Interview & Review of HAIR by SAM McKNIGHT
Review and Interview by Lilah Spencer
In a career spanning the course of 40 years, revolutionary hair connoisseur Sam McKnight has elevated hair styling into artistry, weaving magic into fashion’s most acclaimed brands through the transformative power of conceptual hair. Through a vast array of photographs and written passages including those by Karl Lagerfeld, Nick Knight and Lisa Armstrong, Sam McKnight’s Hair gives us a behind the scenes look at the process of creating some of the most iconic fashion statements of our time.
Hair is separated into categories ranging from “Cool girl” to “Modern Retro,” “Poetic Fantasy” to quite simply, “Kate.” Each passage contains various narrations by McKnight and if the reader does not already possess an understanding of the kind of passion and hard work it takes to break the mold of standard hair styling, then McKnight’s inspiring narration of his early years and later evolution will provide bold revelations and sensitive insight into the mind of an artist with incredible vision.
Images featured in Hair include those of the world’s first supermodels showcasing hair styled by McKnight, full page spreads detailing the fashion industry’s progression from the 1970’s to modern times and twists on beloved classics. Also included is an intimate collection of McKnight’s personal polaroids, portraying models such as Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and hair stylist McKnight himself in their natural states of being.
McKnight is on the cutting edge of fashion, influencing the evolution of style from behind a pair of sheers and the most luxurious wigs we wish we could get our hands on. If you’ve ever wondered about the process of bringing vision to fruition or if you’re curious about the stylists behind the camera, then McKnight’s Hair will provide you with those in depth observations from an acclaimed hair stylist extremely well versed in all things high fashion.
What drives your passion for hair artistry?
I'm lucky to work with the most creative talents in the business, like Karl Lagerfeld, Nick Knight, Craig McDean, Marlo Testino, so the constant strive to create iconic images is a source of energy, passion and inspiration.
Has anything every gone wrong while styling that forced you to change the concept of your idea?
Often! My bags full of equipment, hairpieces etc made for a Bardot shoot, didn't show up on a shoot in St Barts recently with Kate Moss and Demarchelier. I just spritzed with sea water and air dried. Changed the concept to a beachy look, using sea water. Needs must!
What do you find exciting about the fashion industry right now?
The industry feels like is it in a state of flux right now. The end of one era, which always means the beginning of another. I feel that the Golden Age of fashion photography is giving way to something newer, faster, more accessible and personal thanks to social media. Let's see where we go from here.
Can you recall a singular moment in which you first realized your passion for hair?
I think it came upon me gradually, and when I left the Salon to do my first photo shoot in the late 70s, I knew I was hooked on creating images.
What has been one of your favorite looks you've done over the expanses of your career?
So many!!! From Demarchelier's shots of Princess Diana in the 90s, wonderful shoots all the supers in the 80s to Nick Knight's Lady Gaga in the 2000s, and the recent Chanel and Fendi collaborations with Karl Lagerfeld there are so many to choose from!
Are you inspired by your environment, whether that be New York versus London?
I'm inspired by the world around me. The colours of my garden, the people I work with, popular culture, art and history. I keep my eyes open.
How would you describe your personal hair styling aesthetics?
I like to make hair beautiful. To enhance the beauty if the wearer. Even if it's a strong surreal theatrical look, I don't do ugly.
As an icon in the world of fashion and hair, do you embrace being a mentor to emerging hairstylists?
I have been overwhelmed by the response to the exhibition from young stylists and in fact young people in general. I've enjoyed immensely hosting talks and Q&A sessions regularly. Pure joy to hear the enthusiasm and positive energy.
Is there a trend that you'll be happy to let go of for a while?
I don't do trends!
What are a few adjectives to describe behind the scenes at a photo shoot?
Overcrowded, Hectic, Fun, Noisy