BEHIND THE ARTIST w/ RICHARD KAVANAGH

// Richard Kavanagh has worked with a long list of celebrity clients including Lorde, Kelly Osbourne, Adrien Brody, Nicole Warne, Black Eyed Peas, Danni Minogue, Kimbra, Banks, Shanina Shaik, Julia Nobis, Robyn Lawley, Elizabeth Debicki, Jessica Gomes, Rebel Wilson, and Delta Goodrem to name a few.

With a resume like this it comes as no surprise he was named Australian Session Stylist of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and a finalist in this year’s Australian Hair Fashion awards held in April.

Behind the Look recently had an exclusive chat with Richard about his work, life and things in-between.

// How did you get your start in the industry?
I wanted to be a scientist when I was at high school. I was also into punk and new wave, and used to colour my hair and change the haircut all the time.

I guess I really got interested in hair because of the science of colour and the geometry of cutting. So I left school to do my apprenticeship when I was 15 and worked in salons until around 2000, in the late nineties I started entering hair competitions and it was while shooting my first major competition shoot the photographer asked if I’d be interested in working on editorials with him.

Our first editorial shoot together was a job in Queenstown, New Zealand and we shot 3 stories and a cover for one of the cool fashion and culture magazines of the time.

When the magazine came out, people started calling to book me on jobs, I guess that was the start but I still feel like I’m at the start trying to get better every day.

// Do you have a signature look or style that you are known for?
I feel like different people know me for different things. I’d say I’m fairly well rounded in most techniques but i’m probably booked most for my ‘no hair’ look, that effortless, just woke up like this feel.

// What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
Well, there have been a few challenges along the way!

One that springs to mind is the first time I shot for Italian Vogue. I got a call from a photographer I work with saying he was shooting for Italian Vogue and he wanted me on the job. The shoot was in New York, and it was about a week before fashion week, so it was good timing. I booked my flight, booked a spot on my mate’s couch in the lower east side and started getting excited.the day before I was about to leave, a huge storm hit the east coast of the USA and shut down the infrastructure, all flights were cancelled.

I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime, so I got the airline to take me to L.A. and i’d work it out from there… an afternoon of scouring the internet for open airports somewhere near NYC got me a ticket to Columbus Ohio. From there it was a 12 hour drive into Manhattan. arriving with only a few hours to spare, and no styling product, I got a little sleep, borrowed a bunch of products i’d never used before and made it in the nick of time for the shoot.

// Must have tool or product for your kit?
I can’t live without my Mason, and my Fatboy Perfect Putty.

// Who are the role models who have inspired you?
I’ve always admired Eugene Souleiman. He has a great career, and maintains a family and is a top bloke. Odile Gilbert is someone whose aesthetic i’ve always admired. Julien D'ys is an amazing hair artist and probably one of the first to open my eyes to the bigger world of hair in fashion. and of course, Guido Palau is the modern day Vidal Sassoon, changing the way we see beauty.

// What's the next big trend you're starting to see sneak in?
I think the big trend at the moment is individuality.

It’s been a theme of the past season at fashion weeks and is a big part of the social vernacular at the moment. Rather than all adhering to a look, women are encouraged to embrace their uniqueness.

// How much creative input do you have when working with a celebrity?
It really depends on the individual. With Kelly Osbourne, I create several hairstyles a day and together we come up with the idea. Sometimes, she knows exactly what she wants, and sometimes, she leaves it up to me. With other celebs, it depends on their attachment to their public image, and in many cases it depends on the magazine we are shooting for. Sometimes we need to keep things more tame and commercial for covers, and other times we need to amp it up.

// Where do you look for inspiration in the work you do?
I’m inspired by the process. By looking at the girl and trying to make her look her best. I’m also inspired by art. That includes the surrealists of the early 1900s, the master painters of the past centuries and their portraiture. as well as photographers that document the underground movements of youth.

// What do you enjoy to do when the brushes are down ?
It’s the old cliche really, i love spending time with my family, my wife and kids. I’m a lifelong martial artist, so I love to get a bit of balance in my life with kickboxing, MMA, and Jiu Jitsu. When you’re blow drying girl's’ hair all day and talking about nail colours and shoes and frocks, it’s a good way to get back to my masculinity!

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Editor

Digital Thump, 1 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, 2000