I’ve been secretly stalking one of my junior’s pages recently. He’s a part time student and hair stylist – he doesn’t just do run off the mill prom hairstyles, he’s got some super cool high fashion under his belt. Being the kaypoh I was, I decided to get his story. (I’ve also interspersed the interview with some of his favorite works!)
How did you get started on hairstyling?
Quite by accident, really. I’d started doing hair since maybe 2007; I was in drama back in jc and we’d do hair and make up for each other for shows.
I just continued doing hair after graduating from jc and did hair for proms and other stage productions.
Eventually someone asked me to help our for a test shoot like maybe in year 1 of uni, and then got asked to do hair for Nanyang Chron (NTU’s newspaper equivalent). After that i guess i dove headfirst into fashion lor. Since then I’ve constantly been trying to keep working and developing my body of work.
But of course you must have found that you do have some talent in it right. as a dancer i always have to do hair but it always turns out like shit.
Haha well i never liked the word ‘talent’, it’s so self indulgent and i always cringe when people say it. Sometimes even saying that i’m a hairstylist makes me cringe as well. But i did feel like i handled hair better than most people did and I liked working with hair!
Why does saying you’re a hairstylist make you cringe!!
I don’t like lehhhh, cuz it feels like i’m taking myself waaaaaay too seriously, like i sometimes see MUAs (make up artists) or hairstylists who are all like YES I’M SO PROFESSIONAL MUAHAHAHA but their work is like shit. so i don’t want to get too ahead of myself with labels. /:
What about working with hair do you like?
I like doing hair because it’s difficult. It’s a constant challenge. It’s an outlet of creative expression. When I am doing hair for an elaborate look, I get very immersed and I block out things around me. For that moment I’m just myself, quiet and alone in my head.
I love the touch and feel of hair and the challenges every new head of hair brings and how I can make it work for each occasion or shoot.
Do you have a favourite secret tool of trade?
My favourite tool which i use all of the time (and isn’t a secret at all) is my 1inch Hot Tools Marcel Gold-plated curling iron. I don’t use any other curling iron at all. I have it in different sizes but never any other brand. Partially because it’s just so damn amazing like it gets hot super fast, up to i believe 420 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows me to work fast.
How do you practice?
I have a bunch of friends with a certain set of hair types that i like to occasionally call up, treat to lunch and then try stuff out on.
But these days I don’t really have the time to practice quite as much as I used to. I guess in a way me working everyday doing corporate hairstyling, a bit of commercial and mostly fashion hairstyling is kind of my on-job, ongoing practice that I need!
What was your big break?
My first foray into fashion was in Nanyang Chron and that’s how I was introduced to my first really big job at the end of year 2 sem 2, which was doing a couture spread for Designaré magazine.
How was that like, your first big job?
It was damn exciting. It was with a model from AVE Management and it was all couture dresses insured for close to tens of thousands of dollars. There was even a couture dress that Beyonce wore for her album cover ‘4’. I was so amazed that day! So overwhelmed…
The shoot went great and that was when I first met real fashion people who then introduced me to their other fashion friends which opened the door for more opportunities for me.
How did that change you?
I’d done shoots before but always with amateur models. Suddenly after the magazine shoot, I was working with more professional photographers who did tests with models from some of Singapore’s best agencies. I was suddenly so spoilt with beautiful pictures and beautful models and amazing MUAs, that I just had to step up my game in order to keep up and make sure that i was doing the kind of work that is needed and expected of me.
What pushes you to keep producing quality work?
I work very hard to ensure that i satisfy my photographer and that the images come out beautiful. I never ever want to give my photog a reason to say ‘oh I need to DI that’.
What is your process like?
I usually start by studying the clothes that will be used for the shoot – what are the clothes like? Then I ask another bunch of questions – what is the feeling that the photographer is going for? Is there a time-specific period that the hair needs to be in? Where are we shooting? Do i have the luxury of time? What is the focus of the shot – clothes? Make up? The hair?
After i get those questions answered, I put mental pictures and references together to show the photographer. If the photographer says okay, I do.
What inspires you?
I draw inspiration from fashion.
When i was just starting out like doing Nanyang Chron and stuff i usually only did pretty things, and perhaps that’s come to be something I’ve become very comfortable doing, because my background is proms and weddings so ‘pretty’ is kind of my moneymaker.
After Designaré I felt I needed to take the business more seriously if i was to ever get anywhere being a legit fashion hairstylist.
So I started studying the runways of Paris, New York, Milan, London – every new season. I would keep track of hair trends from the various designers and try to ensure that everything I do for fashion is on-trend. Even if i’m putting my own spin on things, I always try to keep the flavour of the trend there.
My inspiration apart from runway, is magazines. I buy countless magazines ranging from high fashion to very commercial magazines and I look at what people are doing. I see if I can spot new looks and sometimes I see something I like and put my own spin on it. Sometimes i see things I don’t like and I decide to do my version of it on another shoot.
A lot of my work when i’m not actually doing hair is really immersing myself in as much fashion as i can!
And how do you keep tabs on all the things that inspire you?
I have a stack of magazines that I keep, annotated with post its and notes that i refer to once in a while for inspiration. But I also have alot of tearsheets from stuff i find online. It could be a painting or an ad or a spread from somewhere but i’d still keep them in my hard drive and look at them when i need inspiration or thoughts.
What’s the best kind of hair model to work with?
Someone with thick and lightly layered hair. It gives me as many options as possible because i can very easily tame it. To add more hair and volume takes more effort and isn’t even possible sometimes!
The worst is super fine, super long (like just above the navel or lower back), super straight hair. It’s beautiful to look at but isn’t the easiest thing to style because of the texture which tends to be very thin and limp.
Are there models that are absolute pains to work with?
No, not really. They’re usually all quite tired or quite guai. Some of them are energetic, the kind that likes to sit and chat with you. It’s always interesting to hear their stories about partying and adventures. I love hearing their stories all the time about their life and how they started modeling.
OH there was one model she damn irritating omg ahahaha I was doing her hair halfway then she held a hand up to me and was like ‘enough hairspray’ and i was like bitch please it’s not even that much and what the hell is this attitude. I got so fed up with her I just let her go on set with frizzy unsprayed hair. Plus, the model she was shooting with had such lovely hair because she was nice to me, so i put in extra effort to make nice nice. Then the bitchy girl her hair like crap hahahaa
But that is a rare happening.
Are models really all that bitchy?
From what I hear, the model world is not very bitchy. It seems like they all just wanna have fun and party and at the same time book jobs and work. They’re mostly very lovely.
Any particularly bad encounters?
Not really. There are a few people I’ve worked with who were a little unpleasant but it’s not a big deal and I could handle it.
I just really hate (with a vengeance) working with very indecisive people, like photogs who don’t really know what kind of looks they’re going for and whom at the same time don’t trust me enough to take my advice on certain things. Or stylists who tell me to do one thing and then suddenly throw a head piece or a hat after I’ve spent alot of time on the hair.
My biggest gripe is indecision and disorganisation
Can you share a picture of one of the jobs you’re the proudest of?
Though you’re working with hair… what else makes a good photograph?
Ultimately you can’t work in a bubble. I know some MUAs or hairstylists do, but I don’t. It is ONE picture with MANY elements, so you need to ensure that the hair choices you make are in sync with the overall look that the MUA, stylist and photog is putting together.
That’s what makes a great shot.
Unless of course its hair-centred lah in that case, ALL OUT!!!
5 years back did you ever see yourself going down this path?
I never would have thought this would be such an important part of my life. I would never have thought that I’d be in fashion of all things because I’m such a fashion loser to begin with! I knew i liked doing hair but i never imagined it’d be like an actual source of income leh for me.
Do you see yourself doing this for the long run? like career, forever?
and never to part?
Um, I don’t know if this is my full time profession as of now. But I do know that I will always do hair most likely for the rest of my life in some capacity. In the mean time, hair and fashion are a huge part of my life and I am happy about that for now.
Print, video, runway or weddings – pick your favorite to style for.
Print gives you very pretty portfolio pictures which I use to get future jobs. So print is super important to me. In a way, the whole fashion industry relies on your reputation and portfolio to get jobs.
Videos are alright. The key to video is precision so no such thing as stray hairs or stray flakes of anything. there is no photoshop so it has to be perfect.
Runways are absolute madness but i love it.
If I had to pick a fave I would pick weddings because they are the most meaningful to me. Being a part of someone’s special day and doing something which makes them happy (both for that day and even years later when they look back at the photos) is important to me.
When her hair and make up and dress tie in together and you see that flicker of “omg this is really happening” in her eyes, and you see the groom looking at his bride and seeing him have that flicker of “oh god she’s so beautiful”…these are priceless to me.
Do you have a look that you detest?
Not really, but I do get sick of hairstyles that I’ve over done because of trends in fashion. There was a period especially with Charlotte Free where coloured hair was EVERYWHERE and everyone was getting me to do hair chalking and colours and omg i was deathly sick of it afterwards!
For a normal person with non-model hair (ie me), what’s the best way to deal with bad hair days?
Get a tiny bit of gel, dilute in abit of water sprayed on your hands, run it through your hair from your hairline backwars, then french braid it tight and clean.
I always feel looking neat is always a good go-to solution, but if you like the messy look also can, just braid down normally, pull a few pieces out at the side burns area and it’ll look effortlessly chic and styled.
Advice for wannabe hairstylists in Singapore?
Eh I am also a wannabe lah. But if anyone wants to join the industry as a fashion hairstylist, contacts are very important. but make sure you practise like crazy and are able to deliver. Only enter the industry when you are ready because while people love to love you, they are also very quick to write you off if you don’t deliver.
I don’t think i was ‘ready’ per se when i first started doing hair for fashion, but I was lucky I didn’t enocunter many tragic cases when the hair was disastrous. Even now, i still get very stressed about jobs and i always get anxious before especially the big jobs.
But i always prepare before hand – even if it’s just mentally running through what i’m gonna be doing – never turn up for a shoot unprepared.
Last question – explain your obsession with corgis.
THEY LOOK LIKE REGULAR DOGGEHS BUT THEY HAZ SHORT STUBBY LEGS WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THEM AH PLS. OMGOMGOMGOMOMGOMG. HAHAHAHAHA
ALSO, i have a similarly normal torso but i have short legs too, so in a way i feel i can personally relate to corgis very well. HAHAHA.
We kinda spent the rest of the night sharing corgi vids.
Hope you enjoyed learning about my friend Mark as much as I did 🙂