What it’s really like working as one of the world's most influential hairstylists
They say nothing is as glamorous as it looks - no matter what side of the camera you're on.
When it comes to Fashion Week, models flood the streets, street style is a cult everyone wants to be leader of and both men and women are groomed to perfection.
Behind the stampede of perfectly coiffed manes, one man takes the reins. We flew to London to meet Mark Hampton, Global Hair Ambassador with Toni & Guy – he’s the cheeky chappy, who at 36, is one of the most in demand hair stylists in the world and has worked with every celebrity under the sun. Remember Gigi Hadid’s lioness mane at the 2015 Met Gala? That was Mark.
Every season, he signs up to a few prestige shows during Fashion Month – this time in London, it was Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda, Ashley Williams and Sibling. We flew to London to catch some shows and chat to Mark about what really goes on behind the scenes.
How do you come up with hair concepts for the show?
Pre-show, we always have a hair and makeup test for every designer, so depending on schedules, we’ll all book in. Normally it’s like a bunch of mates hanging out at the beginning – we have a little chat about what they're doing this season. I see it needs to be back, over the shoulders and no hair around the neck because that’s where all the embellishment is. With Roksanda, they showed me all the outfits, they a big board with all the individual looks so you can see the entire collection – all the colours, the palettes, the shape and structured. In my head, the wheels are turning – there’s ruffled collars, open necks and quite a slim silhouette for this colour palette.
How do you decide on a final look?
We knew we maybe wanted a ponytail, but also maybe down or a weird up ‘do with texture. It’s all about the placement. [For the ponytail], we wanted to do a small detail - we can use fabric, suede, elastics. Over two or three hours, it’s almost a process of elimination and seeing things you don’t want. It’s a ponytail, but not a clean part. At that part, all the tiny details become massive, whether it’s parted with a comb or with your finger. The level of detail is that minute, it becomes imperative.
Was it the same with Vivienne Westwood?
With Vivienne, it was one word and they said ‘Show us; go with it; do whatever you want to do’. I’ve worked with her for eight seasons, so now, she says: “The idea is Angel. Do what you want.”
Knowing Vivienne and her world, it’s a little bit like a band. You know the kind of girl, the character. There’s also the opportunity to be creative and mention little pearls, fallen angels. In my mind, I was thinking something kind of small and a little weird.
If you have imagine a Vivienne Westwood girl, they’re quite exaggerated, they’re not conforming to society. With that woman in mind, she might not curl hair herself bit by bit, but she might do something quite odd. It has to be alternative; it has to be avant garde. Otherwise it would be weird. Daisy Lowe would wear those clothes – she would do that hair. They [the Vivienne Westwood girl] have that effervescence, that over exuberance of confidence the Westwood woman. Roksanda is more like a wallflower. Ashley Williams is more individual. I think when you believe it, it’s a lot easier to talk about things.
How did you get involved with Toni & Guy?
They were looking for a young British guy with experience in shows. I worked with a lot of people for a long time so I had experience. Then they saw my work, knew who I was and my clients and it just worked out. I do one day a week and my shows and that’s all I do. What I do is shoot Vogue, ID, interview, Italian Vogue
What celebrities have you worked with?
I worked with Kings of Leon for seven years, Taylor Swift, all the guys from Game of Thrones. I’ve been doing this 16 years, since I was 15. I’m doing it a super long time. They’re nice, I like them and that means more to me than who they are. To be honest, 99% of the time, everyone is nice to the hairdresser - their beauty squad. I did the Met Ball with Gigi and Bella Hadid, who are super sweet.
Who is the nicest and who is the worst? Be honest!
People can’t be happy all the time. Everyone is always really nice. Musicians are nicer than celebrities. They know I’m a hyper guy and I like to be chatty, so don’t book me if you want a quiet guy who will sit in the corner. That’s why I work with people who are more on my level. I did Diane Kruger, who’s just chill and quiet.
You need to know when to manipulate your personality to situate the surroundings. I try not to change who I am, but, sometimes you have people who don’t have time to listen to me being hyper who want to sit quietly for 20 minutes.”
Is it as crazy as it looks when you’re working backstage? There was some panic when a few models arrived in from another show?
Their hair was centre part, completely gelled flat and we were doing completely natural, clean hair. I had to run them down to the bathroom, shampoo three girls’ hair, get them back up, dry it and get makeup and hair. [There might be] 10 people on a girl there – three hairdressers, three makeup artists, someone doing nails, someone taking off their shoes. I’ve been doing shows 11 years. It’s a nightmare, it can be horrible, but it’s not going to stop.
Have you had any pinch yourself moments?
You have to appreciate what you have. I didn’t go to university. I’m not rich, I don’t have money. I get to travel and meet amazing people and work with these shows and it’s a dream come true for most people. I don’t deserve it – nobody deserves anything. You only deserve what you work hard for.
What hair trends do you predict for 2016?
I feel like it’s getting even less trend driven and more individual again. It’s about the girls attitude and cuts are coming back again. I miss that. I feel like hair has got healthier, which has allowed things to be un-trend. It’s just about good hair that you can change. Other than early ‘70s and ‘90s, I don’t really see anything at the moment.
We saw some very, very skinny models backstage - do you ever think that sometimes the runway models are too thin or too young?
Too thin – not so much when you put it into the context of their age. 16 is the youngest I’ve seen. Maybe for me that’s too young, because you’re really imitating a woman, ultimately; unless your brand is specific like Marc Jacobs which is about young girls.
When we were 17 or 18, and if you were to look at a show and see a bunch of older women, you wouldn’t be inspired by them. You’re inspired that little exuberance of youth and something you don’t have. When Kate Moss was famous, she wasn’t 25, she was 18.
It’s hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong, I think everything has to be contextual. I really don’t see that many and it’s the ones who are naturally beautiful and feel they have to be excessively thin to keep up with the girls who do it on their own.
With special thanks to Toni & Guy