made about this received more reactions that anything else I have ever done on Instagram. I admire Demna greatly, and he personifies everything I have talked about in terms of humanity, humility and kindness, and running things well and with discipline. His approach helped me to make sense of things and have my own voice about something so important.