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beauty: feature

Richard Kavanagh, the greatRichard Kavanagh, the great

On the eve of the Southern Trust ID Dunedin Fashion Show, Bronwyn Williams talks to celebrity hairstylist Richard Kavanagh



AS I ARRIVE for our interview, Richard the Great is on his knees on the floor of his hotel room, surrounded by images of models in various stages of hair-do. He is constructing detailed instruction sheets for his Redken hair team on how to create each look for the ID fashion show tomorrow night. He scrambles up grinning, hair artfully scraggled, his famous tattoos poking out the sleeves of his rolled up shirt. We settle into his hotel lounge for our interview.


What sort of looks are you creating for the show?
In years gone by, we have always done a different look for every designer, but we have simplified the whole process this year. We are working with four key looks, and three model groups. We have quite an androgynous feel for one of the groups in which the hair is matte and cottony in texture. It is very paired-back so that the clothes can come forward.
   The second look we have a romantic bohemian feel, slightly dishevelled. Again, we are pairing the hair back to push the clothes forward.
   The third look we have is really cute, we make a French plait which starts on one side behind the ear and runs across the side of the head, but it’s really loose, with bits falling out of it. So it’s a soft romantic look.
   The fourth look is done with the girls who have had their hair pinned up; we will take it down during the interval and brush them out into a mass of curls.

   Two of the looks are looks that I did at New York Fashion Week two weeks ago, one we did a variation of for the Diane von Furstenberg show, and the other we did a variation of for the Alexandre Herchcovitch show.


How are the hairstyles different from the last ID show?
Last year [at ID] there was a real utilitarian feel to the hair. I feel like this year things have lightened up a bit.


Is this a reaction to the recession?
I think it really is! The designers that I worked with in New York were all forecasting a bit of happiness. It felt like doom and gloom in the world outside fashion week, but inside the fashion week it felt like, ‘We’re over the doom and gloom, let’s just bring some happiness back to the world.’ I think that is what we have the ability to do with fashion, is forecasting these things.

What are the hair trends we have to look forward to for next season? And how is it changing from what is happening right now?
The trends that are emerging are much like the looks we will be seeing on the catwalk at ID. There is a romantic feel with hair, a renaissance of wave, a soft bohemian feel. Girls are glamming it up again, and getting shine back into the hair. The thing for me this season, is rather than the waves having crispness, they have a real cottony feel.

That’s great Richard, but how is this trend accessible to people like myself with short hair? How can we work it?
I can tell you what it’s not: it’s not going back to the old curl on the top, short on the sides that was around some decades ago. If you look at the essence of the style, what we get with the looseness and romantic feel is we get a texture that has a bit more fly away, it moves more, it’s lighter. For girls with shorter hair, you are using products that don't weight the hair down, so that you get natural movement and softness. Even if you have a cut that is a very strong shape, the texture is what you are thinking about.


So are we all going to be growing our fringes out then?
Yes I reckon, a longer fringe, a bit of wave in the fringe. There is nothing wrong with getting that curling tong and putting a bit of a soft wave in there, then brushing it through.


What is your forecast on hair colour trends?
Things change with seasons—particularly, colours change a lot. We live in an outdoor environment, and over summer our colour tends to go lighter because we feel that way. As we are moving into winter we start to see a shift towards plums, mahogany, darker, earthy warmer tones.


Weather-wise New Zealand is a season behind the rest of the world, what about fashion-wise?
The images that people are seeing on or whatever are current, from Paris, New York and Milan—the latest shows. So here in New Zealand we are completely up with the trends and forecasting. It’s a funny situation because I think in the past we have always been a season behind, but now I really feel like—and talking to guys up in New York this was reinforced for me—that we are kind of a season ahead. In our own way we do stuff that pushes the boundaries a lot. I think that globally, hair trends move in a big wave. The shapes, designs and textures we are working with tend to move globally rather than seasonally.


You mentioned that you were at New York Fashion Week, what was it like?
It was cool. I had two jobs at fashion week this year, one was I am doing a little spot on Good Morning on Monday mornings, talking about hair, hair trends, and how to re-create the looks. The other job was hairstylist at the shows. I did 14 shows while I was there.

What inspires you as a hair artist?
Something that really inspires me is the Redken Artistic Network. I am part of a global network of artists who present shows and ongoing education for hairdressers. The network has so many talented people in it who are constantly looking for new inspiration, and sharing not only what inspires them, but the process that they go to in order to find their inspirations. I get lots of creative juice out of that process.
   I’m also inspired by Philip Treacy, the hat maker, in terms of shape, direction, and balance of textures.
   I am being constantly bombarded with stimulus. Sometimes I’ll be driving along see something that will spark an idea for an entire photographic collection. I recently saw one of those crochet poodle tissue-box covers in the back of a car. It started a range of Mrs Slocombe-inspired pastel colour hairstyles, with strong directional shapes and hot looking girls!


I know everyone asks you about it, but tell me about your tattoos.
I love Japanese art—my house is full of Japanese antiques. I had this mish-mash of tattoos that I had collected over about 15 years.
I was 16 when I got my first tattoo. I was like, ‘Cool [pointing to the wall and squinting], I’ll have that one, thanks [counting out his money]. Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty dollars … Oh I can’t get that one, it’s $35 … I’ll have that one, then.’
   So the tattoos had expanded all over my body, and I wanted to have some cohesion, and there were a couple that I wanted to cover up! I began researching traditional Japanese tattoo, and we (Illicit Tattoo) started three and a half years ago on a full Japanese body suit. It’s now three-quarters finished. Its thigh, buttocks, full back, sleeves, and chest with an empty strip down the middle. It’s amazing, once you get started, how much room there is on your body to tattoo!

Do you think that being heavily tattooed gives you cool points in the celebrity hairstylist theme of things?
[Laughs.] Cool points! That’s pretty funny … I don’t know! [Input from his PR in the same room: ‘Yeah, it does!’) At New York Fashion Week, Fashion TV asked me about my tattoos. One in five New Zealanders has a tattoo, but not overseas. I have learnt to wear my sleeves down when going through customs. They don’t get it.

Do you have any ‘I Love Mum’ or snakes with daggers from your $30 jobs?
Yeah, I had some of them. I had some skulls and a car—it was a Ford. •


Bronwyn Williams is a fashion correspondent and photographer for Lucire.


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