Ever wondered what it’s like backstage at Fashion Week? Rachel Marie Walsh gets the lowdown from Cork hair stylist Pamela Morrissey, who styled key looks at this year’s London and New York Fashion Weeks
Venture backstage at any fashion show and you’ll see how important calm, devoted hair stylists like Pamela Morrissey are to the whole operation. If they’re cool, the model is cool. Leaving their chair, she is apt to focus, amid serious sturm und drang, on her place in the line-up, how the designer is telling her to carry herself and how the pieces look at any given moment.
Millions of euro a season depend on the minutes these young women walk in luxury clothing, it is no small triumph when they don’t falter, and it all starts with hair and make-up.
Pamela, owner/founder of Cork salon Sobe Brown, has worked such magic at London Fashion Week since 2015. Collaborating with fashion veteran, Tina Outen, lead stylist for Bumble and Bumble, she’s ensured models at Antonio Berardi, Markus Lupfer and Sharon Wauchob look flawless from head to neck.
As part of Tina’s team, Pamela has little time to learn the look each designer wants before styling multiple models, so focus under pressure is key.
She takes a turmeric supplement in the mornings, for an antioxidant boost, and grazes throughout the day to maintain energy, avoiding alcohol and drinking lots of water. “Designers are generous about providing healthy food backstage, they’re very conscious of staff’s wellbeing.”
She avoided jetlag after New York Fashion Week, where she also works, by taking melatonin, which is available over the counter in the US. The hormone can have a mild soporific effect on the body, and she says it gets her sleep cycle back on track. A few minutes with Headspace, the mindfulness-training app, gets her centred.
Her own golden locks are relatively low-maintenance by day, freshly-washed with salt texturising spray in the roots.
“Once my colour and cut are done I prefer it to look a bit messy most days. Our rule with Sobe Brown cuts is that they should always bring out a client’s natural best, meaning the client can rely on her hair to look good post-shower and air-dried, as well as blown-out and sculpted.”
She also recommends Bumble and Bumble Dry Spun Finishing Spray, €26.95, for volume. Makeup-wise, she likes fresh, natural skin with a little tinted moisturiser and blush.
Tina works out a look with the designer in advance and briefs the team an hour before showtime. This season Antonio Berardi’s look was really clean, shiny and effortless, which made 26 models an easier project for eight stylists. “Berardi wanted his ‘woman’ to seem extremely healthy and easy, glossy hair was part of that. We did a lot of half-ponytails, with the ponytail looped through itself. It’s the way you might wear your hair while working or studying.” Pamela worked on Victoria’s Secret model Alanna Arrington for this show, enhancing her natural curls with salt spray “to make them look a bit messy. Then I dampened the ends and air-dried them with a diffuser, they look amazing naturally.”
Markus Lupfer used plastic flowers pulled from old-fashioned swimming-caps in his collection and his models flat, wet roots made it look as though they’d been for a dip pre-show.
“He wanted two contrasting textures — one dramatic, one natural — so we began by centre-parting the hair and applying gel to the roots. Through the ends we used Bumble and Bumble Curl Conditioning Mousse, €26.95, which reinforces natural curls without making you feel you’re wearing much product. Then we plaited the hair and blasted the braids with a dryer for about 20 minutes, took them out and let them cool.”
For Turkish designer Bora Aksu, stylists braided the same ribbons used in the collection through models’ hair, plaiting in extensions where natural lengths were absent.
Things were more dramatic at Caitlin Price, with sculpted, Forties-style finger waves contrasting with the sporty streetwear.
The backstage culture Pamela describes is completely at odds with haughty stereotypes.
“My favourite experiences have been with Antonio Berardi. He and his team are so passionate, I’ve cried twice at his shows. They cheer their models as though they were Olympians and after the show they scream and clap and its completely infectious. They always thank us personally. I find London designers in general are very true to themselves and down to earth.
“People really connect now, there are no egos, including among stylists. When I began my career things were more hierarchal between senior and junior hairdressers but now there is great mutual respect and communication, both here in Ireland and at fashion week. I learn something from my youngest stylists every day and I find the collaborative atmosphere very
THE LOWDOWN ON FENTY
Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, her own makeup brand, this month. She is an amazing singer and I love her Puma gear, but do we really need celebrity brands on beauty counters, too?
Eponymous lines might seem like greedy vanity projects, adding innovation-free products to a saturated market, but I don’t knock a singer or actress using her name in this sector. Fashion brands have done it with designer’s names for most of the last century.
One could even argue partnering with a brand on makeup shows a stronger commitment to the customer than signing up to be a beauty brand’s ‘face’ or ‘ambassador,’ which involves being photographed with a product you have no control over and then doing press stating you use and ‘swear by’ it. Oh, and getting your makeup done for free.
The sole potential dupe in that equation is the reader/fan/customer who already helps the star sustain their real job. So bring on the celebrity beauty concepts, if it keeps them honest.
Rihanna’s core product is Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, €33. Her aim for this foundation is both admirable and commercial: inclusivity. She “spotted a void in the market” for a range that encompasses a broad spectrum of complexions.
I think someone showed her a market report from 15 years ago because there are so many great foundations that respect diversity.
Still, inclusivity is a zeitgeist-y hashtag and the price-tag is not prohibitive, the USP works. Moreover, the shade range is excellent, free from overly pink, orange or ashy undertones across the spectrum.
Rihanna also claims this is a foundation that suits all skin types. There is no such thing, but what is true is that most of us are combination types (thanks to the irregular distribution of oil glands and/or UV damage across the face) and simply want foundation to keep our complexion uniform, so a mass-targeted foundation need be neither super oil-controlling nor hydrating to succeed, just a natural colour that obscures flaws and stays put (Estée Lauder’s Double Wear is the classic example).
This is a liquid formula with a water, dimethicone and talc base that imparts a silky second-skin feel.
The matte finish comes from isododecane, which makes foundation both transfer-proof and shine-free. A fine white powder, BPD-500w, imparts brightness without shimmer. The singer reportedly worked especially hard on the texture and there is certainly a lot of slip and scope to… well… pile it on. Which is commercial in its own way.
On balance, the ingredients list favours normal to slightly oily types, all the better for pleasing a young fan base.
Tip: If deliberating between shades, err in favour of the lighter. The colour pigments grow slightly warmer after the foundation sets.
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