So often in fashion a successful look or image is credited solely to a designer, or a photographer, or even a model, and rightly so, however the offstage magic happens with the hands of numerous professionals, compiling their skills to create a head to toe vision. For decades, visionary hair master Sam McKnight has been the wizard behind some of the most iconic fashion images and real life hair transformations. He has set trends, broken traditional industry standards and worked side by side with some of the most influential designers and photographers of our time. The culmination of McKnight’s 40 year career recently went on display in a first of its kind exhibit titled Hair by Sam McKnight at London’s Somerset House gallery.
190 different international Vogue covers (including 25 alone of Kate Moss) span two separate wall spaces in the gallery, a timeline of hair history, all courtesy of McKnight’s insight and vision; however his most referenced career highlight stemmed from a chance encounter with Princess Diana. In the early 90s as Diana was transitioning from her royal marriage to single life, it was McKnight who cut and styled her famous blond locks into a shorter, more liberated version of her previous coif, symbolic of her newfound freedom. McKnight remained Diana’s personal hair stylist until her death in 1997. He was also responsible for the shock blond pixie cut that catapulted model Agyness Deyn to stardom in 2006, proof that a stand out hair style can truly launch a career, as well Madonna’s tousled locks on the cover of her Bedtime Stories album.
The exhibit also displays collaborations between McKnight, Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld, both of whom have long standing relationships with the hair master. Examples of McKnight’s masterful wig creations adorn mannequins dressed in couture collections from each designer, from shocking orange beehives to chic, tousled bobs. McKnight famously keeps a collection of each of his wigs, counting into the hundreds, at his home in Northern London, both as keepsakes and for reference.
To coincide with the exhibit, McKnight’s first book has been published and released under the same title featuring stunning images of his imaginative creations as well as text from contributors such as Nick Knight, Tim Blanks and Amanda Harlech.
Visual editor MARIA JOSE GONZALVEZ
Photos via vogue.com, sammcknight.com, somersethouse.org.uk and fashionmodeldirectory.com