Editorial Hairdresser Extraordinairre: Richard Kavanagh

As a young punk surfer from the north shore of Auckland, New Zealand, the now irrefutable editorial hairdresser tour-de-force Richard Kavanagh had a life changing moment- a haircut and color. As Richard puts it, “After experiencing the delicate, but perfectly predictable balance of chemistry, biology, anatomy, geometry and art that is hairdressing, I was sold.”

Well, it must have been kismet, because after he left high school he started his apprenticeship in Auckland with one of Australasia’s toughest task masters, Susan Douglas. The main thing that Susan taught Robert was to never stop learning, and he hasn’t.

Editorial Hairdresser Richard Kavanagh's 2015 Hair Expo Collection

After his apprenticeship, Richard went to work in an old fashion barbershop, where he learned all about the importance of shapes and working quickly. Working fast is something that he needs to do, averaging between 120-140 editorial shoots a year which translate to over 2000 published images, and working on major fashion shows around the world; Richard is in high demand. Being an editorial hairdresser means you need to think on your feet. There are a lot of obstacles an editorial hairdresser needs to overcome from pleasing a client, photographer, model and magazine editor to sometimes not having the right hair for the job or the best environments to work in. Richard seems to take all this in stride and revels in the fact that he loves using hair as his creative medium. He feels extremely lucky to have a career that fills him with passion, enthusiasm, creativity, fun and people that continue to set new challenges for him after more than two and half decades.

Being diverse, technical and strong is what Richard is known for and that is the common thread to the images he selected for his Hair Expo submission for Session Stylist of the Year. A collection of images that show the diversity and strength of his work, yet still make the models look beautiful. Part of being an editorial hairdresser is being able to forecast trends and translate that to an image that entices us to engage with a brand, inspire us and make us want to connect.

Editorial Hairdresser Richard Kavanagh's 2015 Hair Expo Collection

Richard has won numerous awards and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Guido Palau, who is regarded as one of the most conceptual hair stylists of our time. When asked how he chose just six images from such a large collection of work from the year he responded:

“To pick those six was really tricky. Especially as I can become emotionally attached to work that maybe took a lot to create but may not look like it.”

Tell us about the inspiration for this collection. Where did it come from?

This series of images is a sample of my session styling work from throughout the awards period. Each of the images comes from a different shoot with a different brief for each shoot.

How did you translate this inspiration into the actual looks?

Taking the brief I was given by the different art directors on each job I interpreted their needs and always try to make it exactly what they want and better than they expect.

Editorial Hairdresser Richard Kavanagh's 2015 Hair Expo Collection

How long did it take to take this collection from inspiration to reality?

I do between 120 and 140 shoots a year which culminates in over 2000 images that are published. So picking 6 from those is really tricky. Especially as I can become emotionally attached to work that maybe took a lot to create but may not look like it.

Why did you choose this specific team to work with and these specific models?

As a session stylist the team picks me. I’m the lucky one!

What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome on this shoot?

There are many obstacles to overcome on a shoot day. From the model not having the right hair for the job to the environment (wind, rain, humidity, etc.), client expectations, short prep times and many other unseen challenges. For me, that is part of the joy of my job, problem-solving.

Editorial Hairdresser Richard Kavanagh's 2015 Hair Expo Collection

What one thing about this collection are you most proud of?

I love that I was able to choose six images from my years work that show diversity and make the girls look beautiful.

If you had to describe this collection in only 3 words, what would those be?

Diverse, technical, strong.

Which image is your favorite one from the collection and why?

I think the shot with the braid and the plastic-wrapped head treatment is my favorite. It’s haunting, powerful, sexy, and I love the glitch in the image.

What is your dream editorial shoot and why?

I’ve been lucky in my career to work with some of the biggest names in fashion on shows and editorial. I shot a beauty story this year for Italian Vogue’s beauty supplement (which they didn’t end up publishing) but that was a dream. I’d love to do an Italian Vogue cover story.

Editorial Hairdresser Richard Kavanagh's 2015 Hair Expo Collection

Beyond your obvious creative talents, how else do you express yourself creatively?

I shoot most days so hair is my medium for creative expression. I’m also a martial artist so that is an interesting creative discipline for me.

Do you see a difference in the aesthetic of beauty in the different countries you travel to? And if yes, how so?

There’s definitely a different aesthetic in different countries. It’s hard to pinpoint specifics but the USA tends to be slightly more glam. The UK is a bit stronger, France is more feminine, Australia definitely is more relaxed and outdoors/sporty, and New Zealand can be a bit more grunge. There’s also cultural differences across Asia that influence the beauty aesthetic so it’s definitely unique in each country.

What do you do for fun and to unwind?

I do mixed martial arts, so training is a great way to unwind. I’m enjoying learning jujitsu and I like to surf. Spending time with my kids at the skate park is also a nice way to switch off from work.

 

Photo Credits

SHOT 1

PHOTOGRAPHER – STEVEN CHEE

MODEL – TALISA QUIRK

MAKEUP – JAMES MOLLOY

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH

SHOT 2

PHOTOGRAPHER – STEPHEN WARD

MODEL – ANABELLA BARBER

MAKEUP – RAE MORRIS

WARDROBE – CATERINA SCARDINO

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH

SHOT 3

PHOTOGRAPHER – JUSTIN COOPER

MODEL – HENRIETT BARABAS

MAKEUP – AMANDA REARDON

WARDROBE – CATERINA SCARDINO

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH

SHOT 4

PHOTOGRAPHER – BOWEN ARICO

MODEL – HANNAH ELYSE AND MADDY

MAKEUP – NAOMI MCFADDEN

WARDROBE – MEGHA KAPOOR

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH

SHOT 5

PHOTOGRAPHER – STEVEN CHEE

MODEL – MATHILDA TOLVANEN

MAKEUP – TOBI HENNEY

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH

SHOT 6

PHOTOGRAPHER – JENNI HARE

MODEL – CASSIE LAPTHORNE

MAKEUP – RAE MORRIS

HAIR – RICHARD KAVANAGH