Behind the scenes at AFWL 2017

Creative director Allan Henry breaks down the looks at the recent African Fashion Week London 2017 shows

Allan Henry – head stylist at African Fashion Week London 2017

How did you get into hairdressing?
God, we’re talking about over 40 years ago. I just fell into it, I was walking past a very reputable salon in Mayfair and there was a sign on the window saying ‘apprentice needed’. I was looking in there and I saw all these glamorous women with fur coats and I thought, you know what, I want to do that. So I just went in there and said, I’ve come in about the job, the guy looked me up and down and said,  “Well, when do you want to start?” and that was it. That was in Toni& Guy.

Where did you get your inspirations from for their hairstyles?
For Africa Fashion Week this year, they gave me a brief to do natural hair. But we did that three years ago. So I thought I can use natural hair but with a twist. So I sent them a storyboard of what I wanted to do and they agreed to it and that was it really.  It was natural hair with a twist.

So what was the twist?
The twist was an accent. So if we just roll the hair in a bun and made an accent, either hair fanned out or the hair curled round or the hair quiffed a little bit.

How would you describe working behind the scenes for an event like Africa Fashion Show?
Exhilarating! It’s quite high powered back there because you’ve got all different people doing lots of different things. Everybody stays in their own lane and its fine.

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What other events have you done?
I’ve done Africa Fashion Week for the past four years. I also work as a European hairdresser so I teach a lot.  I teach and do seminars for Toni&Guy. I work for Sassoon’s every now and then and all their afro companies. I’ve art directed their pictures and things like that.

What else have you got coming up??
I’ve got Africa Fashion Week in Nigeria, also in South Africa. I do New York Fashion Week, which is in a couple of weeks. I don’t think I’m going to do London Fashion Week this year. I’ve been requested to do some shows but I’m trying to concentrate on a new project. I’ve been doing London Fashion Week for 25 years now, so this will be the first London Fashion Week that I’m going to miss.

What looks can we expect for your upcoming events?
I’m not the sort of person who works on a project months and months ahead. As per se, Africa Fashion Week this year and last year – it’s all on the day. When I go in there I look around and I think right this is it, this is what we’re doing.

It’s almost like, for fashion, I can predict what’s coming for the future, and hair-wise, the shapes, the styles. But for fashion shows it’s like I’ve got to do it there and then.

So, basically, with me, I want to see the clothes and I quickly scan what’s going on and then I decide. Africa Fashion Week is two days so it’s a different style for each day. As I said, I don’t want to preconceive what’s going on, I don’t know what’s going to come the next day. I have an idea of the look but the clothes help.

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Could you sum it up in three words what it’s like being a hairstylist?
No! Not just three words, I couldn’t. There are no three words because there are so many words because I’ve been through so many things in my 40+ years. I couldn’t find the words, there would be multiple. I’m an innovator that’s what I am.

Any advice or tips for someone who wants to become a hairstylist?
If a young person wants to get into hairdressing now, you’ve got to be bloody good. You’ve got to know that, that’s what you want to do. Go to a reputable company and go through the motions. Give it six months and you will know. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. But you need to be with a reputable company. You need to be with the right company to get up that ladder, you’re not going to get there otherwise.

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