Sartorial word: Dressing Pakistan, from the “head-down”

Published: March 9, 2013

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Maliha Rehman. PHOTO: PUBLICITY PHOTO: PUBLICITY Mark Hampton, global ambassador, Toni&Guy. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: Meet Mark Hampton. He’s 28 years old, blonde, boyish and you can’t tell that he’s a maverick with hair; the youngest global ambassador, in fact, of a world-renowned hair brand like Toni&Guy.

However, get Mark to talk about hair and he transforms from the charming young British lad to hairstylist extraordinaire. He’ll talk about partings, detangling and blow-drying the ‘crazy bits’ of hair until it sweeps you into a world where hair can be coerced into wacky, glamorous hairstyles with just the right maneuvers. Oh, and you need to use the right Toni&Guy products, of course — Mark wouldn’t be a great ambassador if he didn’t advise you upon the various products of the brand he endorses.

To do them justice, the Toni&Guy ‘Hair Meet Wardrobe’ (HMW) line of products that has just launched in Pakistan actually does seem to be a lot of fun — there’s a ‘Classic Shine Gloss Serum’ that’s supposed to make hair glossy and shiny and a ‘Sea Salt Texturising Spray’ for creating the tousled beach hair look, among others. It was for the launch of this line that Mark landed in Karachi, to assert the Toni&Guy concept of dressing from “the head down”, where hair complements wardrobe and vice versa.

It may not have been the best time to visit Karachi — even though Mark was here just for two days — but he took the general unrest in the city in his stride. We meet with the threat of a city shutdown hanging over our heads and he good-naturedly shrugs. “I usually don’t bother much with current affairs,” he tells me. I can’t help but notice, though, that he has toned his appearance down — he’s dressed neatly, in a sensible full sleeved shirt that covers his tattooed arms. “Work keeps me busy and I am too wrapped up in my fashion bubble to stress out over what’s going on outside,” he says.

And what a bubble it is! Mark has been working for 11 years now and he’s trained under well-known stylist Guido Palau, assisting him in shows for Valentino and Alexander McQueen among others. More recently, he’s created hair for the Autumn/Winter 2013 shows at London Fashion Week (LFW) for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Matthew Williamson in his capacity as a lead stylist from Toni&Guy. He plays stylist to the rich and the famous, his current favourite being Grammy-award winner Calvin Harris, who he says is very “down to earth and easygoing”. Mark’s been to the Oscars, travels constantly and has a hectic, high-flying life that he absolutely loves!

“I actually got interested into hairstyling by sheer coincidence,” he recalls. “I was 17 and initially I was just attracted to the glamour of the fashion industry. Later I realised that I liked experimenting with hair and had a knack for replicating and creating styles.”

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Honed with experience, it is this ‘knack’ that now allows Mark to instinctively perceive the hair that goes with a certain look. Nine months ago, he became Toni&Guy’s global ambassador. “Toni&Guy is a 50-year-old brand and has amazing credibility while I provide an identity that makes it all the more identifiable for the youth.”

Mark’s made inroads into propagating the HMW concept where a fashion statement is not just about wearing the right clothes but also by projecting an entire look, with the aid of make-up and hair. “I see that trends are changing in fashion weeks around the world,” he observes. “The focus is more on showcasing wearable clothes and consequently, hair is also preferably less complicated, more care-free and tousled than primped into uptight hairdos.”

That said, there’s always the odd fashion showcase where complicated hairstyles are required. For instance, at the recent Vivienne Westwood Red Label show, the models were supposed to project powerful, Andy Warhol-esque images. “We had to work long and hard on the wigs for each model,” he says. Mark’s personal favourite, though, was the messy ponytail he created for Todd Lynn, also at LFW.

From the heady heights of London to the fledgling world of Pakistani fashion, the Toni&Guy press meet allowed me to observe the HMW philosophy up-close. Spotlighting the four categories in the product line, ‘Casual’, ‘Classic’, ‘Glamor’ and ‘Men’, Mark created — and explained — hairstyles for each look, with wardrobe by Feeha Jamshed and make-up by Rukaiyya Adamjee.

It’s high time that hair got highlighted on its own merit rather than just be a subsidiary to clothes and make-up. This is the message that Toni&Guy want to put forth — Pakistan is one of the first Asian markets where the HMW line has launched. What’s next? Will we be seeing Mark Hampton style hair at one of our fashion weeks, perhaps? “I’d love to,” he professes and it’s an exciting thought.

Here’s to creative, edgy hair — and should the wardrobe it ‘meets’ be just as groundbreaking!

Maliha Rehman is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with an obsessive, compulsive need to write. Log on for more fashion updates on Twitter @maliharehman

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2013.

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