How to Get Runway-Worthy Hair

Ning Chao signs up for backstage beauty school at NY fashion week and learns how to do the best hair trends at home.

By Ning Chao

September 2, 2008 4:00 PM
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runway hairstyle trends
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

MAKING WAVES
Backstage at DKNY, Bumble and Bumble's Jimmy Paul describes the look as "a cool girl with soft, romantic waves, very Charlotte Gainsbourg." Perfect. This is the hair I've always wanted: polished but touchable, like those Breck Girl ads. First, Paul asks me to soak the models' manes from root to tip with a thickening spray. After blow-drying, he hands me a curling iron. He's trusting me with hot tools? Fake it till you make it, right?
"We want the hair flat on the top and wavy on the bottom," explains Paul, who also teaches me to open and close the clamp every few seconds so the hair doesn't get too hot. In total, it takes only eight seconds until the hair's set, but it feels like an eternity to my already sore arms. After each ringlet is released from the iron, I'm instructed to pin up the curl so it will cool but retain its shape. Then I brush out the curls, rub styling cream on my hands, and finger-comb the ends "to get rid of the Miss-America-pageant waves." A cloud of hairspray all over is the final touch. One girl done ... 50 to go.

Hairstyling Lessons

AT-HOME HOW-TO: THE DKNY WAVE
Style Stopwatch: 45 minutes from start to finish
1. Coat hair with thickening spray and blow-dry.
2. For a Kate Moss-ish bend, curl hair away from the face.
3. After curling, wind hair up into pin curls and let cool.
4. Brush waves. Apply styling cream to ends; set with hairspray.
runway hairstyle trends
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

FOR WAVES, MC RECOMMENDS: 1. Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Defining Creme 2. Matrix Vavoom Shape Maker Shaping Spray 3. Nioxin Thickening Spray
runway hairstyles
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

HOT TOOL GUIDE: WAVES
The Power IQ 1¼-inch Spring Curling Iron has a smaller barrel for more control at home.

Hairstyling Lessons

WAVES on the DKNY runway.

Hairstyling Lessons

WAVES on the runway at Gucci.

Hairstyling Lessons

WAVES on the runway at Diana Von Furstenburg.

Hairstyling Lessons

WAVES on the runway at Chanel.
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

WAVES on the runway at DKNY
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY
"When you wear a hat, you want a style that still looks good when the hat comes off," says T3 stylist Orlando Pita, who created a sleek, half-up, half-down look to complement the dozens of hats at the Carolina Herrera show. A twist on the classic schoolgirl 'do I wore every day in eighth grade (before I discovered the bun), Pita's creation looks more polished, thanks to his expert blow-out. He starts with a thickening spray and reveals that most issues (thinness, dry ends, a tendency to frizz) can be remedied with the right product. The problem is, most women don't use enough. He suggests dividing the hair into quadrants: Create a middle part, then split the two halves from ear to ear so you have four sections so you can really spritz the crown, where you want the most volume. Pita meticulously combs through each section to get rid of tangles, then smooths the strands around a round bristle brush. "Hanging your head upside down and letting the blow-dryer blast your hair gives a rougher finish, like air-drying it," he explains. "If you want a salon finish, you need to use a brush and product to smooth the cuticle." A dab of styling balm on the ends to camouflage split ends, and my model's ready for the runway.
When Pita steps away from our station to check the other stylists' work, model Erin Heatherton comes by and asks me, "Can you put something on this?" She points to a bit of frizz around her hairline. Extremely flattered that she thinks I'm a pro stylist, I instinctively grab the grooming cream (a pea-size dollop rubbed between the fingers) and reassure her that the feathered hat she'll be sporting will cover the flyaways.

Hairstyling Lessons

AT-HOME HOW-TO: THE CAROLINA HERRERA BLOW-OUT
Style Stopwatch: 30 minutes from start to finish
1. Divide hair into sections and spritz on a thickening spray.
2. Blow-dry hair straight with a round bristle brush.
3. Pull back hair from the ears up and secure with a clear elastic.
4. Smooth ends and flyaways with a shine serum or styling balm.
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

FOR A BLOW-OUT, MC RECOMMENDS:
1. T3 360 Plump thickening spray 2. L'Oral Studio Smoothing Cream 3. Fekkai Large Round Brush 4. Garnier Fructis Brilliantine Shine Glistening Drops
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

HOT TOOL GUIDE: BLOW-OUT
The Paul Mitchell Pro Tools Express Ion Blowdryer dries hair fast and causes less damage.

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at Anna Sui.

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at Burberry Prorsum.

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at 3.1 Phillip Lim

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at D&G.

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at Emilio Pucci.

Hairstyling Lessons

BLOWN AWAY on the runway at Oscar De La Renta.
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

INFLATION RATE
Inspired by dandelions and the old lady's giant coif in the Japanese anime classic Spirited Away, Aveda stylist Eugene Souleiman wanted major height for the Thakoon show. He preps the hair with a volumizing tonic and lets it dry, then shows me the trick to back-combing: Hold each section firmly, perpendicular to the scalp. "If you have tension, it's really easy to push hair toward the root and give it a good tease," he says. After the whole head is teased, he asks me to clamp down on the roots with a flatiron and run it through to the ends. It's a technique he's created, which I dub the "Souleiman set," using heat to seal in the height (similar to how hot rollers lock in curls). He walks away to let me continue clamping, and I start to panic that I'm frying the poor model's mane. But it actually takes a lot to burn hair, and applying the product beforehand gives an added layer of protection. Even after we loosen the teasing with a detangling comb, the hair stays up, helped by blow-drying and spritzing with a humidity-blocking hairspray. As fragile as souffls, these coifs can collapse if they're not weatherproofed. "Make the hair big, but give it air. When it moves, it should be delicate and romantic," Souleiman calls out to his army of stylists, while rushing to stop a model from going outside for a smoke (she hasn't yet been properly shellacked).

Hairstyling Lessons

AT-HOME HOW-TO: THE THAKOON UPDO
Style Stopwatch: 1 hour from start to finish
1. Spritz roots with a volumizer and blow-dry hair.
2. Tease hair, and clamp each section with a flatiron to set it.
3. Gently loosen teasing with a detangling comb or nylon brush.
4. Tucking the ends under, pin hair up, then apply hairspray.
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

FOR HIGH VOLUME, MC RECOMMENDS:
1. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Moisture Barrier Firm Hold Hair Spray 2. Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Hair Spray 3. Nexxus Root Extend Volumizing Root Lifter 4. Goody Mosaic detangler and rat-tail comb
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

HOT TOOL GUIDE: VOLUME
The GHD Pink Styler flatiron's narrow plates focus heat where you need it (at the roots).

Hairstyling Lessons

HIGH VOLUME on the runway at Derek Lam.

Hairstyling Lessons

HIGH VOLUME on the runway at Christian Dior.

Hairstyling Lessons

VOLUME on the runway at Thakoon.

Hairstyling Lessons

HIGH VOLUME on the runway at Proenza Schouler.

Hairstyling Lessons

HIGH VOLUME on the runway at Alexander McQueen.

Hairstyling Lessons

HIGH VOLUME on the runway at Vera Wang.
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

UPWARDLY MOBILE
At the Sari Gueron show, I'm relieved to see a style I'm familiar with: the ponytail. In a look he describes as "chic but still street," Ashley Javier, a Clairol Herbal Essences stylist, creates a slicked-back shape using lots of gel. For extra height at the crown, he asks me to wind hair around a two-prong wave iron in a figure eight. This creates undulating bends instead of a traditional curler's ringlets. "Teasing doesn't really work here, because of the stiff gel; you don't want it to look like a dirty rat's nest," Javier explains. And so comes the gel. I rub a squirt into my palms and begin dabbing it onto the model's hair, but Javier says it's not enough. He starts piling on big globs of it, then asks me to work it into the hair. "Gel makes the hair sculptural and graphic. It should be all solid and hard. Crunchy is fine," he assures me. "You just don't want any frizz." I'm nervous when I look down at my hands, which are covered in a combination of goo and model Heather Marks's blonde hair. Then Javier asks me to put in the hair elastic. With my sticky fingers, how can I wrap the elastic around without pulling out even more hair? "She's very gentle, isn't she?" Javier says to Marks with an impish smile as he tightens the elastic himself. Marks doesn't even wince. Turns out putting someone else's hair in a ponytail is the hardest thing I had to do all week.

Hairstyling Lessons

AT-HOME HOW-TO: THE PONYTAIL
Style Stopwatch: 20 minutes from start to finish
1. Wind hair around a two-prong wave iron.
2. Cover hair from root to tip with gel.
3. Pull hair back into a ponytail, with some height at the crown.
4. With a little more gel, slick back sides to prevent flyaways.
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

FOR THE PONYTAIL, MC RECOMMENDS:
1. Clairol Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel 2. L'Oreal Professionnel lasticit Curl Corseting Crme-Gel 3. Scnci No Damage elastics
Jeffrey Westbrook
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Hairstyling Lessons

HOT TOOL GUIDE: PONYTAIL
R Session Nalu Waver's two heated rods create waves, not coils. Wrap hair in a figure eight.

Hairstyling Lessons

PONYTAILS on the runway at Maxmara.

Hairstyling Lessons

PONYTAILS on the runway at Fendi.

Hairstyling Lessons

PONYTAILS on the runway at the Marc by Marc Jacobs show.

Hairstyling Lessons

PONYTAILS on the runway at Versace.
Fabio Pettinari
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Hairstyling Lessons

RUNWAY TO REALITY
After backstage boot camp is over, I'm inspired to try the lessons I learned on my own head. I dabble in some at-home color-correction and buy a curling iron. Now it's time for the big test: I douse my hair in thickening spray, then blow it out in sections with a bristle brush. The result: a smooth and shiny blow-out that lasts for two days. Eureka! I may not have the pro technique, but armed with the right products and hot tools, I'm more than halfway there.
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