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Tea with Snowden Hill
This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with the charming Snowden Hill over a cup of tea at the Hilton.
Snowden Hill is a top hair stylist working with some of the biggest celebrities —Elizabeth Taylor, Gwyneth Paltrow and Duchess of York to name a few. Born in New Zealand's Hawkes Bay and starting his career in Spositos salon in Parnell, he has made London home for the last 20 years.
Working every year on runway shows for Mui Mui, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Prada, Calvin Klein and fashion shoots for British Vogue, Glamour, and Italian Elle Snowden, Hill is truly at the top of his game. His vision has always been to “create beautiful hair”. To break the rules, raise the bar and defy the boundaries.
Not being the most gifted at even doing my own hair, I certainly had some questions to ask.
What do you miss from New Zealand?
My family and food. I always go straight to the fridge when I am home. I love the happy faces, the people are so friendly here and for me New Zealand has a really good energy. I defiantly recharge when I am here.
What has been a highlight moment of your career so far?
I have found it to be a “career of highlights”. There have been so many amazing weird and wonderful moments that I sometimes pinch myself. From the first time I saw Whitney Houston to getting a big contract deal, I can’t even pinpoint one moment, there have just been so many. And coming from New Zealand, I don’t take anything for granted.
After shampoo and conditioning what is one product that you would recommend?
First, towel-dry your hair as much as you can. I live by products, so in general I always follow this with something, either a serum or volumizer. I always like to put in some kind of serum—even if hair is oily they have serums for oily hair. I also like to add a volumizer. Even if I want natural-looking hair, that beachy look needs something; no-one’s hair is perfect apart from Gisele.
So is Gisele’s hair really perfect?
It really is. She wins “best hair”. Fifty to sixty percent of the pictures you see her in are exactly how she walked into the studio.
You work with a lot of private clients, is it the more personal side of what you do?
Well yes, because for most women something as simple as changing their parting from the middle to the side is a big change. And they have probably been thinking of it for two months. I believe it’s up to us hairdressers to work with our clients and to move them forward. I hate it when I hear hairstylists saying to a client, “Oh your hair will never do that” or, “You won’t ever take the time for that look” Because I believe any woman’s hair can be the way they want, and it’s our job to show them how. And at that moment when I swivel them around to face the mirror—I get the reward when they see themselves. It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s worth it all.
The perks of your job must be fantastic.
The perks that have come along have been fantastic. Yes, it’s about money and all that, but at the end of the day I still love my job and that’s the real reward. That’s priceless. I got a four-wheel drive car from a client who says I changed her life after 17 years of doing her hair.
You work with countless celebrities, who has really stood out for you?
Do you know whom I find amazing, probably because we really get on and bonded from the start—Naomi Campbell. I do her hair privately for all her shoots. I try to do as many shoots as I can for her but often the shoot will be planned a month in advance and she will decide the day before if she will do it. I also get on really well with Sting and Trudy. When I travel with them I get to stay in the same palaces they do, fly first class with them. I chat and cuddle Trudy and she loves it when I flirt with Sting… and so do I (smiles).
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am on the show circuit, so that’s what I am working on now for the next year. Once I start getting an idea of what’s on for the next year I get my inspiration for the new season. I do thirty-nine shows a season, so that’s ninety a year and on top of that couture and menswear so I do one hundred shows a year from Valentino to Dolce, Versace, McQueen to YSL. So I know what’s coming and that creates the inspiration.
Many people would imagine that at the high level of industry you work in, with all its top hair, makeup artists and stylists, it would be intimidating. How do you find it?
Well it’s quite good actually because I think I have been at the level with many of the same people for five to ten years. There are always new faces but most of us at this level have been around for years so we look after each other in different cities, go to parties together. I really like the on-the-road family feel. Then I won’t see them for a couple of months but when I do see them again its like, “Hey baby!” It’s really fun!
You do up to 100 shows a year—is there any show that has just really stood out for you?
There are many, but Alexander McQueen always wins. His set-designs were a complete fantasyland and he pushed everyone to excel, he just pushed the perimeters for all of us. He would talk with us and work on a mood board and we would spend six hours creating a look. We could do up to 60 experimental looks. But always 100 out of 100 times his shows were so breathtakingly eye-watering beautiful with the stage, the whole concept. He was a true genius and after a McQueen show I always felt that I had been part of something very special. His shows were weird and wacky and wonderful at the same time. There was this Versace show where everything in this huge room was painted this shiny bright gold. Everything from the chairs to the ceiling was just covered in gold. Whitney Houston was there, Demi Moore and Boy George was the DJ and afterwards everyone just got up and started dancing.
What is your favourite look to do?
I always tend to do something with volume. If I do a beachy look I like to add volume because I like hair to be in all its glory so I love that full look. Not 80’s big hair but big beachy textured hair.
One of the hottest looks at the moment in NZ is the balayage look. What’s your take on the look?
Well we only did that look the last season so NZ is up with the trend. It’s very popular in the UK but overall not many women are getting it. I have already seen a few women here with the look, so I find New Zealand to be very progressive and forward-thinking with hair and with fashion. I think it’s a great trend and is an easy way for a woman to get a wearable in trend look that’s not too high fashion.
What’s advice do you have for hairdressers and others in the industry who wants to be where you are one day?
Oh god, who did I sleep with? (laughing) just joking! I have always had a strong personal drive to succeed and been very curious about what’s on the other side of the fence. When I moved to England it kind of all came together and started fitting for me. Discipline and determination—I think you have got to really want something then work hard, focus and discipline yourself. Then it will just happen.
Quick fire questions-
Side fringe or full fringe?
Sleek and straight or big volume?
Blonde or brunette what’s easier to work with?
Either but blonde mainly for shows
You are only allowed one product for a shoot what is it?
Honestly it’s my skyscraper hairspray. I keep it in my man bag and I use it on everyone. It does everything.
Biggest hair annoyance?
Dreadlocks…I just don’t get it.
I still don’t get the mullet…I tried it when it was in fashion and I just didn’t work and rats tails. When I visit my nephews I always chop off their rats tails.
What new colours are new for the season for hair?
We are seeing some amazing Manic Panic reds. They are fire reds.
3 June 2012