#M1 talks to / interviews
Mark Hampton has been in the hair game since the tender age of 17, when whilst studying for his A-levels, he decided to pursue his love of the art. Having trained under world renowned Vidal Sassoon, Mark has also been a long standing assistant to legendary hairstylist, Guido Palau. This allowed him to put his skills to practice at top fashion week shows such as Louis Vuitton, Mui Mui, Alexander McQueen, Prada and Dolce&Gabbana. With his own work also going from strength to strength, Mark works with artists including Kings of Leon, Daisy Lowe and La Roux, as well as on regular editorial shoots for the likes of Wallpaper, Grazia, i-D and Volt Magazine. With his career in full swing, and no sign of stopping any time soon, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for much more from this man.
Models 1: How did you get involved in working as a hair stylist?
Mark Hampton: I started working for Vidal Sassoon when I was 17, whilst studying for my A Levels in Wales. I’d always cut my own hair, but more for cost reasons, and to be a bit different. I trained there for 4 years, and was able to go travel to London, Beverley Hills, and Hong Kong which was great.
M1: Would you say you have a signature style, or does it vary?
MH: It’s really difficult actually because it depends on what you’re doing. For the shows I have been working with Guido (Palau) for five years now. When doing shows, sometimes you have to be able to manipulate your own style. Even for shoots, if I turn up to a job with the intention of doing a ponytail, and the clothes wouldn’t suit a ponytail, I have to be able to admit that what I was thinking isn’t necessarily the right thing. The photographer or stylist might have a very strict idea of what they want to do, perhaps it’s a very specific fashion story, and I need to be able to adapt.
Cutting-wise, I keep it quite classic. At Vidal Sassoon, I was trained to cut hair to perfection -if there were a few hairs out of place we would stay until it was just right. If you work technically, it’s quite easy to deconstruct, whereas if you work the other way and just make it messy and choppy it doesn’t grow out well. My clients hair last longer.
M1: You have assisted Guido for a long time now. How important do you think it is to assist an established artist, alongside doing your own work?
MH: It depends on where you want to go with your own career. I just work on the shows with Guido, and would never be able to do that with anybody else. So many successful hair and make-up artists have got where they are through who they’ve assisted, so it can definitely benefit your career. It’s a great way to build personal relationships with photographers, and people on set. Assisting someone could also have a negative effect on your career. I’ve known people who’ve said they’re going to work with someone for so long, and then leave after 2 years to do their own thing. They’ve become successful, but it’s really hard to have that longevity, because if your boss isn’t on your side you’re not going to do well for very long. At Vidal Sassoon, it is all about the technical aspect of the hair, but working on the shows, it’s all about styling. I learnt everything I know about styling hair through Guido, so for me that’s been amazing.
M1: What has been your most valuable lesson through assisting?
MH: I’d have to say, to concentrate on my career. I started really young, so I grew up quickly, and then came back again, having fun, going to all the parties. Now my focus is my work, and I’ve learnt that you can’t take anything for granted, or have an ego. I work with some of the most influential people in fashion, and they are often the most down to earth. Humility is important, as is practice. Everyone expects stylists to be amazing, but all the really big hairdressers I know practice at home.
M1: It must be exciting, working on the hair for some of the top designer’s shows during fashion week, but I can also imagine, pretty stressful!
MH: I have been working with Guido for 2 or 3 months a year for 6 years now, during fashion week. This year we were doing 51 shows in a month. You know it’s going to be pretty stressful, so you prepare for it. Louis Vuitton always has the biggest amount of models- 60 or 70 girls- and it is always on the last day with Mui Mui and Lanvin. Two seasons ago, the reference was 70’s, so all the models were in afros. For this we had to hand-stitch 5 wigs together to make each one, so 350 wigs over 2 days! At the same time we were making fins out of wire for the Alexander McQueen show. That was the hardest season, every spare minute outside of working was spent sewing wigs and doughnuts. But now that hair style is synonymous with one of McQueen’s biggest shows, which is amazing.
Doing a perfect haircut at 4 in the morning when you’ve had four hours sleep isn’t easy, but you have no choice. It’s your opportunity to do your thing, and show everyone what you can do.
M1: As well as fashion, you have done an impressive amount work within the music industry, from the likes of Kings of Leon to Kate Nash. Is this something you would like to do more of?
MH: I’ve done a lot of music work, but this isn’t really something I want to pursue. How I got into it was all a bit of luck, I met a girl called Kinga who was doing a lot of music videos, and went on to work as her hairdresser on set for people like Kate Nash, Mystery Jets, The Teenagers, Calvin Harris and La Roux. I always got on well with the artists, and they would ask me to do other stuff afterwards. When Lady Hawk was first coming onto the scene I cut her hair, and have been doing it ever since. Fashion takes longer to get into. You have to have the portfolio to get the work, so it’s a bit of a catch 22. Whilst I was building mine I was always doing tests and assisting.
I realised I could have done all the biggest bands in the world -The Stones, The Beatles- but if I went to Vogue they’d be like ‘great, you can do four really cool guys but can you do a clean ponytail or beautiful, avant-guard hair.’ With the artist is all about being natural. With Kings of Leon, who I have done 5 covers with, my job is to make them look like they’ve just got out of bed. If I was to take that to a big editorial they’d be impressed, but I wouldn’t get a 10 page spread from it. Now I try to find a balance. There comes a time when you need to be more ruthless, weighing up money jobs and jobs that can further your career.
M1: Are there any other aspects of fashion, or any other industry, that interest you?
MH: I have clients that do amazing stuff, like one man who does TV commercials. He did a big one recently that was filmed with colour reversal film in 8mm style. Things like that are good, and the moneys amazing. I did something for Guinness, which meant working crazy hours. It was a night shoot, 7pm to 7am for two days in a row. I’d be interested in doing more of that, but perhaps only every couple of months.
M1: What advice would you give to stylists starting out?
MH: Meet as many people as you can and socialising, even if it’s just going for a beer. For me socialising is not difficult, so I have never struggled with that. It’s important not to just look at the job you’re doing as a job, but at the bigger picture. There have been lots of situations where I have been approached for a job that perhaps isn’t that good in terms of skill, but it’s a chance to build relationships with other artists, so when opportunities come up that are a bit more adventurous, they might think about you, and try to get you on board.
M1: Who would be your ultimate dinner date?
MH: Paul Newman. He would be a bad-ass dinner date. I have a bit of a bromance crush on him. He was always made out to be a wife-beating character, but in real life he was with the same woman for 40 years. It’s amazing to be able to have those conflicting personalities, and being so convincing as a character.
To view more of Mark’s work, visit his website here