It was an evening where ‘effortless’ and ‘undone’ squared up to fierce, politically charged styling; where an airy, gently tousled beehive went head to head with a tightly woven Afro Punk mohawk.
At the sixth Coterie: In Session, Creative HEAD pitted the naturally easy-going, instinctive approach of session stylist Leigh Keates against educator and campaigner Lisa Farrall’s fearless, boundary-pushing agenda – and the hair action, masterfully steered by beauty journalist Sophie Qureshi, was exciting, dramatic and all the more enjoyable because of the two very different approaches of these incredible hairdressers.
First up, Lisa Farrall – creator of education progamme WIG London, and passionate advocate for making the world of hairdressing texture-neutral. “I believe that any client should be able to get their hair done in any salon, regardless of their hair type or skin colour,” she says.
My work is a little bit fearless. I like trying new things and pushing boundaries – Lisa Farrall
Farrall didn’t fit in at school and believed her future lay in a tattoo parlour until she got a job in a hair salon “and they completely embraced me”. Her distinctive creative ‘voice’, coupled with her outstanding skills in both Afro and European hair, have made her much in-demand both on the catwalk and also with celebrities – she’s worked with everyone from Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar to Elle King and Gisele.
Look One – Jewelled Braid
Lisa cane-rowed model Cilla’s natural jaw-length hair then attached multiple crochet braids with a needle and thread to create length and volume. After stitching in an array of fierce, Punk-influenced jewellery to the upper lengths – safety pins, crystals and multiple silver hoops – she then sliced off the lower lengths of the braids to create a savage bob, teasing out the ends to form defiantly exaggerated shape.
Look Two – Punk Blonde Mohawk
Demonstrating the kind of looks she creates for music artists performing live in concert, Lisa created this dramatic shape by sectioning the model’s natural hair into three distinct sections (ponytail, crown and front of head) and adding blonde hair pieces to each section. To give strength and support to the style, as well as texture, she then wrapped the pieces in maximum-strength strands of hair before using coloured sprays to accentuate. A signature fierce look – but on closer inspection, check out the delicate kiss curls at the temples. Nice touch!
Quiet, unassuming Leigh grew up with a mum and sister as hairdressers and he did his best to avoid joining them until a pal told him he’d be really good at it – and was proved right. A meeting with Johnnie Sapong ignited an interest in session, and a decision to drop everything for a last-minute, unpaid job on a shoot led to a collaboration with make-up artist Mary Greenwell and an introduction to the team at Chanel.
… The rest is history – signed to Premier Hair & Make-up agency Leigh now works with ‘It Girls’ Alicia Vikander, Dakota Johnson and Jessica Chastain and for some of the world’s leading photographers, designers, stylists, brands and publications – Dazed, Harper’s Bazaar, Ponystep, Dior and J.W. Anderson, to name but a few.
As a salon-trained hairdresser, my biggest challenge on set is stripping it all back – and knowing when to stop! – Leigh Keates
Look One – Wearable, Accidental, Effortless
“People tell me not to do myself down when I say I create ‘accidental’ hair,” said Leigh. “They don’t realise it’s something I’m actually quite proud of!”
He started by adding ‘a ton’ of mousse to dry hair (one of many examples of breaking all the rules he was taught in his early years in the salon). He then roughly blasted it with a dryer (no brush!) and wound random sections around his tongs as he worked out his next steps – did the hair need to be up or down, in a knot or a bun?
Leigh plumped for a Sixties-style beehive, gently back-combing and randomly pinning up sections before teasing and spraying to create an artful up-do that would grace the front cover of Vogue. To finish, he got the model to stand up for a final assessment: “Whether I’m working on a model for a shoot, or an actress for the red carpet, it’s important I look at them at eye-level to make sure I’m happy with every detail.”
Look Two – Big, Over-Exaggerated, Bold
Inspired by Lisa’s love of wigs and hair pieces (and Ru Paul’s Drag Race), Leigh (who absolutely prefers to work with natural hair) decided to challenge himself by creating a look that plays into the super-sized trend as worn by Dua Lipa at this year’s Met Ball.
The day before our event, Leigh and his sister coloured a wig a stand-out shade of pastel copper (“We did this at mum’s house, because it was such a messy job!”), then on the night he added loads of mousse before pin-curling multiple sections throughout, leaving them to cool, and then spritzing with Sam McKnight’s Easy-Up Do texture spray and back-combing judiciously. After gently brushing through to create a smooth surface, Leigh used a tail-comb to guide the hair into the shape he wanted – an exaggerated, OTT Hollywood starlet. Jessica Rabbit, eat your heart out.
To bring the evening to a close, we brought Lisa and Leigh together on stage to face the now legendary Coterie: In Session Challenge – this time creating a ‘current bun’ in just five minutes. While Lisa used glittering Afro hair pieces and silver jewellery to fashion a fierce shape, Leigh “faffed around until it looked good’, creating a messy side-bun with a faux fringe and wispy tendrils that got the audience vote.
And then it was back to the bar for more drinks and discussions on the hair magic that had just happened, and every guest left with a goody bag from event sponsor BaByliss PRO – a selection of Lisa and Leigh’s favourite tools from the BaByliss PRO product portfolio.
… Last but certainly not least, credit must also go to make-up artist Cat Parnell and fashion stylist Anna Woodham, who worked alongside Lisa and Leigh to create such awesome looks on the night.