Event Coverage

HOW TO Be Part of FASHION WEEK! Learn From Brian C. Hawkins

Maggie Mulhern | May 13, 2014 | 7:02 AM
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MODERN editors are frequently asked, “How do I get on a team for Fashion Week"? Most hairdressers believe this is an opportunity just for NY based professionals, so we are regularly thrilled when we see the out-of-towners working side by side with Eugene Souleiman, Guido, Nick Irwin, Orlando Pita, Odile Gilbert, Ted Gibson, Rodney Cutler, Peter Gray, Jon Reyman or any of the other superstar hairdressers tapped to lead during fashion week.

Brian C. Hawkins surprises us every season. He is not (yet) one of the big name lead’s, but he is a FW regular, either as lead or support stylist. Even more shockingly Hawkins is one of the few artists that is equally talented as a hairdresser and make up artist and can be found on either side of the table prepping models. Making it even more interesting, Hawkins is based in Columbus, Ohio as the independent owner of Studio Elements. This past season he worked five shows during New York Fashion Week: Lead Hair for Erin Fetherston, Lead Make up for Gita Omri, Heart & Noble and Minnoji Collection; and on the support team (under David Cruz) for the Rebecca Vallance Collection.

MODERN checked in with Hawkins and asked key some key questions about Fashion Week. Here he gives the answers, including HOW TO make it on a team backstage. 

MODERN: How did it happen for you?

Brian C. Hawkins: Just like anything else, network, network and network!  It honestly started for me through [industry icon and friend] Winn Claybaugh and Theodore Leaf.  Winn inspired me and said he would connect me to the right people knowing that I wanted to be part of Fashion Week.  I then met Theodore Leaf, a celeb hairstylist, who called me and invited me to be on his Team for LA Fashion Week. That was 7 years ago.  From there I continued to be invited to work with him as well as other amazing Lead Hair Stylists including Ted Gibson, David Cruz and Omar Lopez.

MODERN: What should a stylist have, in addition to talent, when applying to be on a team?

BCH: Having an updated portfolio of your work and the credentials of other opportunities under your name (editorial work, tv/film, etc.,) is what helps build your brand and gives you credibility. You can't wait for them to come to you. You must be pro-active and go for it. Make sure to have a body of work in addition to desire.

MODERN; How about as lead?:

BCH: I actually let many designers know that I wanted to be lead their shows. So essentially reaching out to the designer(s) you want to work with with your portfolio, credentials and ultimately a positive attitude and mindset is what gets you looked at and considered.  There are additional things that a designer may require in terms of sponsorship so that is also considered in being placed as lead. This is kind of a secret to the outside world. Many large companies sponsor a show and place their own people on the team. Sometimes, actually frequently for the bigger name designers, you must have the support of a brand that you've worked with. Artists and educators on a sponsored show have a better shot of getting on a team or becoming lead.  Once you've established yourself as lead it's almost a domino effect, the more shows you lead the more additional shows and designers will be presented to you.

MODERN: How do you form your team?

BCH: Simple...professionals have asked to be on my team! If you ask me and say you've always wanted to work Fashion Week and/or work with me, there's an opportunity.  Also, maybe it's a Midwest mentality, I always work with my home first- meaning friends of mine in the industry in the Ohio area- primarily Cleveland and Columbus.  From there I extend to New York,, Miami, LA, Chicago- etc.., The thing is regardless of your location, if you want it and the opportunity is there, you will find a way to make it happen.  When I see that AND you have great talent- it's a win-win.  My teams have consisted of people from Oklahoma, Ohio, LA, New York, Chicago.  Honestly though the biggest thing I look at and want is the right attitude and energy.  I'm all for having a positive vibe backstage because that ultimately is what makes it a success and keeps the opportunities continuing.  It's ok if you're not the strongest stylist and/or makeup artist or you may not know a certain technique but if you have a genuine positive vibe and smile and are a team player, that has more worth to me than anything.  The one thing I always hear from the designer, assistants and media backstage is "you and your team are so well put together and you guys are having a good time"- that speaks to me that I am doing something right.  Whether it's your first Fashion Week experience or your 50th, your experience should be an enjoyable and positive one that excites you as it does me.  It's hard work and can take a lot out of you but when you have the right team it flows great and makes it that much better.

MODERN: How to determine look shown on Runway?

BCH: The look determined for the tunway is a collaboration among the designer, sometimes their stylist and/or assistant and myself.  You first find out more about the collection: color scheme, print details, elegance, chic, casual, couture etc.,.  Typically the designer is inspired by something to build the collection whether a time era (60's inspired), an artistic piece (Andy Warhol, Picasso), or just something that he or she saw, heard or felt that brings the collection to life.  From that an idea for hair and makeup is born. As lead, you go into more specifics of that desired look and then ultimately it unfolds when you meet with the designer and do the "test". 

MODERN: Tell us more about the test:

BCH: This is typically the week before (sometimes the week of) the show. You meet with designer, assistant and stylist to actually execute the look on a model.  The look is tweaked such as adding more or having less for the hair and/or makeup until you reach that moment where the designer and you are in agreement and happy with the look.  It may start off with the "inspiration" but the execution may have 8 different tries before it's actually conceptualized.  Once that look is set, as lead, I take a few pictures to document. Then, on the day of the show, I demonstrate the look to the team and show what products to use and how to apply. Product use and placement is quite important if a show is sponsored.  As lead, I must ensure that each stylist working on a model is able to do that look and that it is uniform.  Ultimately it is about the designers collection. The hair and makeup are just accessories to that look and overall, you want the hair or makeup to compliment and encompass one look.

MODERN: Have you ever had an issue with look? Something you would NOT want to do?

BCH: It’s important to compromise. Sometimes the designer as a concept and it just doesn’t work. You have to have that meeting and sometimes, if you can’t reach an agreement, you HAVE to make it work.  I would never pass on the opportunity just because I didn't like the hair.

MODERN: What should hairdressers or makeup artists expect, especially first-timers?:

BCH: Everyone thinks people are making lots of money at fashion week.  The only people that do are the big name leads. Don’t expect to make ANY money. Sometimes there is a little that may cover flight and hotel, but usually the support team is filled with talented volunteers.

MODERN: So why do it?:

BCH: The residual effect is huge. It meas a lot to my existing clients. It always comes up in local coverage. “Oh my God…there is someone here who goes to fashion week!”  The money comes after the fact. However, when the designers want to shoot their collections, if I’ve made an impression, they will bring me in and pay me to do the hair.  There are different ways. I may not get paid directly from the designer, but the money does come.

MODERN: Any tips for new hairdressers on how to approach someone to get on a team?:

BCH: For that recent beauty school grad who wants to do fashion week, look for the local person who may have connections. Go online…facebook, twitter, people you admire. If its Ted or Orlando or Guido…whoever inspires you , reach out to him. Express yourself. Point it out.  That’s how I did it. I reached out to Ted. I sent an email to his salon. Then I got the call from his assistant and was invited to be on his team to do one show. Now he has an established team, but if you can find those people who are up and coming, reach out to that person. He or she may not respond, but you never know.  I have a woman who works with me every season who is from Oklahoma. She contacted me on Facebook. Now I have a core list. I reach out to them first, but if there is an opening, I am willing to take a chance on new people.

MODERN: What should someone new expect:

BCH: Be prepared. NYFW doesn’t always mean Lincoln Center or the tents. Many shows are offsite. I’ve done one at a restaurant where we had to do hair and makeup at the coffee shop across the street. We had to work on top of each other, around each other.  There was snow everywhere. We had to go back and forth across the street! And this was a big known designer. You must be adaptable. This is what I said I wanted to do and I have to accept those gigs which have made me what I am. There must be a level of humility. This is for the people who are truly passionate about what they do and flexible.

MODERN: Once you've accepted a show, you say you make it work, but have you ever turned down a show?:

BCH: I have turned down shows, but it's rare. I want to connect with the designer. My brand is classic style that is effortless. High couture, edgy but with classic overtones and approachable.

MODERN: So, bottom line, is it worth it?

BCH: Every single second.

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