why anthony turner's cool girl hair makes him new york's most in demand stylist
Backstage at Proenza Schouler's landmark spring/summer 16 show, the British fashion week favorite and i-D collaborator told us his secrets for giving good hair.
Anthony Turner says the hardest thing about fashion week is not being able to get a decent cup of tea backstage (he was born in Staffordshire, England; Americans don't get tea). "The rest is expected. We don't sleep much, we work around the clock but that's just how it is," he tells me. And as one of the most in-demand hair stylists in fashion (he does the Proenza Schouler show each season, he's worked on Alexander Wang's campaigns, he styled Lara Stone's slept-in hair for i-D's 35th Birthday Issue) - this is not his first rodeo.
It's 6PM and we're standing in the hair and makeup area at the Proenza show venue in the Meatpacking District. With two hours until go time, I'd like to describe chaos and tantrums but things are surprisingly calm. As we talk, stylists from Anthony's team of Bumble and bumble hair pros lead models up for him to approve. He quickly eyeballs their crocodile-clipped hair and smiles or gives notes.
The look for the show is "a strong, confident Latin woman," Turner says. He'd only just explained this concept to his comb-wielding troops that morning, but it was the result of a long conversation with Proenza's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. "The best thing about working with them is that they really involve you in their creative process," he says. He'd gone to their studio three times in the leadup to the show, talked with them about their inspirations, given models haircuts and experimented with different braids. "We went through a lot of motions before we got to this point. It's that process that makes you feel like you're putting the effort in."
It's a working style similar to how the designers create their collections. They're constantly "creating something beautiful, and then destroying it," they told i-D this week. It's a self-editing dialog that keeps their clothes from ever feeling overdone. Anthony loves that process ("I get really excited by it, by the references and the ideas"), and it's why McCollough and Hernandez enlist him every season.
There's always something improvised about Anthony's hairstyles. Like the perfect shower bun. For Proenza's spring/summer 16 Latina woman, he wanted to do a braid that would feel cool, and not too theatrical, not too like a Frida Kahlo Halloween costume. "The look feels very homemade and rough-around-the-edges but there's a strength to it," he describes. "The hair is pulled in at the nape and then braided, with no fluffy bits and a kind of messy center parting. It's strong. It's about a confident woman." He also left four models with shorter crops - including show openers and runway newbies Selena Forrest and Shelby Hayes - with natural hair.
The two other major shows Anthony worked on this season, Opening Ceremony and Creatures of the Wind, also celebrated individuality. The Creatures guys had been into the idea of Camden for spring, (very) specifically, "a girl that had just come back from Burning Man to London and hadn't washed her hair for days." So Anthony gave the models festival-worn versions of their usual hair, with a messy swoosh at the front only partly tamed by a bobby pin. At Opening Ceremony, where a third of the models were actually dancers-in-disguise, Anthony began with the idea of movement and let each model's hair breathe, keeping it "light and outdoorsy."
But fashion isn't all sunshine and roses, Turner admits. The process isn't always that fun. I ask him what he's learned since his very first show (which was, you know, just Christopher Kane's graduate collection from Central Saint Martins), and he says the most important thing to remember is "Don't question yourself too much." He continues, "Unfortunately, we work in a very negative industry… It is." (I must have looked unconvinced.) "You don't really hear the good things that much but you'll always hear the bad things. So you have to stay as firm in your beliefs as possible."
And when he can't change the bad things, sometimes he draws them. Occasionally on Anthony's Instagram a dark scribbly illustration will show up "of strange characters in quite awful situations wearing high fashion": a man sinking into a bog watched over by a woman in a statement cape, a figure in a dapper pin-stripe suit with a bird for a head. They're part of a macabre, Edward Gorey-esque oeuvre of doodles that the hair stylist works on during his downtime. It helps him relax. As for the rest of his often very LOL-filled feed, which has nearly 19 thousand followers: "Instagram to me is just an extension of my bedroom wall at my parents' house growing up. I don't take it too seriously." He's more likely to find inspiration in the real world.
Recently, Anthony moved back to London, which, he says, "has this fuck-it attitude that filters through everything, including hair." After seven years of living in New York, he's inspired all over again by London's creativity: "Seeing all these people at the Bethnal Green working men's pub doing the most mental things with the way they dress! London has a sense of danger to it; you never quite know what might happen next... I feed on that."
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans