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“What I’ve Learned… from working on couture shows”

Brendan O’Sullivan has spent years creating the hair at some of the most glamorous fashion shows in the world. He gives us a glimpse into the world of Parisian haute couture and what he’s learned from it all

Brendan working at Christophe Josse

I spent years working with some of the session world’s most prestigious artists, learning all about the session world and how it works. Having gained this knowledge I felt it was time to put together my own team. It consists of some great stylists both from the session world and our Brendan O’Sullivan salons. We started working across London and Milan, then moved onto Paris Haute Couture Week.

The show I’m most proud of was my first couture show for Celia Kritharoti, which was held in the luxurious setting of the Ritz Paris. There were 50 models, including Victoria Secret’s Lais Ribeiro. It was a challenge and very fast paced but I loved how the team came together to deliver a stunning look for the show.

Working on couture shows, the hair can be extremely time-consuming and complex, so the challenge is keeping continuity across all the hair looks. To maintain this high standard, the team is key – which is why it’s so important that they have the basics down to a tee, with speedy hands and the ability to follow the same design to perfection.

Brendan working at Celia Kritharioti

Backstage can be a whirlwind, and added pressures, such as looks changing at the last minute or models arriving late, are not uncommon. Staying calm and collected is definitely a necessary skill in this industry

You can bring many skills back to the salon from session work. Often the hair is a collaboration but sometimes, on couture shows, the designer may want something you’ve never done before.  You are always pushed for perfection and you definitely look at things differently when styling your clients back in the salon.

My advice to a young stylist looking to get into couture work would be:

  1. Assist as much as possible, as the best way to learn is on the job from working artists.
  2. Learn all the basics inside out, especially every way of braiding, hair-up, ponytails, pin curls and finger waves. Know your products and what you can archive by layering them or mixing them together.
  3. Know your references from every era and research global fashion icons, as you never know what you may be faced with.
  4. Network and meet as many people as possible.
  5. Above all, work hard and deliver your best work every time – because that’s what will get you noticed!