So What Exactly is a Session Stylist?
Hairdressing is a big part of the fashion industry, but no aspect is more intrinsically linked to fashion than the work of a session stylist. If you picture yourself rubbing shoulders with designers, working backstage on fashion shows and being on first name terms with fashion editors then session styling could be for you. Session stylist and ghd UK brand ambassador Zoe Irwin explains how she made it.
“My hairdressing career began with an apprenticeship at a salon called Hair Workshop near where I lived in Sussex. My boss was passionate about education so I did loads of courses and got plenty of training on the job.
“After my apprenticeship, I got lured into beauty and make-up when I landed a job at Harvey Nichols. It was really exciting, but after a year I missed the buzz of the salon so I moved back into hairdressing; but in London. After that I never looked back!
“One aspect of hairdressing that had always interested me was session styling. When I was young, I shared a flat with a photographer. I started doing test shoots with him and other friends, which I’d save up for and part-fund myself.
“Then when I joined a salon and showed them my portfolio, they would pay me to do PR shoots for them. Once you’re busy, you get noticed and I got spotted by session stylist Guido Paulo who took me into his team.
“I didn’t have a college education in hairdressing so I needed training in classical and traditional styling techniques to get into session work. In those days it was really hard to find that in the UK, so I spent time in both Italy and France studying and learning the fundamentals.
“When I returned I was lucky enough to meet up with Guido at a time when he was looking for new assistants. He took me on and that period of my life was such an insight into session styling.
“My role now is so varied. I could be brainstorming a hair look with a designer and then working backstage at their show, creating hair for a music video, working on a fashion editorial story or looking after a celebrity.
“I love the variety and the satisfaction of creating something so artistically challenging. It’s great to be around so many creative, energetic people, but the downside is the hours! You have to spend so much time away and you miss important events and the people you love.
“The key to getting into session styling is to get as much experience as you can. You need to get going as early as possible in your career. Give up your free time to assist, learn and research and make session work a priority.
“You’ll need to demonstrate a willingness to invest time and money, but never let your clients or your boss down on the way up.
“Being kind and respectful is such an important part of the role. Being talented and working hard is only half the story; being nice to people and showing a bit of humility will stand you in good stead and make you the best contacts and friends.”