BY KENNETH RICHARD
While Hair Stylist Tina Outen may have known her life’s calling at the early age of 14, her path to success wasn’t overnight. Tina’s paid her dues and her desire to learn, prep-work, ability to partner and speed has earned her countless accolades and fans including celebrities Victoria Beckham, Zoe Saldana, Eddie Redmayne, and Rosamund Pike, as well as models Cara Delevingne, Helena Christensen, Julia Nobis, Edie Campbell, Lara Stone, and Saskia De Brauw.
Along the way she has worked with some of fashion’s greatest photographers including Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh and Boo George for some of the fashion’s best publications such as i-D, 10, InStyle UK, and Vogue UK to name a few. She’s touched quite a number of ads too including some of our favorites like Calvin Klein, Chloé, and Paul Smith. The Impression had the great pleasure to sit with Tina to chat about her journey, what she’s learned along the way and what she is up to next.
Tina, thanks for taking the time and we would love to hear about how you found your calling?
My big sister is a hairdresser as well so at age 14 I was the model for her. She is two years older and basically learned on me. I actually experienced first hand hairdressing through her and it got into my blood into my bones. By the time I was 16 I knew what I wanted to do. So I’ve had quite a long time in hair dressing really. (laughs)
I went to same college as her and then went to work in London and had to retrain again as you do when you go to work in a London salon. And I worked my way up the salons.
Your sister must have been good because that could have gone south quickly!
Yeah, totally! I think a lot of it actually having an older sister talk to you. That was part of the appeal. It was a fantastic thing to be able to do. (laughs)
It wasn’t about just doing the hair. It made me very fascinated by how personal hair is. It can make you feel great, it can make you feel terrible, it became an important subject matter for me. I never looked down on it or thought hairdressing was a drop out thing to do. I was very proud and still am I of what I do. I love what I do and do hair all the time. I’m always doing clients and am always getting prepared for editorial, campaigns, or shows. It doesn’t stop for me and hasn’t for 28 years now.
Your passion and experience shows. How did you transition from salon work to editorial and ad campaigns?
It took a really, really, really long time. I always knew I wanted to work in magazines. My father had a retouching agency and we were always surrounded by magazines. But I never knew how to get into it so it took me a really long time.
It was only about 10 years ago that I got an opportunity to assist backstage on a London Fashion Week show. And from assisting one artist, I then was asked to assist another artist. Then an artist asked me to stay on his team and I stayed with him exclusively for 2 and a half years and when his first assistant left and moved on to do his own thing I took over. So I worked with him for four years and then I met the team at Streeters and went off on my own and have been working with them ever since.
So it’s been a pretty long journey. I always thought you had to know everything to be able to be involved with magazines. It never occurred to me in any of those early years that you could learn the craft on set and could work out how to do things. It was such a huge and distant universe to me that I assumed you had to be able to do everything before you tried to do it on set.
So I operated as if I needed to learn everything and still am really. I never stop learning and am always pushing myself and always working out new ways to get unique hair. It’s a hybrid of mixing two things together to create something that is new while trying to create a look that is modern. Obviously working in fashion you want to bring something that hasn’t been done before if that is at all possible.
To do that it takes merging and it takes that emotional obsession with the research and the rest of the team. Understanding and thinking of characters, watching all the shows, seeing collections, seeing what fashion is doing and what message it is trying to put out and trying to create little stories around that through the hair. I really love it and I love doing the editorial and advertising.
Can you share with us how important research is for you and how you do it?
Crazy important but we’re very lucky now because we’ve got the Internet so we have access to everything and anything. If you’ve got one thread you can bounce off of, you can find everything. Working 15 years ago you couldn’t find anything, now everything is accessible.
For editorial and campaigns I really spend a lot of time researching. It starts with a conversation with the stylist to find out what the story or concept is and then I research models. Also I take a look at the photographers work to see what type of hair they like or the kind of woman they like.
Then I spend time trying to mix two worlds together to try to create something new these kind of hybrid characters. The models are these blank canvases where you are guaranteed you’ve got an incredibly beautiful girl and whatever you do with her you are going to elevate her.
With regards to researching celebrities I look to see how their image is portrayed. I look at their films, music videos, red carpet events, press junkets, editorial and advertising. You’ll see certain details repeat in that celebrity’s look and what key features they like. Of course it’s their business to be looking their best and know how to look their best so I always take those features into account and build a mood board around those features. So if I want to propose a different idea they can see those things that they are consistent in and recognize that I see the good parts in them and then trust you to try new things.
I’m a huge film fan and have been since I was young so I’ve a massive collection and have a very good memory for things. It’s a good jump point. This helps as I really enjoy doing mood boards and little stories so I’m always putting things together and quick about it.
Hair can make or break a photo, what is the best way to approach that process and partner with you?
I like to try to understand as much about the shoot as I can. It’s smart as you are with a hair and make-up squad and a lot has been decided before you get on set with the art directors, photographer and stylist so it’s best to come prepared. And people always have a hair reference as a jump point as so much thought and consideration is put into shoots these days beforehand. Plus I know that shoot has a purpose. It’s a business and you are working as a team. My job is about becoming part of that team and making it work on that day. Not to say that it always works and you have to adjust on set.
With hair you are communicating visually and I’m very quick and can throw something up in 10 minutes with the actual girl herself. Plus I’ve got my mood boards and research as well.
I do think you can have those real hair moments but for me it is more letting it evolve and develop as it takes time. You need to see a few pictures.
Love the prep work and sure it pays off. We knew you did runway but didn’t know it was such a strong part of your roots. Is that process any different?
For runway you get that time with the designers themselves so you are doing your hair set before the day of the show. You have the designer and the collection there to talk through the rail, to feel the textures, you can see the colors, and see how the colors make you feel, and how it all comes together. The designer can share the statement they are trying to make from the silhouette to shape. With the designer they’re talking about their inspiration and what the collection means to them it’s becomes so personal and so amazing and that is what you are feeding off of.
It’s different than editorial as that’s a different story pulled together by a stylist were with a designer you are testing out different things and different looks. It’s really great as that gives you confidence when you come to shoots and you come across these pieces on the set because you know what works with those clothes.
Shows are just an amazing adrenaline, that’s why I love the shows. Having all the girls, having all the team, and having all the people is really high pressure but I think that is when I work my best. I like being under high pressure. My agent always says to me that I work well under high pressure and I think that’s something that shows bring out a lot more.
Big difference between a shoot with one head of hair!
Yeah! (laughs) Two hands and twenty girls and you want to finish them all, you want to get in there and you want to do it! Your hands are working and moving in a completely different way. And doing all of it is the icing on the cake.
Let’s talk Oscar! Footballer Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior that is and your work on that Calvin Klein ad, how did that come about?
That was a fantastic opportunity. It turned out to be an amazing day, sunny and beautiful. And of course it was very close to the World Cup time so that was exciting. And I’ve known the Calvin Klein ladies for a while now and it always exciting to work on advertising.
So what’s ahead and what excites you?
I just got my American visa and am looking forward to spending a lot more time working in New York. I really love the energy there and excited to be a part of it. London is amazing but almost a village in comparison to New York. Just having that experience of working on the New York set and working with the crews is something I’m excited about at the moment.
We’re excited for you and look forward to seeing your work from the Big Apple.
Awwww, thank you. Me too!
Tina Outen is represented by:
Streeters London | Charlotte Alexa
53-55 Scrutton Street, London EC2A 4PJ
Tel | +44 20 7253 3949