Snip it!

The style guru lets his hair down at the London Fashion Week.

Shammal Qureshi March 18, 2012

Up and awake at 9 am for an early start. First time backstage at London Fashion Week, so want to be prepped.

Shower and shave; pack session kit into a small wheelie. Damnit! It’s still 10kg. Oh well, at least my trainer will be happy. Lug it down Queensway, grab a killer shawarma and hit the tube by noon.

Arrive at Vauxhall station and walk down to Freemasons’ Hall for the Vauxhall Fashion Scout. My show’s not till 4 pm so potter around backstage. First impressions? Manic! Stylists running around like headless chickens. But on closer inspection, there’s an order to the chaos; it’s all very, very organised, with everything running like clockwork. Models sitting in rows awaiting their shows; lights, crews, all in order. All rather impressive. Still, would rather be doing something other than mimicking a wallflower. Walk over to where the Toni&Guy team are hard at work. Even though I’m not scheduled for this show, I grab a hairdryer to help out.

Show’s over by 3pm — nice being a good Samaritan. But now time to pull out the big guns (or hairdryers in this case). Head over to the styling area an hour early. Everyone else is also an hour early, including the models. Am styling the Georgina Hardinge show. Luckily, Bill Watson, the international academy and franchise director for T&G London, is present. He’s spearheading the show styling. Am a bit nervous, so ask him for a quick style brief. Yay, for good luck. Georgia’s having a chat with Bill, so get to meet the lady herself. Bill tells me all we need is a pair of tongs and a hairdryer and lots of Label.M mousse. Am shocked. Really, dude? And here I spent hours practicing my braiding skills.

Bill steps up to one of the models sitting in a styling chair — a beautiful Brazilian bombshell with wavy hair and a gorgeous tan. Does one style to show us all what he’s envisaged.

Game on.

I grab a partner, Lyuta Saiga, heir to T&G Japan throne, and an Eastern European blonde, with blue eyes and gorgeous cheekbones — a stylist’s dream come true — and get cracking. She has great hair to work with. Prep the hair with mousse, then blow-dry flat to the head on each side; tie a low ponytail at the nape of her neck, and secure with elastic.

One interesting observation: the way we tie pony tails in Pakistan is totally different. We use rubber bands and two pins on each side. Over here, it’s one long string of elastic which is wrapped around the hair and tied into a knot. Makes the pony much cleaner.

Tonnes of time to prepare, so loads of time to hit perfection. Even though the look is very simple, the team is focused on getting it perfect and focusing on small things like checking the grain of the hair when applying mousse. Whole process takes around 20 minutes per model. Around five models, the show is over. Job well done, pat on the back by Bill.

That’s it? Was expecting much harder work. Time to party with the team. Get back home at 11 pm and pass out.

Day 2

Another early start. Wake up at 8 am. Session kit is already packed, so grab a coffee on the run.

Still an hour early. The Dans La Vie show kicks off at 10:15 am. Again, everyone else is also early. Whoever said fashionistas aren’t professional! Now an LFW veteran, I start organising models. The process kicks off the same as Day 1. Body Shop make-up artists to the left, T&G hair stylists to the right. Bill does one look to show us all what’s up and that’s when I realise that this is going to be a bit more complicated.

Grab my partner, Yuka, a veteran from the Sloane Square salon and a master of ‘hair up’, and we get cracking. Today, I get the Brazilian model to kick off. Mousse the hair up and begin curling with the curling iron. Add coloured hair extensions to the front, and twist all the way back in a side parting. Then roll all the hair under the nape to resemble a bob.

The look? Think your grandma’s roller set, but on crack: crazy, voluminous curls in a short, bob-like style. This look takes much longer, but I still manage to style three models. Because the styling is so complex, by the end of it, the make up and hair is being done simultaneously. Sounds crowded, but it’s seamless. Props to the Body Shop chaps for doing so well.

Manage to check out the end of the Aquascutum show (happening at the same time as ours) and bump into supermodel Lara Mullen (eat your hearts out lads!).

Have some time to kill so grab some food, then head to style the Carlotta Barone show. The daughter of Italian visual artist Manuela Corti and writer Gianni Actis Barone, Carlotta’s creative heritage is immediately evident from her collection.I know that I am going to LOVE doing the hair for this show. The inspiration is Helena Bonham-Carter’s look in Sweeney Todd. Carlotta wants the models to look like both victim and victimisers. Craaaazy!

The hair is moussed and curled as before, then knotted so that it lies flat in the back, with lots of width on the side. The make up is smoky, dark eyes extending all the way to the bridge of the nose. The style is less complicated than the previous show — but it still takes time. Five models later, we’re done!

I am now a master curler. Bring it, baby!

Am surprisingly knackered, so head to the local pub for quick refreshments with the team, then hit home by 10ish. Do I sleep? It’s Saturday, dude! Hit the town with a friend. Stumble home early Sunday morning.

Day 3

Bless the Lord, no work today. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day, although still cold. Lunch at the Four Seasons — the best roast duck in London. The rest of the day is spent watching TV, talking to the wifey on the phone and watching some more TV.

Day 4

Styling the Lako Bukia show today and what a woman she is. I love the warrior way — the elegant designs and smooth, beautiful materials. I feel like I’m in a ‘70s Bond film with the quasi-futuristic mini-skirts.

Lako’s philosophy is all about contrast and simplicity, so the real challenge today — the stark look with ‘modernal ponytails’. There’s something about the eyebrows that’s a bit uni-brow, but Lako insists.

We start with Label.M Volume Mousse to make it heavy and then brush it through evenly; wax stick at the roots and then pull the hair up into a pony-tail and through a metal cuff. Have to pad out the hair and rub some wax through it to give it a bit of volume and then secure it (I mean really, really secure it) through the cuff and iron it smooth. Finish it with some shine spray. Not hard, but exacting.

I’m kind of relieved we only have one show to do today. I often wonder if the people watching the shows have any idea how much time and effort goes into each and every look. And that’s not even counting the choreography or the many months of preparation put in by the designers.

It’s Monday, so on principle, I decide to have an early night — even though I can hear the city calling me from beyond the window.

Day 5

Styling the Tata Naka show today. Call me silly, but I just love saying that (Tata Naka, Tata Naka — I could go on all day). Tamara and Natasha are twin sisters from Georgia! You’da thunk they’re Japanese from their label — I sure did!

The look is Diana Ross: big, power-hair with lots of curls. We prep the hair with Label.M Volume Mousse and blow dry it through. Then the curling tong (I AM the curl master!). Divide the hair into small sections using two different sized tongs — extra small and small — to create a natural, tight curl and then pin each (yes, each) curl into place and let it cool down. Once it’s cool, remove the pins and massage the roots to make the hair stand. Label.M Shine Spray and, voila, giant Motown throwbacks.

I think I’m all partied out, so crawl into bed tonight. Thank God, tomorrow’s the last day — one more curl and I might pass out.

Day 6

Another crack of dawn start and realise I’m singing for joy. Tim Lipop awaits for the afternoon show. Easy stuff today: dudes with swept back, textured hair. Asger Juel Larsen wants the models to look like they’re soviet soldiers that have just been walking through a blizzard so the hair and eyebrows are covered in fake snow. Pretty cool look. Tim Lipops look, on the other hand, was side swept hair close to the scalp, so we moussed it up and then used a hairnet to dry it.

Wrap up and realise this is my last show. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. After the show it’s out with the T&G team — excited, tired, proud and happy. Home tomorrow. So much in my head, so much in my heart. It’s been an amazing experience. But I’ll be happy to be back with the wifey.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 18th, 2012.


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