From Ariana Grande to the Kardashians and beyond, Chris Appleton is the man who has created some of the most coveted celebrity styles in the last decade. Find out how the award-winning hairstylist makes the magic happen.
What is your biggest challenge when you’re working with such high-profile clients?
When you create these looks or styles, they aren’t going home to their mom and dad or their husband. They are going out the world. With power of social media, you are up for hearing everyone’s opinions and criticism. But that shouldn’t scare you or prevent you from doing something different, like creating moments and looks. Sometimes the challenge is having a television or hearing someone’s take on what you do on social media. But the flipside is that social media is a powerful tool, and I enjoy seeing what other people are doing, too.
For someone who is starting out, how do you push past that sense of fear?
I am my own worst critic. If I wasn’t comfortable with something, I’m very hard on myself, and I will look at what I can change to make it better. Really though, all you can do is be aware.
Do you have a favourite look or style you have created?
I really loved Kim [Kardashian’s] Met Ball look this year. That classic look can be hard to pull off because it was really gelled and slick. My goal was to create volume with it. It needed to look like it was almost dripping wet but with some volume, like she had just stepped out of the water. I felt like the hair was really what she was taking a chance on so I felt there was a bit of pressure on me.
The Met Ball is big! The year before, she had a golden goddess luxurious look so we didn’t think we could top that but I think we did. Everyone really loved the look, it felt like a moment in history that will be referenced.
How do you keep calm when you have to execute a difficult hairstyle, like this year’s Met Ball look for Kim?
I was so nervous. There were a lot of different trials, I kept trying it on so many different ways. Some were more finger waves, others more gel. Some were too close to the head and took tight. Some were too volumized. It was very stressful, I think that it always is, most of the time there’s a lot of prep work.
When it comes to trust, and trying something new with your clients what has been your secret?
Knowing what a client is comfortable with, and then pushing them towards that direction to keep evolving. As a creative person, when you have a portfolio of looks that you have created that gives you the confidence you need to gain a client’s trust. Like with any relationship, it takes time and having the confidence to do something different yet know when to not push people too far. None of my clients are at a standstill, they want a look that creates a vibe. For example, I am doing J.Lo for the CFDA Awards and I know her look will be exaggerated, and I have a lot of ideas in my head for that look right now.
How do you see the next turn for hair?
It has been the natural evolution of hair and beauty, which is celebrated in so many different ways. And it’s an exciting time, and it is changing all the time. It used to be the bouffant in the ’60s, the ’80s is the perm, and there was always a new thing. On social media there is a new vibe every day and we are constantly pushing people to shock the world. When I was younger, it was only Madonna who was doing it—she was someone telling a story [with her hair and style] and I was always so fascinated that she got to do that.
Who did you look up to as a young hairstylist?
When I was training Vidal Sassoon really inspired me. He was very precise and pushed boundaries with the bob. It was very much about pushing boundaries and that was a shock back in the day. Then, after my first cover for a hairdressing magazine, I got a note from Vidal Sassoon saying that he liked my work. Getting that note, is one of the reasons that I’m really keen on education. Just a few words can really inspired people and change their careers, and their whole lives, really.