Now On: Hair by Sam McKnight

When it comes to creating some of the most iconic fashion images over the last three, almost four decades, you can be sure to find Sam McKnight’s name listed among the credits. Clearly fashion’s go-to when it comes to session styling his extensive body of work has now been recognised with this insightful exhibition at Somerset House.

(Some of Sam's Vogue covers)

Notching up no less than 190 Vogue covers, Sam McKnight has certainly carved his niche as a leading session stylist. He has worked with numerous top models from Cindy Crawford to Kendall Jenner, actresses and musicians from Tilda Swinton to Madonna, photographers Nick Knight to Mario Testino, and even royalty, most famously persuading Princess Diana to crop her hair short.

(With Princess Diana)

So what’s his secret? Sam comments: “I really want to be there, I really want to make it happen and I love being a part of a team,” and he has certainly worked with some winning teams over the years. His creativity combined with his relaxed, easy manner has made him ‘most wanted’ when working on photographic shoots or backstage at designer shows.

(Backstage set image by Peter MacDiarmid)

The longevity of his career has granted him with a formidable archive of work; magazine covers, glossy editorial tear sheets, advertising campaigns and designer shows. Adding a personal touch to the exhibition Sam includes candid backstage shots, polaroid’s, handwritten messages, backstage passes, wigs and hairpieces. Imagery is combined with styled mannequins, video and backstage sets.

(Sam with Jesse the chimp and Linda Evangelista )

It all began in a London salon called Molten Brown, Vogue used to book hair stylists directly from the salon and Sam got introduced to the world of fashion editorial very early on. A few years down the line he decided that he much preferred being on set as opposed to the salon so in 1980 Sam took the plunge, he left the salon to pursue a session styling career and, at the time, was probably one of the first to do so.

While the exhibition features Sam’s wigs, extensions, pins and prep he admits that the magic really happens when the model is on set and he can see how she moves, the lighting, the mood – it’s at this point that Sam’s creative expertise comes in. As he says: “I call it done/undone,”where the hair is loosened up and given that editorial feel.

(Sam working on the exhibition wigs image by Peter MacDiarmid)

When models work with Sam, you can see that they are in heaven. They know that they are going to be goddesses in ten minutes, after he has worked his magic.’ – Vivienne Westwood.

(Sam with his Vivienne Westwood mannequins image by Peter MacDiarmid)

For those with a love of fashion or hair, or both, the exhibition marks the first to contextualise the wider cultural significance the role of the session stylist within fashion. Hair by Sam McKnight is on now until 12th March 2017 at Somerset House.

(The Chanel mannequins)

To coincide with the exhibition an accompanying publication is available, with texts by Tim Blanks, Alexander Fury, Amanda Harlech, Nick Knight, Camilla Morton, Anna-Marie Solowij, Jerry Stafford, commentary by Sam McKnight and images that span his entire career. A unique reference and a must for those that adore fashion imagery the book is published by Rizzoli and is £35.00.

By JoJo Iles







  • 1 comment

Went to this exhibition,

Went to this exhibition, thought it was great, another side to fashion image creation, however, hardly anyone was there!?