We talk to session stylist Brent Lawler to discover how he made the leap from working in a bustling salon, to creating beautiful hair on high fashion editorial shoots for celebrities and models such as Rita Ora and Heidi Klum.
What is your first memory of appreciating/noticing really great hair?
My mother taught me to look at things in a very unique way. She had mountains of magazines laying around the house, from French Vogue to Italian Vogue. I would spend hours gazing at the fashion stories within them. I dreamt of one day being a part of that creative process.
When did you decide that becoming a stylist was going to be a full-time profession?
To be honest, I wasn’t truly fulfilled working in a salon. I knew I had to find my own voice and the creative process of session styling felt more organic to me. I wanted to work within a collaborative environment with stylists, photographers, and makeup artists.
Working collectively within a team certainly fired my passion and eventually became my calling. The most enlightening part of my job is that there is still so much to learn and I want to know all of it. I’m ready for it! And I’d love to share that.
How did you make the leap to handpicked stylist for editorial?
I have to thank stylist Patti Wilson for championing me and believing in me before I knew how to believe in myself. She remains a friend and co-conspirator; working with her on my very first fashion story with iconic fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh catapulted my career onto a whole new level.
What is one thing you wish that you had been told before embarking on a professional career in hairdressing?
If you want to start at 9 and end at 5… you should find yourself a different career.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to stylists just starting out in the hair business?
First of all, never presume to give anybody advice. What’s right for you doesn’t necessarily work for others. It’s all an individual perspective. Never let your ego get in the way of great decision making.
When creating a memorable fashion story, there is a collection of people and creative minds all offering their own individual perspective. You have to learn how to decipher all of that and know when it is your turn to add something of value to the process.
Where do you find inspiration to keep your hairdressing fresh and innovative?
Inspiration is living and breathing all around us. You just have to keep an open mind. I have always devoured all things art-related via literature, music, museums, popular culture, and photography books. I’m lucky to have many talented friends, most of whom are in the industry. We inspire each other. It’s also super fun sitting around my dining table coming up with ideas and concepts. I find the more conviction you have in your instinct, the better the work you produce.
Who influences you to be a fantastic hairdresser and why?
I’m actually more inspired than influenced by people. Whenever my work is published and I see it for the first time, I always think to myself, “I should’ve done more of this, or I could have changed that..or I don’t even like it anymore.” I’m constantly on a mission to challenge myself and I think self-critiquing can sometimes serve a healthy purpose.
What can we expect to see from Brent Lawler in 2017?
One project I can discuss is with my great friend and talented photographer and filmmaker, Tim Richardson. We are slowly producing a book on gender, which is proving to be a long and all-consuming project, but an important one.
What would you say is the work that has made you the proudest?
My stories for Italian Vogue.
Where do you see the future of session styling headed?
I think that we are currently witnessing an overwhelming and sometimes overpowering takeover of the online world. In many ways, it is fantastic and can only benefit our industry, however, hairdressing is a very tactile art form. After all, you still have to use your hands. So I think it would be nice to slow down, reflect, and take the time to recognise the craftsmanship of our industry and look for the unexpected.
Be prepared to shock and provoke but always realise the importance of connecting with your audience. The viewer is the most vital part of our whole industry. And to me, nothing expresses the personality of a person more than their hair.
Discover more from Brent on his Instagram: @BrentLawler