You’ve seen his talent for creating killer manespiration with his mane muse Rita Ora, from multicolored mermaid strands to intricate braids adorned with floating pearls, UK-based Chris Appleton has officially moved to LA and he’s not going anywhere. His ability to combine an edgy and innovative aesthetic with timeless, beautiful style, earn him the prestigious title of Mane Master. To learn the secret behind just what makes this conceptual stylist tick, keep scrolling and hear how his attention to detail and laser-sharp focus helped him make his way to the top.
How did you get started in the industry?
I’ve done hair since I was about seven years old, and I was on my first job in the salon when I was 13. I remember on my first day in the salon, watching people do what I did at home, you know on my sister’s dolls or practice trying to do my mum’s hair, or anyone that would let me do their hair basically! I was always so fascinated about how you can transform people with hair. For example, my mum, how I could make her look more glamorous, or how I could make her look cool. I’ve always looked to hair. I’d be sitting on a bus and looking at people’s hair, like the color or the shape and how that projected them as a person. Hair is such a signature piece of you, and I remember knowing, ‘this is what I want to do.’ The environment and that you get to make people look and feel amazing are all things that I love to do!
I always felt like I wanted to do the next thing, moving on, and I had worked through the salon basically. I saw the world of fashion working behind the shows and working with celebrities and how that was kind of a whole different world and way of looking at hair. I loved the challenge of that. I loved feeling free, in a way, because the salon is more routine, whereas when you’re working with models or celebrities or shoots, you never know what you’re gonna do and you have to kind of pull it out of the bag and actually do it.
What was your biggest career challenge and how did you overcome it?
I won a TV program, it was a TV show in London and it was the first one I ever did, called “Hairdresser of the Year.” It was live TV so it was pretty intense. That gave me a platform to shine, for people to see me, but it was only ever a springboard because from that, you’re gonna have to prove yourself in the industry. I was just focused on what I love doing and why I do what I do. The one thing I always try and think of is, ‘what’s the difference between me and the person next to me doing hair?’. So, why is someone going to choose me over the person next to me? What can I do that makes it more personal? What can I do that gives it that finish or that edge? It’s details, really! Small things that make a big difference.
Who is your biggest role model?
I have a huge amount of respect for Guido Palau because of the way he did it. The way he does hair, how he built his relationships with designers, and how he found a feeling to do what he wants to do. Quite often we see Guido do stuff, people don’t always love it straight away, or maybe wear it, or they appreciate it, but are not confident enough to do it. But a year later, or two years later, we see everyone doing it, he’s ahead of his time and I love that. He’s not afraid to take risks and be different. I think that’s the difference between a trendsetter and a follower. I would love for that vibe to be a part of my work.
Do you have a signature look that you are known for?
One of the looks I did on Rita two years ago for Coachella. We did these cornrow braids and then the baby flyway’s, and it literally hit off everywhere. Katy Perry did it in her video, people are still doing it now, and you keep seeing it come around. I like to say my signature work is beautiful, but it’s different, it’s creative. I’m not into just one particular look. I like individuality and creating different looks and I like making a statement, but I always want it to be beautiful. I’m not into being different just for different’s sake, I like it to be relevant.
What was the last major hair makeover that you’ve done?
Everyday really! Recently, I cut all her hair off for the Elle Canada shoot. And that was quite a moment because her hair was long and we’d been doing a lot of long looks. It turned out so well, everyone loved it and it was an empowering moment for her and me. It’s great to be able to do it for the cover of a magazine because it lasts forever. It’s always gonna be there.
What products or tools do you swear by?
What’s your favorite Instagram account to follow?
Rita Hazan is my go-to for hair inspiration, and Guido, and Vogue always to see what’s been posted and what’s going on, it’s so relevant to see what’s going on in shows, fashion, models, they cover so much.
What was the best piece of advice that you’ve received?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams and stay true to yourself. Social media has changed the way we look at life, and when it’s good, it’s great. It makes superstars. But when it’s bad, it can be a bitch, and it can make you feel like shit. On all levels, from being a celebrity, to being a hairdresser or a regular person. Giving people the space to comment and have an opinion, so stay true to what you like. You can’t please everyone, but as long as you love what you do, stay true to who you are.
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago and what advice would you give to new stylists?
Don’t give up. Whether you work in the salon, you work with celebrities, or you work with the catwalk, don’t be afraid to keep fighting and just keep pushing for what you believe in and what your dreams are. They come true. I really believe your focus is where you get results. I think if you really want something and you really focus on it, it comes to you.
What’s next for you?
Just more! I’d like to have my own brand, continue to work with different celebrities, and hopefully keep inspiring people to try new looks. I want to put my stamp on the world of fashion and I want to work on more of the shows, heading up teams. I just moved to LA and living in LA is such great exposure to incredible people.
Follow @chrisappleton1 for more #manespiration.