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.
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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
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.
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.