Chris Appleton’s first client was his mother.
Growing up in England, he’d style her hair up, or down, or with accessories, as she watched TV. Then, he’d tell her to have a look.
“She’d look in the mirror and you’d notice she’d stand differently,” he recalls. “Her shoulders would go back, and for a moment she would forget who she was and see this slightly different character looking at her, or alter ego.”
When he was 13, Appleton was old enough to get a job at a salon. Then, he started working fashion shows in Milan, Paris, London and New York.
“I used to pay for my own flights, pay for my own accommodations. I’d always stay in some terrible little hostel,” he says. “And I would do all of that just to pass hairpins at the Chanel show at 4 a.m. in the morning. I’d have no sleep, but I was always so visual. I’d look around; I was like a sponge absorbing everything.”
His career gained momentum in 2010 after he won on the London TV show “Hairdresser of the Year,” and Rita Ora asked him to style her on a world tour.
Appleton has since moved to Los Angeles, and this year he was presented a Hollywood Beauty Award on stage by Kim Kardashian, who is part of his client roster that also includes Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande.
During his recent trip to South Florida, we caught up with Appleton to find out the season’s hottest trends and what it’s like to work with big names.
How do you handle the all-eyes-on-you pressure of styling high-profile clients?
I think I handle the pressure by doing the work. I put the work in; I put the prep in; I think about it a lot; I spend the time trying to execute the look as best I can; I have plenty of options; and I guess I go above and beyond what’s expected, and that’s how I cope with the pressure. Because I think if you do that you then have the confidence. And people believe in passion, and when you’re dedicated to something. I think that’s infectious.
You work with celebrities who make hair headlines. What’s it like to be constantly cycling in new looks?
Years ago, it used to be one look. In the ’60s it was the bouffant, and in the ’80s it was the mullet and the perm; every year it was a significant hairstyle. Nowadays, every day is a new look, and fashion is the expectation of change; it’s the expectation of shock; it’s the expectation of social media, flicking through, looking for inspiration like, ‘Oh, what’s next, what’s next?’ Girls more than ever want more than one look; they want short hair one minute, long the next; they want to color it. That’s why hair extensions and wigs are popular now.
When working with someone like Kim Kardashian do you come up with the inspiration or does she?
I think it’s always a collaboration for sure, but sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Oh why don’t we do this? I saw this.’ I send Kim pictures all the time, or she’ll send me pictures. She’ll be like, ‘This is cool.’ So there’s always stuff floating around. Although it might not happen at that particular moment, eventually it’ll come around.
What is your favorite celebrity look you’ve done to date?
There’s so many. I mean, glass hair was a great thing that became a big trend, and that started with Kim. I love Miami, that’s when we did the neon green hair; that was so much fun. I loved it when JLo had her 50-inch hair—that was in Miami, actually. I loved Ariana’s cover of British Vogue. It was always kind of a dream of mine when I was little to do the cover of Vogue because that was always like the Bible. So that was one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m actually doing this, this is really happening.’
Tell me about your favorite products.
Probably my favorite product is Color Wow’s Dream Coat because it’s a huge part of the whole glass hair trend. It’s humidity proof, perfect for [South Florida]. Also I love the Color Wow Mineral Powder—it’s a root touch up—because that’s great to cover hairlines, cover root extensions.
What are some hair trends for summer and fall?
Definitely bangs. People are playing a lot with bangs. You’ll see them with bangs one minute and then without the next. A lot of them use clip-on bangs, and they’re really good now. A lot of it is customizing it, so taking it to the salon and getting someone to cut it for you and show you how to put it in.
You won the Lori McCoy-Bell Hairstyling Award a few months ago—congrats! And Kim Kardashian presented you with the award. Tell me about the moment.
It was just so special to have Kim take the time to come and do it. It was so kind of her. She’s a mom, it was a Sunday, she could have been with her kids, but she took the time to give back, and I think that really says so much about her. And for her to present the award meant so much because she’s my hair muse, so it really meant the world for me.