Sam McKnight is known as the expert hairdresser that many aspire to be. His career spans across four decades that have seen the likes of Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and the iconic Princess Diana.
SM: Well, I came to London in 1975 and worked at Molton Brown for the early part of my career, this was a time when Molton was the place to get your hair done and styled. It was actually through Molton that I was sent out to work on Vogue photoshoots and that is where my career took off.
NS: WHY EDITORIAL OVER WORKING IN THE SALON?
SM: Personally, there was a magic that was created on set, the people, the atmosphere and the constant change. I had reached a point where the salon wasn’t inspiring me the way editorial was. It was from my Vogue shoots that I was then sent out to New York and signed with Bryan Bantry, it went from a planned few weeks to spending most of my years in the 80s and 90s based in New York.
NS: YOU HAVE WATCHED THE INDUSTRY GROW, HOW HAS IT CHANGED?
SM: At the time, in the early days, fashion was like a trade show, it wasn’t open to the general public and as soon as the press had access, that is when the runway really took off. As the 90’s hit, that was when things transformed for the industry, along came Naomi Campbell and the fellow 90’s supermodels and changed the runway. I, Mary Greenwell, the girls, we all grew up together both on the runway and at the Vogue photoshoots.
SM: Definitely Vogue magazine and the people I worked with. I’ve seen 5 different versions of Vogue magazine with each new EIC, from Beatrice Miller to Edward today (he’s great by the way) – It has been truly inspiring seeing the evolution of Vogue.
NS: IF YOU COULD CHOOSE JUST ONE, WHAT IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER THUS FAR AND WHY?
SM: The people! Princess Diana, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell.
NS: SPEAKING OF PRINCESS DIANA, WHAT WAS YOUR FONDEST MOMENT WITH HER AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HER LEGACY?
SM: There were so many touching moments, but I do remember when we travelled with her to see Mother Theresa in Calcutta. It was such a phenomenal experience that I could never forget, it affected me in a way that I will always treasure.
NS: ANOTHER ICON THAT YOU WORKED WITH WAS KARL LAGERFELD, WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH HIM FOR CHANEL? WHAT DID YOU ADMIRE MOST ABOUT HIM?
SM: He was so charming, unique, polite and generous and he always made you feel welcome. He would always greet and say goodbye to his team and that truly was the most treasurable moments, being part of his team and creating magic.
SM: I’ve been a consultant for many years and at the time I was coming across products that were very heavy on the hair. From my experience we want products that are light to layer, very simple, smell incredible and easy to style the hair with and let’s not forget looking great on the shelves. We formulate everything within the team, I wanted to create a unique formulation with the concerns and knowledge developed over our years of experience.
NS: FOR ITS FUTURE?
SM: We are currently in talks with investors for the next stage but expect products that will continue to prioritise the health and look of the hair.
SM: As soon as I wake up, I will do 30 minutes of Yoga and stretching before taking a walk through my garden, it is my place of peace and contemplation.
NS: DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE FLOWER IN YOUR GARDEN CURRENTLY?
SM: Peonies however I always look forward to the blooming of my dahlia flowers.
NS: WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE LIKE?
SM: There isn’t a typical day per say and that’s what I love most about my job, no 2 days are the same. I can go from having a day of meetings 10-6 and then shows from 5am until midnight.
NS: DO YOU HAVE A THOROUGH MORNING ROUTINE?
SM: I don’t have an indulgent routine, I find that when I apply too much on my skin, it will lead to breakouts and so I avoid anything too strenuous. I do exfoliate my forehead and pore extraction to remove any blackheads, but I also look after my psoriasis on my scalp with light moisturisers.
SM: Often I read or listen to the radio but if I’m in the mood I will opt for some light TV.
NS: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE HAIR INDUSTRY GOING?
SM: With this current climate, no-one really knows what to expect but it will definitely change how things are done and experienced. I will say that hair and beauty treatments will never die out as people will want to escape and they dream of looking and feeling good, we will have to adjust to the new normal.
NS: IF YOU HAD TO PICK A HAIRSTYLE TO HAVE ITS MOMENT AGAIN, WHAT STYLE WOULD IT BE?
SM: I would love to see a polished hairstyle come back, for so long hair has been minimal and untouched but I would love to see a polished hair do once again.
NS: WHAT THINGS BRING YOU JOY EVERY DAY?
SM: Tending to my garden.
NS: THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
SM: Keep your mouth shut! It’s definitely taught me to listen to other people.