industry insi-Der: hair stylist cyndia harvey on breaking into fashion
Want to know how your idols got their foot in the door? How they made it to the top? What made them want to work in this fast-paced industry anyway? Industry insi-Der picks the brilliant minds of the fashion world’s creative stars. In this edition...
Photography Harley Weir. Styling Julia Sarr-Jamois. Hair Cyndia Harvey.
One of the most exciting emerging names in fashion, Cyndia Harvey knows everything there is know about hair. That's because the Jamaican-born, London-based stylist grew up around it, spending her days after school at the hair salon owned by her mother in Mandeville. She moved to the UK at age 11 and later got a job working in one of the capital's leading salons where her talents led her to work with the king of coiffeurs, Sam McKnight, who she loyally assisted for five years before going off on her own. After she moved to Streeters, the top artist management agency, Harvey pushed into motion a steady stream of editorial work for yours truly, British and Chinese Vogue, and W with photographers Tim Walker, Collier Schorr, Mert and Marcus, and Craig McDean.
Beyond the pages of your favorite magazines, you can find Cyndia carefully crafting the looks for Calvin Klein campaigns with Tyrone Lebon, or for the Kenzo and H&M collaboration with iconic photographer Jean Paul Goude. What sets Cyndia apart is her versatility. Her work spans a broad spectrum — from abstract fantasy (think braids and afro pompadours that are best exhibited in her short film, This Hair of Mine), to the aspirational locks she showcases through myriad of different hair types. As one of the main contributors to i-D's The Creativity Issue, and the very embodiment of an industry insider, we sat down with Cyndia Harvey to get the scoop on her illustrious career so far.
What is your first memory of fashion?
I grew up in Jamaica where fashion is not as accessible as it is in the U.K.. But my mother always had great style. She often travelled to America for work and I always looked forward to her return — she was the woman at the airport you could spot a mile away because she would be wearing all the latest fashion. Once she brought back a copy of Vogue and at the time my older cousin was a practicing seamstress and I was her unofficial in-house model. Over the course of that summer I think we tried to recreate every single look in that copy of Vogue! Early 90s dancehall music videos were also a big inspiration for us.
Where did your interest in hair come from?
Again, from my mother. She owned a salon in Mandeville, Jamaica. We always went home together so after finishing school I spent time in her salon. I loved watching her work and would take part in her training courses.
When did you start professionally doing hair?
I started my training at 18 and from then, for about five years, I worked in a salon where I excelled quite rapidly but quickly outgrew the environment and needed to expand my horizons.
What would you call your big break?
Assisting Sam McKnight. Then, becoming his first assistant for five years — which laid the foundations for me to work with all the amazing people I currently work with today.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, past or present, who would you collaborate with and what would you collaborate on?
I'm a huge fan of Paolo Roversi. The opportunity to collaborate with him would be a dream!
What single fashion image, magazine, or show has continually inspired you throughout your career?
The McQueen Golden Shower show for spring/summer 98 was pure genius.
What is the biggest change you've witnessed in the industry since you've started?
Social media is nothing new now, but, without question, it has been the biggest game changer. When change happens and it's not regulated, it's usually misused. Which is why for a long time there has been a divided opinion on the use of these platforms. I think social media is great and can be used to make positive changes within fashion and all other industries. It has given a voice to an entire generation, but we must be mindful of how we use it and what messages are being sent.
What has been your most memorable job so far?
Both Calvin Klein campaigns with Tyrone Lebon. I have so many good memories attached to that campaign. Every image stands on its own. It's representative of so many people and I think it speaks to everyone.
What do you love about hair?
Its transformative power. So many girls have made, maintained, and reinvented their careers from having the perfect cut.
What advice would you give young fashion fans hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I think when you first start, you're eager to do everything. It's important to find people whose work inspires you and who you genuinely admire. People who share the same creative interests as you and people who you enjoy spending time with. The work will come from an honest place and honest work is the best work. Of course, this takes time, so patience is a must.
If you weren't working in fashion, what would you be doing?
I probably would have embarked on the career my mother always dreamed for me as a doctor or a lawyer. But, to be honest, I rarely think back!
What are some of the things you are keen to achieve with your career?
To continue working on great shows, editorials, and campaigns. But also exploring the possibility of more collaborations that do not necessarily sit within those boundaries alone.
What would you ideally like to do in the future?
I'm quite intrigued by the ambiguity of the future. What's important for me is to stay true to myself and continue doing work that I can look back on and be proud of. Work that will be part of many more movements to come.
Text Lynette Nylander