From leading shows at London Fashion Week to jumping on a private jet with Charli XCX, last night’s (April 8) Coterie gathering brought together stars of the session and music worlds to discuss their journeys with our VERY FIRST Dublin audience.
Hosted by Creative HEAD publisher Catherine Handcock, a 90-strong crowd congregated in the Irish capital as Sam Burnett, Cinta Miller, Faye Purcell and John Vial delved deep into their career history, with of course some serious name drops along the way.
First up on the floor was owner and creative director of Hare & Bone, Sam Burnett, who talked honestly about opening his London salon, which he describes as a journey that “grew organically.” He added: “I was working as a freelance stylist, and I just really missed having a base and a team. I wanted to create a space I’d love work in, with passionate hairdressers that are technically excellent and passionate and down to earth.”
“Working at Fashion Week you naturally grow and get better – you just instinctively pick things up. It’s a real do or die moment”
Having recently opened second salon in Esher, Surrey, talk soon turned to the incredible space Sam created. “I thought a second salon would be easy, but when I opened the first one, I was basically only looking after one client. When I opened the second one, I was running a whole operation.”
As well as running two successful salons, undeniably Sam has made his mark within the session world. Speaking of his experience leading the Bora Aksu SS15 hair team, Sam said: “working at Fashion Week you naturally grow and get better – you just instinctively pick things up. It’s a real do or die moment.”
Alongside life as a session stylist, Sam has also worked with names like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX for music videos and press shoots. “I actually did her [Charli XCX’s] first press shots when she was literally just getting signed to an agency. We went on a journey together; she was just starting out and she was the first music artist I had worked with to develop the look.”
“When working with celebrities, it’s not only about doing hair – you are a confidante, too”
Of course, it hasn’t all been work, work, work and zero play – and Sam recounted one particular trip with Charli where the pair were on a private jet during a storm. “It went from being really bougie to a bit hair-raising I suppose,” he said.
Sam also shared that “in the beginning it was more challenging because the artist was still developing and establishing who they are,” before adding “when working with celebrities, it’s not only about doing hair – you are a confidante too.”
“An artist can completely change on a penny if they don’t have the right person with them at 6am when they start getting their hair done”
Next taking their places in the Coterie hot seats, celebrity hair and make-up artist Cinta Miller and creative manager at music company BMG, Faye Purcell. The pair – interviewing each other – talked honestly about developing an artist’s style and taking risks on music videos. “The most valuable thing is finding someone who can look at an artist with fresh eyes,” said Faye. “An artist can completely change on a penny if they don’t have the right person with them at 6am when they start getting their hair done.”
Having worked together on projects for artists including singer-songwriter and musician Newton Faulkner, Faye and Cinta spoke strongly of the importance of developing an artist’s identity, as well as sharing a creative vision. For the ‘Get Free’ music video by Faulkner, in which he cuts his trademark dreadlocks, they described having to teach him how to cut his hair before the shoot and how to execute what needed to be quite an emotive performance.
Having first met Faulkner at V Festival a few months previously, Cinta added: “I said I wanted to work with him, and in a meeting with his management six months later, I said I wanted to cut his hair. You don’t have to have dreadlocks that are down to your back to maintain your identity. You can move it forward.”
As well as styling up a storm with high profile artists, Cinta also spoke of her time working and assisting at shows during London Fashion Week and collaborating with our finale speaker John Vial. Speaking of the early days during her career at Toni&Guy, she said: “I was really lucky. All the assistants in the academy were all really creative and hungry to move up in the ranks. At the time Toni&Guy was the place to be – there were celebrities coming through the door every minute. What gets you to working at a show is someone looking at you and seeing how strong you are.”
“Lenny [Kravitz] will ask for a phone call at 11pm and a I just want to go bed, while he wants a two-hour phone conversation about a possible music video. It’s about being available and gaining their trust”
Cinta went on to lead shows during LFW… “It’s not just a case that you’re on a show and you’re leading, and you’ve got a great team. What gets you there is being part of a team and being trusted, then giving them the responsibility.”
Similarly, Faye shared her thoughts on the importance of team work. “I don’t really believe that there is a slot that you can fit into; if you work well with people and work hard, you can go in many different directions.” Likewise, when speaking of her experience of working with singer-songwriter, actor and producer, Lenny Kravitz, Faye also highlighted the importance of trust: “Lenny will ask for a phone call at 11pm and a I just want to go bed, while he wants a two-hour phone conversation about a possible music video. It’s about being available and gaining their trust.”
Later in the evening, this ‘always be ready’ mentality was echoed by our final speaker of the night, session stylist and co-owner of London’s Salon Sloane, John Vial. And integral part of the hair scene at London and New York Fashion Weeks for two and a half decades now, and the former creative director at Sassoon, John spoke candidly about building and nurturing relationships with celebrities: “They [relationships] are everything – like they are with your [salon] clients.”
“The truth of the matter is the consumer is [now] starting to see what’s new before Anna Wintour sees it”
Taking it back to the session world, John declared to the Dublin audience that because of the nature of social media, trends are “gone”. “Historically, at London Fashion Week it was the buyers who were invited – and the press. There was a real protocol. The truth of the matter is the consumer is [now] starting to see [what’s new] before Anna Wintour sees it. We don’t see ‘trends’ anymore. We don’t dictate to our client anymore to cut their hair off because it’s ‘on trend’. What we should be saying is it’s not right for you.”
“Undercutting each other brings down the industry. I don’t believe in discounting, but I do believe in adding value, so clients feel like they’re getting more”
Not only a star of the session world, John also co-founded the revered London salon, Real Hair, with Josh Wood and Belle Cannan. “Josh and I built our business on the idea that we would rather do one haircut and do it well and charge the right price for it.”
On pricing, John is passionate. “Undercutting each other brings down the industry. I don’t believe in discounting, but I do believe in adding value, so clients feel like they’re getting more.”
“All these people with super important jobs, and they asked me: how do you see this working – what can we do for you?”
During the evening, John also recounted his time working as creative director of product corporation, PZ Cussons, having been brought in by business mogul, Michelle Feeney, who was originally a client of his. Speaking of his first day on the job, he said: “I was sat at a boardroom table – as a hairdresser, a first for me! – with all these people with super important jobs, and they asked me: how do you see this working – what can we do for you?”
John also credited this job role for giving him so much commercial savvy. “I learned so much – about the cost of goods, mark ups, USPs, and the real value in business. When you’re in creative charge of a brand you see everything from a manufacturer’s point of view – what they get in return. I see now what the big product companies want from us as hairdressers. I think it’s really important to not lose sight that those brands need us too.”
Taking it back to present day, John also discussed the opening of Salon Sloane in London’s Kensington and Chelsea, another joint venture with Belle. “After leaving PZ Cussons I knew I didn’t want to work for anybody else again. I’d experienced mass market working with Fudge, for example, and I was missing the luxury element and aesthetic of Real.”
John added: “I set myself two goals – to open a salon and to launch a range of products.” Speaking of the product line, John ended the evening by sharing that when his close friend and architect Zaha Hadid died, he decided to stop working on the product line. “Zaha’s niece told me: do it, she’ll haunt you if you don’t. So, I am.”
Special thanks to the night’s kind sponsors BaByliss PRO, who provided every guest with one of their latest styling tools.