LONDON — When Sam McKnight was developing the first samples for his eponymous line of hair products, he used Charlotte Tilbury and Kate Moss to test if he was on the right track with his vision for easy-to-use, scented and light products.
“When the first samples arrived, they came in white unbranded bottles. Without saying anything, I just spritzed some of the product in the air during a shoot I was doing with Charlotte at Kate’s house,” said McKnight. “They both started asking where that smell is coming from and how much they liked it, so I thought if those two approve, I’m onto something.”
The result, a collection of four styling products, launched at Liberty London on Wednesday, to equally positive reviews.
The project has been a long time coming for McKnight, one of the most trusted collaborators of designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Dries van Noten, among others: “I spent many years helping other people develop products, adapting those products and promoting them, so I’ve always been thinking that I need to do my own and create something that relates to the work I’ve been doing backstage over the last 40 years.”
Even though the products are a response to the needs and requests McKnight has been getting when creating looks for the catwalk or for magazine editorials, his focus was to create products that are easy to use and will enable women to create different hairstyles on their own.
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“This is to enable people to do their own hair. I love it when hair looks effortless, like you just did it yourself. It’s about handing over the power by supplying women with the right tools and information,” said the hairstylist, adding that the first drop of products address needs that he had been wanting to fulfill for years and aim to enable women to recreate a series of cool, contemporary looks.
They include the “Lazy Girl,” an almost invisible dry shampoo that also adds weight to the hair; the “Cool Girl,” a texturising spray that creates the highly-requested undone, textured style Kate Moss is known for; the “Modern Hairspray,” a multitasking hair spray that can be used when curling, straightening or adding volume to the hair, and the “Easy-Up Do” a spray that aims to help customers add texture and use less pins when creating up-dos.
McKnight explained that he named each product after the look or function it corresponds to and put a lot of emphasis on creating light products that can be easily layered and have an appealing scent. For the scents he worked alongside perfumer Lyn Harris, who picked different flowers from his garden to develop woody, understated scents for each product.
“We developed light, easy formulas that won’t weigh down the hair. You can brush them out or build them up,” added McKnight.
Prices range from 19 pounds, or $24, to 25 pounds, or $32.
The packaging was another focus for the hairstylist who aimed to create a more fashion-forward, glamorous aesthetic to his packaging. The cans come in playful pastel pink or light blue shades and the packaging features a sleek logo and in some cases playful illustrations; to highlight the functions of the “easy up-do” the packaging features illustrations of hair pins for instance.
“I’m after the glamorous style that has kind of gone out of our business, I feel that packaging in the hair business has gotten a little flat. When you look on the shelves, there’s nothing interesting in terms of color, while the packaging and look of makeup brands has really escalated. That’s why I wanted to do something that looks incredibly chic for a start and has a strong point of view,” said McKnight. “There’s more to come and some of the packaging for the upcoming products might come as a surprise.”
McKnight added that he was drawn to Liberty London to launch his debut products for its well-curated beauty space. “There’s nothing quite like it and it has great heritage, like myself,” he added.
As the line expands, he aims to also grow his retail network, although he declined to give any details. Among his immediate plans is the launch of a new web site, which will be used as a platform to showcase how to use the products and share styling tips through video content.
“What I like to do is to get women do their own hair on the web site. There will be videos of me and my team doing it, too, but I also want to get them doing it own their own because this hasn’t been addressed that well. Yes, you can get the typical Instagram hair styles but I want to add a more fashion-focused perspective,” he added.
The launch comes a few months after the launch of an exhibition that chronicled McKnight’s work over the years, highlighting famous styles he created from the Chanel braided ponytails during the fall 2014 show to Princess Diana’s effortless short cut.
“What was unexpected about the exhibition was the enthusiasm from the younger generation. It opened up a new audience for us and it was touching and encouraging for me, ahead of our product launch. It’s great to be able to elevate our craft, which doesn’t always get the same exposure and positive attention as the hair industry.”