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Beauty’s Creative Pros in the Time of a Pandemic

A look into what some of the world’s top hairstylists and makeup artists have focused on over the last few months.

No more fashion shows or photo shoots. For a few months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, hairstylists and makeup artists found themselves at home full-time. Gone was the frantic pace of their lives often lived out of suitcases and in planes, trains and automobiles zipping from one assignment to the next in rapid succession.

WWD talked with some of the world’s leading professionals about how they’ve led their lives, which creative forces were stirred and some key takeaways from today’s new normal.

Peter Philips, makeup artist

The moment lockdown started, I went to my house in the Belgian countryside to be isolated and close to my family.

In my position as creative director [of makeup] at Dior, I had to do my corporate job next to my creative job. All the meetings I generally sent somebody to represent me at because I was on a shoot or at a show [I attended via Zoom or Teams]. It was a real learning curve.

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Peter Philips
Peter Philips Courtesy of Peter Philips

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I had a lot of creative responsibilities also. There were plenty of shoots that were canceled, for which magazines were looking for alternatives — drawings, face charts, whatever I could bring. I discovered one of my old passions. In my country house…I have tons of magazines which were just piled up. Before I studied fashion design, I did graphic design and one of missions was every week to make at least five collages.

I love making collages. I love collage art. I said maybe I can do something with that old passion for which I haven’t had time for the last 20 years. So I started opening up all those magazines, tearing up interesting pages and making little piles of themes.

[The collages] were always linked to makeup. I take a key word from Christian Dior. I cut and paste with scissors and glue.

This [lockdown] situation for a lot of people was a sort of escape. For me, you also jumped off the carousel. The fashion and beauty world is a carousel that just keeps turning and turning. It was nice to jump off, even though I didn’t stop completely — just to take a distance and rethink everything. It’s been hectic, at the same time calming and intense.

Sam McKnight, hairstylist

I’ve been very lucky that I have a beautiful, big garden [at my house in London], and so I’ve just immersed myself in that.

For the first three months there were no shoots going on. We did a few Zoom shoots, which is interesting but not really satisfying. It was a novelty, was fine, but remote-control shoots…I prefer hands-on.

Meetings on Zoom I absolutely loved. I now don’t see the point of driving an hour across London to go to a meeting [that] can easily be done on Zoom. Or even flying to a different country to have a meeting where [discussions could be] on Zoom. That has been an absolute revelation.

We are trying to move forward with my brand, so we had really interesting Zoom meetings with potential investors, with my team to discuss new products and new colors. All that kind of stuff because I suddenly got into all the colors of my garden and had all these new aspirations. So we’ve been moving those forward.

Sam McKnight
Sam McKnight Courtesy of Sam McKnight
Sam McKnight's garden
Sam McKnight’s garden Courtesy of Sam McKnight

Actually, I was a little worried at first about how [confinement] was going to pan out, because there was no outside stimulation, and I respond well to that. But actually focusing on a very few things and allowing your mind to empty…you’re avoiding distractions and can focus on one thing at a time. That’s been quite a revelation for me. It makes things easier and purer.

I am a sort of glass-half-full person. At the beginning I was like I’m going to look at the opportunity from the crisis. We all have to do that.

Our whole industry isn’t a solitary creative process. It’s always about the collaborations. We all kind of spark off each other, and that, essentially, is what I am missing.

Eugene Souleiman, hairstylist

I’m in a very fortunate situation. I live in the countryside [in East Sussex], we have our own biodynamic garden. We’ve grown pretty much most of our food. I have turned the stable into a…workshop, library, gym and storage facility.

For me, I think [the pandemic] really forced me to slow down, think about what I was doing and begin to appreciate the things I had taken for granted for a very, very long time. Once I started to do that, I began noticing lots of other things that I felt were really beautiful and interesting.

Eugene Souleiman
Eugene Souleiman Courtesy of Eugene Souleiman

I started playing with my children in the garden. We collected branches of trees and things like that. So I became more artistic. I began to see things in a very different light. It kind of grounded me.

I’ve been making hair accessories from trees, branches of trees by keeping the branch. So you saw the evolution of a piece of wood, the whole process just by looking at the piece. They were hairpins, chopsticks — they became branches with leaves on them.

I just began looking at things in a very different way. I’m still trying to make these things. I do a little bit of foraging, and the things I find beautiful I try to make something [out] of. They all end up hair-related…features, stones, loads of things, and I’m really enjoying it.

I [worked on] the film that John [Galliano] and Nick Knight made for the Margiela haute couture collection. I have to say it was amazing. I did a shoot on Zoom with Nick Knight and a makeup artist, and it went really very well.

Obviously, I’m not thankful for this [pandemic] situation, but it’s really given me time to get connected again with myself, and it’s given me a lot of time. It’s really humbled me.

Daniel Martin, makeup artist and Tatcha global director of artistry and education

Daniel Martin
Daniel Martin in his Upper West Side apartment, with new art from Cacho Falcon. Photo courtesy of Daniel Martin

We moved in March, we moved the week we shut everything down. Most of the time during the pandemic was getting to know my apartment, which was really nice.

I was gone every month for two years, and this made me fall in love with New York again, really. We had just moved; it’s been nice to walk around the neighborhood with nobody out.

I’ve been, really, just decorating my apartment. It’s mid-century modern, with a bit of farmhouse. This is my first grown-up apartment, so we have a lot of space. One of the rooms is a home office. I’ve been collecting more local artists, like Cacho Falcon. He’s a Brooklyn artist, and he does a lot of surreal, abstract art.

Last week, I worked with another client doing virtual press days, so I was able to go out and do a bit of makeup, but in the new situation of masks and gloves.

I also started sketching again. Art has always been in my blood, which has been very nice. I had to make do with CVS. For me, I’ve been spending more time exploring things that I’ve always been curious about but not taking the time to pursue.

I’ve started to think about purpose, and what my purpose and contribution is to life. It has made me realize how easily things can go away, and you have to start looking at the bigger picture. All my friends who haven’t been able to work, who don’t have savings, have lost their incomes. It’s made me look at life in a much bigger way, and not so immediately. You just don’t know where things are going to take you.

Inge Grognard, makeup artist

I worked on a fashion campaign for winter 2020 and a new makeup brand — both are still confidential.

In the first weeks I was paralyzed and only busy with the news items worldwide.

Inge Grognard
Inge Grognard Courtesy of Inge Grognard

[Bright spots have been] me-time and getting out of the rat race for a while. There has been time to read, clean and watching movies that were already a long time on my list and being at home and not living out of suitcases. But I would love to restart because I miss working in teams.

Ted Gibson, hairstylist

In March, when all this started happening, we went to our house in Palm Springs. We stayed there until the middle of June, when we could come back here [Los Angeles] and open the salon.

Ted Gibson Nail SalonTe
Ted Gibson at his Los Angeles salon, Starring by Ted Gibson. Photo courtesy of Ted Gibson

I have a morning practice, there are three things: meditation, writing and reading some kind of scripture or self-improvement message. Those things have helped me remain relatively sane. Jason [Backe] and I have been thinking about the community of hairdressers and the beauty community, and we came up with this concept that’s going to be very spectacular. It’s called the Worth Up Foundation.

I love to do hair, so I have a mannequin head I sometimes work on. I’m a creative, the morning is usually my most creative. I work out in the apartment, too.

I am a person who believes everything is for my good, and the things that aren’t, I turn them into that. With the salon being closed, coronavirus has not only inspired me to be creative and do things a little differently, but allowed me to really assess what I want the next five years of this journey to be. Tomorrow, I’m going to fly to Texas for my mom’s 90th birthday. If the salon was open, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

James Pecis, hairstylist

The past few months I have kept very busy with personal projects and taking care of things in my life I’ve neglected and put off. I was randomly in Costa Rica when this all started and decided to stay until it got better. That turn of events has presented new projects and fun challenges.

I found myself doing random crafts with forms of repetition. With the constant newsfeed and the minute-to-minute uncertainty, I think it was hard to be creative for creative’s sake. My energy was being focused on the injustices in the U.S. and the uncertainty of the virus, and not on making something for selfish reasons.

James Pecis
James Pecis Courtesy of James Pecis

When I was being creative, I enjoyed projects with repetition, so that my hands would stay busy and my mind could wander. I had to find a balance of news and awareness, action and clearing my mind during these months.

My bright spot in this troubled time is having the time to be with my family. I have been able to be a father and reflect on my life and the life [that] others deserve. Who do I want to be and who am I going to raise to be a part of making the world a better place?

Erin Parsons, makeup artist

I’ve been at home, in New York’s East Village.

I’m with Maybelline, and I’ve been doing so much for their IGTV, Instagram Live. There are actually some YouTube videos where I am putting some makeup on myself. It’s been bizarre because I’ve always been behind the camera, so for me to now have to put my own face in front of the camera is a little scary.

But I tried to experiment with makeup and started to appreciate putting it on myself again, which I haven’t since I was in my 20s. It made me start to play with characters and looks — things I would never do normally. So that’s been kind of fun.

Erin Parsons
Erin Parsons Courtesy of Erin Parsons

I’m quite sad as shows aren’t going to happen, or things like that, but the bright spot is that I am taking better care of myself, my family, my home and exploring…new outlets of creativity.

I think a lot of people are feeling the same way as me in that maybe they needed a break and we need to reassess things. Like, what do we really need in our lives? Not much. So I think it changed people probably for the better. The quarantine has done a lot of good, but unfortunately there’s been a lot of bad with it, too.

Anthony Turner, hairstylist

I’ve actually really enjoyed doing the few live chats that I’ve done. I did chats with Gary Gill for Beauty Papers, i-D magazine and Creative Head. Basically, just talking about life in fashion, giving advice and reminiscing on good old times. I never thought that I’d even consider doing a live chat, but actually I had fun and the feedback was so great.

I’m good at retreating into my head. I’ve got a very active imagination; it’s a bit wild, and being in lockdown really only gave it momentum. So actually it was really nice to delve into my creative space and to get lost in it. It’s definitely a safe space.


Anthony Turner
Anthony Turner Courtesy of Anthony Turner

I literally didn’t stop drawing. I love art, and I love to draw. And it was so amazing to sit and meditate into my illustrations. They are so personal to me. They are kind of like my babies, so to nurture them and to love them with no interference was really special.

An Anthony Turner illustration

An Anthony Turner illustration

I miss it, actually. I was so calm. That knot in my stomach that regular everyday life gives me went away. I also loved being with my two cats, Arlo and Lulu. I really saw so many other sides to them that I’d not seen before. They are hilarious!

Yene Damtew, hairstylist

Yene Damtew
Hairstylist Yene Damtew Yene Damtew

I’ve been in Virginia. I was on the road when things started to pick up. I’m from Orange County, and I was home with my parents right beforehand. I ended up coming back and have been quarantined ever since, just getting acclimated in my neighborhood in a different way.

As a creative, I’ve leaned into my business coaching program, and trying to connect with my team. We would do weekly calls where we learned new techniques, and I really tried to be creative in restructuring the business model that we had, so virtual consultations, virtual appointments, virtual tutorials.

As a creative entrepreneur, our minds are so active, I really tried to steer away from all the things I could do. I really connected with just spending time with myself, so it was a lot of self-care. I took five-mile walks each day, I started running, I started enjoying the routine of my day-to-day, and not really rushing to do anything.

My salon is two blocks from my house, so I would walk to the salon every day when it was closed. I would sweep, clean and organize by myself. There was something about being in my element. I really focused on perfecting my craft, I played with so many mannequin heads, and I took cotton balls and made a wig. I tried painting, that didn’t really work out.

Lynsey Alexander, makeup artist

I’ve been working mainly from home in London on personal creative up-and-coming projects. A few of my lovely kept clients have been shooting after lockdown, so it’s been great to get back out on set again with my amazing inspiring team.

Lynsey Alexander
Lynsey Alexander Courtesy of Lynsey Alexander

If anything [the pandemic] has made me more excited to get on set and start shooting. My environment is all about being in a team and bouncing off each other creatively, so to not have this for so long has been hard. Everyone is feeling super rested for obvious reasons and ready to take things on again.

Time out to recharge and rethink things creatively has been great for almost everyone in the fashion industry. Having time to reflect on what has been achieved has also been a wonderful thing. It’s amazing how traveling from plane to Eurostar constantly from one continent to another eats up the year. Things have slowed down to a much more manageable pace, which I genuinely think needed to happen.

There is a feeling of positivity and renewed vitality onset and a hunger to work, which is super inspiring.

Jin Soon Choi, nail artist

Jin Soon jinSOON
Jin Soon Choi in her TriBeCa nail salon. Photo courtesy of Jin Soon Choi

We opened the spas this past Saturday.

The pandemic was great for catching up on things postponed, like organizing. For me, lots of organization, cleaning and updating. We redid floors, we renovated a bit more. Just getting ready for reopening. We cleaned up for our technicians and clients. We actually have put up plexiglass dividers for reopening. They were designed very tastefully by my husband, who is an architect.

I went to one person’s house for a home manicure-pedicure. Since most of my clients couldn’t come, they wanted to have tutorials on how to do nail art easily. We tried to give them simple, easy nails. We tried to teach people to do each finger in a different color. We tried to teach and counsel them the easy way to do nail art. I also worked on an upcoming artist collaboration.

All-around, the pandemic, when it comes to nails, people were starting to be into self-nail care. We launched a HyperCare series, each is called HyperRepair, HyperGloss and HyperDry. We tried to encourage people to get into taking care of their nails.

I’ve given my brain a break. Working on photo shoots, I love. Manicures in a salon are a little difficult with lots of things going on, like scheduling. It was nice to actually have somewhat of a break. I made sure to exercise and get a good rest to relax and rejuvenate while I could.