Life of a Stylist – Editorial Styling with Neil Moodie
The hairdressing industry is so varied that it can be hard to know what path to follow. For the Life of a Stylist Series we’ve exclusively tracked down hair professionals from a variety of industry positions, from tour stylists to A-list Afro barbers, so you can gain an insight into the breadth of the industry.
For this week’s instalment we spoke to Neil Moodie, a renowned editorial hair stylist who has created looks for almost every fashion magazine and he’s also credited for some of Kate Moss’s most iconic looks.
What was your route into hair?
When I was at school I wanted to be a journalist, but was dissuaded by my English teacher. At school I experimented with haircuts and colour on myself and other people. This led to a ‘light bulb moment’ where I decided to become a hairstylist.
How did you become an editorial stylist?
In 1992 after almost giving up on cutting hair, I decided to become a colour technician and went to work at the Toni & Guy salon in Kensington as a colourist. I met photographer Corinne Day in 1991 through a mutual friend and began to colour her hair for her. In 1993, she asked me to colour a new model’s hair for a shoot she was doing for The Face magazine. I did the colour, and two days before the shoot was scheduled, Corinne called me and said the hairstylist on the shoot had dropped out and could I style the hair instead. Three months later the shoot was published, and there was one picture where I’d sprayed the girl’s hair pink on the ends. It was this image that launched my editorial and fashion career.
One week after the shoot was published I got a call from the bookings editor at Italian Vogue asking if I could go to Milan and reproduce the pink ends at a photo shoot. From then onwards, Corinne asked me to work with her all the time as she liked my ideas. The first advertising campaign I booked was Miu Miu with Corinne and the rest is history.
What’s it like styling for shoots?
It’s exciting, challenging, tiring and sometimes creative but sometimes not. In fact, creating the hair for a shoot is such a small part of the whole image process that it’s essential to learn to work in a team and not as an individual.
a) I’ve travelled the world and lived in other countries because of my work. I’ve visited some amazing countries and places that I may never have seen had it not been for my job.
b) I’ve met some amazing people both in creative and other spheres, and through their connections other doors and avenues have opened to explore both in my career and personally.
d) I’ve been given opportunities to work on some amazing projects.
a) Constantly packing a bag, staying in different places and dealing with jet lag when you have to work can be both tiring and lonely at times.
b) The hours can be very long and exhausting. You really have to find the will to keep going when it’s 11pm at night and you’re still shooting.
c) Missing bank holidays, birthdays and weddings because sometimes I don’t have a day off for 10 to 14 days in a row.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far and how did you overcome them?
The arrival and success of social media has changed the landscape completely. Everything is much more immediate. I found it difficult to get my head around the importance of self-promotion at first. Before social media existed, we used to work on a shoot and wait around three months for it to come out. When the shoot was over, you just moved onto the next and almost forgot about the previous one until it was published. Social media has made things so much more immediate and now brands want to let people know what’s coming before it’s actually published.
I liked the secrecy that existed before social media as it made it more exciting. Now, there’s hardly any elements of surprise. Also, social media and the internet have allowed a lot of the secrets of how the fashion/beauty industry works to be given away with all the behind the scenes etc. There’s nothing left to tell or keep for ourselves.
I’ve overcome this by trying to embrace the change in my own way. I’m not a very ‘look at me’ kind of person but I’ve learnt to promote my work and myself in a way that feels comfortable, without being crass and vulgar about it (hopefully!).
I’ve also found that trying to keep friendships going and any kind of relationship can be difficult when you travel so much. People assume you’re never available to do anything or celebrate special occasions with them, so some people stop contacting you. I always try to make an effort to give myself some ‘me’ time where I not only look after myself both physically and mentally but allow myself to have a life outside of work and see friends.
Lastly, coming up with new ideas that stick can be difficult as we live in a world where everything has become throwaway. Plus, everything has pretty much been done with hair before but I always try to think outside of the box.
What are your top tips for anyone who wants to do editorial styling?
Always work hard, It doesn’t get handed to you on a plate. You may get a lucky break but getting there can be easier than trying to stay there. Never stop learning, never think you are the best and keep striving to be better. Adding as many styling skills as possible to your repertoire is imperative to becoming a successful editorial hairstylist. Do lots of research on the history of fashion and hairdressing and try to create your own vibe with your own signature. It’s great to aspire to others but the big names exist because they’ve created a signature that is unique to them. The industry is looking for those that are new and fresh from anything that’s been seen before.
What’s your styling philosophy?
Never repeat work and always try to re-invent.
What’s your favourite account to follow on Instagram?
What’s your signature look?
It changes all of the time, but my agent and the people I work with tell me I’m known for my use of different textures and hair colours.
What are your kitbag must-haves?
Windle and Moodie’s Foundation Spray, Thickening Cream, Invisible Day & Night Cream, Shine & Smoothing Oil, Light Shine Spray and Light Satin Hairspray. Macadamia Bristle Brush, Mason & Pearson Brush, all of the Windle and Moodie (WAM) electrical tools, the Carbon Cutting Comb and Tail Comb and lastly Neji Ripple Pins from Japan.
Can you describe your career in one sentence?
Unpredictable, exciting, ongoing and forever evolving.
For more from Neil go to windleandmoodie.com