CEW recently had the pleasure of hosting ‘In Conversation with Sam McKnight’, an inspirational event which gave CEW members a ‘behind the scenes’ look at legendary hair stylist Sam McKnight’s impressive career, which spans more than 40 years.
Sam is renowned for creating countless inspirational hairstyles for some of the world’s most famous models and his work has appeared on thousands of editorial covers.
During the discussion, accomplished journalist Kathleen Baird-Murray prompted the questions, which Sam answered with candour and a glint in his eye as he shared his most memorable moments over the years.
McKnight’s career began in the 1970s at Molton Brown, which was originally a hair salon. During this time, fashion in England was still very niche and although McKnight would occasionally be called away from the salon for fashion shoots, he realised that his true passion was for styling hair for fashion shows and shoots, so he moved to New York to further his career and the rest is history.
Sam has had the privilege of working with some of the world’s most famous people including Princess Diana and the ‘original supers’ Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista. Today, Sam continues to work with the new brigade of leading models taking the fashion world by storm, including Cara Delevigne.
In addition to great working relationships with models, Sam has also forged long-standing relationships with top designers from the crème-de-la-crème of fashion brands. Karl Lagerfeld often visits his studio to brainstorm ideas to bring their creative visions to life.
When asked what the key to his success was, Sam said that the power of collaboration with everyone who is involved in the creative process is crucial, whether it be the models, the photographers or the art directors. It’s only by working together towards a common goal, that he can successfully delivering a look for a winning image for a fashion spread or create an iconic look for the catwalk.
Being a self-confessed ‘people pleaser’ Sam is always challenging himself and embraces taking risks. He said, ‘It’s just hair. It can grow back or be changed. If something goes wrong, you fix it”. He should know, having faced a few challenges in his career, which he has always approached with charm and humour. He shared one story about a fashion shoot with Kate Moss in St. Barts, which forced him to get creative with nothing more than ‘sea water and a couple of Kirby grips’ when his luggage didn’t arrive! Thanks to his quick thinking, ‘can do’ attitude and Kate being the model she is, the shoot was a success, despite a lack of styling tools or styling products and it made the cover of Vogue.
Today, McKnight’s services are more in demand than ever, which is why he is supported by an army of stylists and assistants who help him to create many of the stunning looks that we’ve come to know and love. Despite his gruelling schedule, he has still managed to host a sold-out exhibition at Somerset House, he has released his own range of hairstyling products ‘Hair by Sam McKnight’ (a range of four fabulous products available at Liberty London) and he has produced a stunning book ‘Hair by Sam McKnight’, which is filled with hundreds of images, hair styles and memories, making it a must-read book for any hair and beauty enthusiast.
President of CEW, Caroline Neville, accurately summed up the evening as she reflected on what had been a truly remarkable and insightful interview: “Sam you are so unique and you are a national treasure”.