Real Talk – Paula McCash on faux freedom

by | 23 Oct 2019

It’s easy to get stuck in situations which seem promising at first. Paula McCash, our Most Wanted Independent Stylist winner, knows all about it…

Session styling was what I had always dreamt of doing. It was almost a fantasy back then, when I was young and living in Dundee. I would read fashion magazines and see this amazing hair… I’d always check the credits and be like how do I do this, how do I become a session stylist?

I quickly realised that if I wanted to work in session then London was where I needed to be. After honing my craft at salons in Dundee and Glasgow, I took the leap and moved to London to become self-employed whilst working in a salon in the heart of Soho. That is where I built up a loyal clientele and started to work on fashion week teams, while getting to know how the whole world of session really worked.

In time I found my salon could not be flexible enough for me. I needed more flexibility in hours whilst managing my own clientele, to become more of a freelancer rather than just ‘self-employed’ at a salon.

Image credits: @paulamccash

There’s a massive difference between the two that I gradually came to realise. Yes, I had learned how to work my accounts and pay my own tax by the deadline etc… But clients were brought to me through the salon and I was expected to be there at a set times, and to leave only once the salon was closed. Technically I was working like an employee, with none of the perks of paid holidays, sick days and not dealing with taxes.

I ended up jumping ship to somewhere that was more understanding of my needs and desires to develop in the session industry. Now I do clients between two spaces, one in Soho and one in east London, where I rent a chair and can work on a properly flexible basis. Most of my clients are understanding of what I do, and they are happy to work around me which I am so grateful for. I love doing salon work, as well as shoots and shows.


After I made the move to the new salon I started shooting more, as I was fully in charge of my schedule, and picking up different freelance jobs. I was working repeatedly on fashion weeks, shooting editorials etc. That’s where I met Syd Hayes, and soon after I became his first assistant. This was never really the plan, but looking back it really set the bar for me. I’ve met some of the most influential people in the industry, travelled the world and really dug deep into the world of session… which I sometimes forget is what I dreamt of as a little girl whilst growing up in Dundee. Sometimes you just work, work, work and don’t realise quite how far you’ve come until you stop.

Now I deal with my own clients’ appointments and my accounts, while working on all jobs with Syd, as well as my own editorials and campaigns. I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with the best teams and clients in a way that it all manages to work itself out.

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