Hair by Sam McKnight

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 (Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK, September 2000. Courtesy of Nick Knight.)
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Kate Moss by Nick Knight, Vogue UK, September 2000. Courtesy of Nick Knight.
 (© Alexei Hay, Trunk Archive)
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© Alexei Hay, Trunk Archive
 (3. Tilda Swinton, Vogue Italia, February 2003 © Craig McDean, Courtesy Art + Commerce)
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3. Tilda Swinton, Vogue Italia, February 2003 © Craig McDean, Courtesy Art + Commerce
 (Private session by Patrick Demarchelier 1995)
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Private session by Patrick Demarchelier 1995

An exhibition celebrating style's crowning glory

 

It’s a well-known trick that if you get a facelift and you want it to remain a secret, you should get a haircut at the same time because then everyone will attribute your fresh face to your new ’do – such is the transformative power of hair. Yet when it comes to fashion it’s the hairdresser who is often overlooked, but not anymore. This beautifully exhibition curated by Shonagh Marshall celebrates the 40-year career of hairdresser Sam McKnight, a man who has no less than 180 Vogue titles under his tool belt.

   It’s a mixed-media show, opening with backstage videos from SS17 shows set in lightbulb mirrors; as you move through the space some of the lovely fashion photography has been cleverly blown-up on to colouramas. They’re positioned next to the editors who McKnight has worked with, revealing just how much of a chameleon he is, the hair in each image ranging from sleek to downright manic.

McKnight’s transformative skills are displayed in a round space with four images of the great Kate Moss. La Moss has a very distinct look of her own – hence her power to flog us all a load of Topshop clobber –  so to see her looking so different under a chopped blonde bob, or a big backcombed bouffant is a real testament to the importance of the hairdresser in fashion.  

    So far, so lovely, but the real oh-my-God-that-is-fucking-amazing moments come in the spaces dedicated to his work with the anarchically fabulous Dame Vivienne Westwood and the man who is laughing at us all, Karl Lagerfeld. An enchanted fashion forest filled with breathtakingly great Westwood ensembles includes the very platforms that Naomi Campbell famously toppled off. And the Chanel space is perfectly pink with très monochrome lights above; here the ensembles work with each other, the thread of Lagerfeld’s genius running through them, but the hair on each mannequin is vastly different, from bows made from hair to piled-up dreadlocks. It’s utterly beautiful.

   While hair might be a politically charged subject, don’t go along expecting this show to be. This is very much a fashion exhibition – and a really exceptional one at that.

By: Miriam Bouteba

Posted:

Event website: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/
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Marco D
tastemaker

To this day, one of the best fashionable exhibitions that I've ever visited and I've seen many in my time. To make this even better, it was showcased at the Somerset House, which is one of the best locations in London for inspiration of the world of creativity.

Hair by Sam McKnight is the epitome of art, fashion, style, and such exuberant good taste with his hair choices.

This exhibition really displayed what it's like being in charge of hair, whether it being related to magazines, photoshoots and fashion shows. He demonstrated the craftsmanship of working with hair, creating exceptional hairstyles and wigs.

He has worked with the best, top designers in the fashion industry, the best fashion photographers and the most glamorous models to date.

This exhibition showcases that hair is very much important in our lives than we can imagine.

It's not just about the clothes and the makeup and the accessories, but hair is equally beautiful and the embodiment of an individual.

It represents who we are and hair really tells us quite a lot about a person.

Hair by Sam McKnight starts off by displaying what looked liked, all his essential products that he traveled with. Hair combs are hung on the wall and we get an experience of watching McKnight in action working at the prestigious fashion shows.

Walking onwards to the collaborative work with Vivienne Westwood. To me this space was the most, breathtaking moment of the whole exhibition. I stood there for about 30mins or even more. I couldn't believe my eyes, I had to digest this accurately.

Every little detail was styled to perfection. The hair and the clothes were absolutely exquisite in every way possible.

This showed me why I love fashion and art so much. It showed me a different view of how incredible hair is to the whole aesthetic of style.

You had the pleasure of seeing multiple covers of magazines including the first ever cover of American Vogue by Anna Wintour. Extravagant wigs and photography filled some of the spaces of this exhibition. McKnight's works with models, actresses and elegant goddesses were some of the masterpieces of HAIR.

Names like Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Tilda Swinton, Linda Evangelista, Princess Diana, and Lady Gaga.

McKnight's partnership with photographer Patrick Demarchelier and fashion designer Alexander McQueen was an extraordinary attribute to the collection in the exhibition.

His ideas and inspiration to create and empower women with their hair is immense. He makes each and every person feel overwhelmed by his work. Whatever hair he touches, expect the unexpected.

The addition of Lady Gaga's Born This Way video was a remarkable touch and I loved the long ponytailed wig which she wore at Mugler fashion show, if I'm not mistaken.

To finish this magnificent collection, the work of Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel was the prettiest sight. Pieces of high quality couture filled this space.

It was like entering the endless mind of Lagerfeld. The clothes were an absolute delight to look at, the stunning silhouettes and their hair were the perfect combination. His sketches and designs were very personal and extraordinary.

McKnight is renowned for his success and for his hard work in this competitive industry. He shows us a side where beauty can be found in hair and in any way, shape or form.

Hopefully everyone had a chance to see it.

This will come down in history.

#TOTastemaker

Love MD.

Lise M
tastemaker

When you think about fashion, you don't immediately think about hairstyle! Hair by Sam McKnight exhibition is absolutely fascinating as it introduces fashion from another creative point of view - and also reveals the secrets behind  the most famous catwalks, magazines covers and portraits. For 40 years, Sam McKnight collaborated with the best designers (Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood...), photographers (Patrick Demarchelier), and celebrities (Lady Di, Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga...) creating the most iconic hairstyles and wigs to sublimate people personalities and styles. Definitely recommend it as it's a different way to look at fashion but be quick because it's finishing on March 12th. 

Neil K
Tastemaker

I have to say this exhibition was truly fascinating and a real eye-opener for me, giving a real insight into an area realised I knew only fairly vague details about. The exhibition is really quite immersive and impressively and immaculately presented. I found it far more impressive and captivating than I thought I would, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's not sure if it's for them. There was a talk from the curator too when I attended which was also very interesting.

Alexandra L
Tastemaker

Hair. It’s got the power to change your mood, lift you up and make you feel like a million dollars if it’s done right and if there’s one man who knows a thing or two about a good hair day, it’s Sam McKnight. Somerset House is one of my favourite places in London so as soon as adverts proclaiming the wonder of hair in this gorgeous location started popping up on the tube, I was hooked.


I was unfamiliar with McKnight before this show but I feel now as though he’s been in my life for years without my ever knowing about it. His work, his magazine covers, his fashion shows, they’re all things I’ve seen and loved but never really considered the work, the talent and the magic that went into making them. 


The show is split into different areas – it’s not as huge or detailed as the sort of retrospectives the V&A often do but 90 minutes or so should see you comfortably around it with enough time to lust over some of the fashions on the way. Set-ups that show how many people are involved in putting together a single look for a single walk by a single model down the runway are incredible to watch – and they will inspire lust for lightbulbs around your dressing table I promise – while gowns from Vivienne Westwood and Chanel among others instigate that age old question – which one do I want? The answer BTW, is all of them.


A whole section devoted to the covers of Vogue is amazing, not only because of how many McKnight and his team have done but because you can see so clearly how fashion, beauty and life have evolved over the past five decades. Those who think this sort of thing is flippant frippery that doesn’t really serve a purpose are so wrong – poring over these magazines is like watching the rise & fall of society through what is considered beautiful and it’s fascinating seeing the difference between the more commercial campaigns and those from designers whose imagination knows no limits.


Princess Diana, Tilda Swinton, Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell…the rainbow of women that McKnight has transformed is amazing and after reading the articles & listening to the videos on show here, you can understand why his services as a hairstylist have been so in demand practically from the first moment he picked up a pair of scissors. Not only is he an exceptional talent, he also seems like the nicest man, someone it’s entirely possible to believe is as loved for his supportive friendships as his comb wielding abilities.  


If you love fashion, if you know the joy a new haircut can bring, if you have any desire at all for a glimpse into the world behind the world you see in Fashions Weeks around the globe, this is an exhibit you have to book your best girlfriends in for and go see.

Kirsty H

Was excited to go to this as love anything with Tilda Swinton, and was not let down. If you enjoyed the vogue100 exhibit at the national portraits gallery a few months prior you'll love this . Also a great gift show at the end, which is always nice

Ros A
Tastemaker

I'm the first to admit I'm not an avid art fan. I'm not usually found wandering around galleries and have a stronger fondness for museums overall. However, I enjoyed my foray into the world of 'hair art' at Somerset House. Not as gruesome as I've just made it sound, this exhibition focuses on how celebrity hair stylist Sam McKnight operates - and it's styled quite beautifully. Some lovely photos of his models (including Kate Moss, Princess Di, Tilda Swinton) but also some insights into Sam' daily life - he travels with about 40 combs (all of which have a different purpose). Definitely worth popping by for a look. It's a small-ish exhibition so it won't take you too long to get round. Perfect girly night and ideal for taking your Mum or sisters along. 

Aude
tastemaker

An exhibition about hair? More than one can be sceptical about this theme; this is probably why the curator Shonagh Marshall took 3 years - from her own words - to convince everyone of doing this exhibition.


But I’ll tell you what, she did great, and I am happy she got so passionate about her subject that she managed to create this show. A lot of big names from fashion industry got involved in the creation of the show and made it superb.


From room to room, we go deeply into the fashion industry process; starting in the coulisse to walk into the fashion show and finally find the final pictures of the hair artist Sam McKnight work.

The show is displaying the magnificence of the fashion pictures, and the importance attached to every detail, especially here, the hair.


Recreating the career of the hair artist, the exhibition is guiding us through his most important privileged relationship, in particular with Princess Diana and Vivienne Westwood.


The exhibition runs till mid-March if you didn’t get the chance to see it yet. If you can, try to assist to one of Shonagh Marshall talk; she is really passionate about the show and gives really interesting details about its creation.

Chia-wen L
tastemaker

I love Somerset House so much by itself. Because it used to host London fashion week for a number of seasons. I always think the building and the interior is a perfect space for a great fashion exhibition. Hair by Sam McKinght is no exception. It is not just about hair and hairstyle, it is everything around hair and hairstyle. The multimedia exhibition including fashion, photography, pop culture, publication and many other aspects. The exhibition located between two floors. I really like the idea that the show takes audiences on a journey ups and downs through the hair master Sam McKnight's work. 

Definitely recommending to anyone loves hairstyling, fashion, photography, art or just anything pretty for the eyes. 

GirlAboutLondon
tastemaker

I'm not 'into' hair but I'm interested in fashion and art and I really enjoyed this exhibition.

It is so much more than just photographs on a wall; instead it's a series of spaces filled with multimedia and memorabilia from Knight's career, from tear-sheets, to guest passes, to photos, to magazines, to wigs, to videos. It's also not just about hair; instead it's very much about showcasing the role hair plays in fashion as a whole.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a session hairdresser's kit- like a builders tool kit- overflowing with everything necessary for whatever job it is they're off to do, and really giving you a hint of just how important this part of fashion really is, and the amount of work that goes into it.

I loved the behind-the-scenes of a fashion show: films from McKnight's perspective, shown on lightbulb mirrors. One model is shown with 5 people simultaneously working on her face, hair and nails.

I loved the imposing runway displays of McKnight's long-term collaborators Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld showing their classic looks (punk and tweed respectively).

I loved the display cases of Vogue magazines. Each one of the 190 covers are McKnight's work and span his so-far 40 year career.

There's a lot dedicated to the celebrity relationships McKnight has fostered, including Princess Diana (with signed photos and notes), Lady Gaga (with a wig from her Born This Way video), and an abundance of photos of and with Kate Moss throughout.

There are entire walls covered in pictures from McKnight's Instagram, and giant canvases of some of his iconic images (including THAT early 90s Vogue cover with Linda Evangelista in a gold jacket, with Marilyn Monroe hair, in front of the bluest sky).

I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't heard about Sam McKnight before this exhibition, but unbeknownst to me I've been surrounded by his work my whole life.

It's great to see someone that is so in the background, behind the scenes, to finally be at the forefront and be celebrated.

The Man on the Street

A delicious exhibition. Glorious photography , and an insight into a world that I had not previously even considered. The fact that I had to walk past the Christmas Tree and Ice Rink to enter Somerset House made the whole visit even more special. 

Jo J

Wow wow wow. A deeply impressive portrait of work by a legendary hairstylist. There's Kate Moss, Princess Diana, hundreds of Vogue covers and moving imagery as well as photographs. Loved it. Well worth the ticket price.