Work hand-in-hand with the most beautiful brands on the Haute Couture and prêt-à-porter runways, do the hair of supermodels, come up with hairstyles to match a collection that will then go on to inspire women. Becoming a hairstylist for the fashion shows is possible thanks to lots of work, talent and discipline. Fashion hairstylist Delphine Courteille gives FAB her story on how she did it.
Delphine Courteille is 43 years old. She juggles her time from her salon in Paris’s 1st arrondissement (where local women rub elbows with Gisele Bündchen, Sophie Fontanel and Inès de la Fressange) to long hours of working in studio. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Delphine, who is now the lead stylist for fashion shows, wasn’t either!
“As a teenager, I spent my pocket money on fashion magazines and I was fascinated by the world of photographer Sarah Moon, the postcard shops of Les Halles quarter in Paris, and all the punks you’d see there at the time,” Delphine reminisces.
Even before hairdressing, images and photos are what fascinated Delphine in the beginning. “The way of transforming models for a fashion series was appealing to me.” With a diploma in hand, the young hairdresser started working for Jean Saberny. “In his salon on Paris’s Avenue Marceau, you’d see all the celebrity of the time. I was his assistant. He taught me the conventions of luxury and he brought me along to photoshoots abroad for L’Oréal Professionnel. That’s how it all began.”
How To Break Into Fashion
“It isn’t easy,” warns Delphine with wisdom. In the creative world of fashion, in the flurry of luxury and sequins, there seems to be a microcosm that’s impenetrable. “Thanks to a client of Jean Saberny’s, I became the assistant at Charlie En Particulier. She combined studio and salon work. The two of us did the work of 20 people! My first photoshoot with Charlie was actually for Sarah Moon, whom I loved so much. She had confidence in me and I found myself alone doing hair for Vogue UK and a NY Times Alexander McQueen special. In four years, by her side, I really became a studio hairstylist.”
Get Picked Up By An Agency To Send You To The Shows
For an agency to hire a talent (whether in hair, make-up or design) you’ll need to make yourself a portfolio. “I’d created my portfolio gradually as I worked with Charlie En Particulier, and I was hired by the agency On Air. Then it closed and I went to work at The Agency, which was founded by a former employee of Calliste. My work as a hairdresser at fashion shows really started when my agent introduced me to Odile Gilbert, who needed backup during Fashion Week. I was 24 years old, and my first show with Odile and her team was for Chanel Haute Couture. Then, the On Air agency closed, and Odile founded Atelier 68, where I worked for 10 years as a studio hairdresser.”
Know How To Adapt Your Work
“For fashion shows, as with other photoshoots, every studio hairdresser needs assistants. You can’t do all the hair on all the models by yourself. You need to surround yourself with a team.”
“During Fashion Week, it’s important to develop your swiftness while knowing how to keep true to your style. The best thing is to be able to work and learn with lots of A-list hairdressers from the world of fashion.”
She follows: “I was part of the teams of Guido Palau, Luigi Murenu and Valentin, with whom I did the fashion shows of Marithé + François Girbaud, and Didier Malige for a Saint Laurent show by Hédi Slimane. Being able to work with different people is great!”
From Assistant To Lead Stylist
Since Guido Palau and Pat McGrath don’t have an official first assistant, usually a studio hairdresser will have to climb the ranks one-by-one. “When I was at Atelier 68, my very good agent felt that I’d be able to take care of a backstage “cabine” during fashion week. She first appointed me as lead stylist for Anthony Vaccarello, and L’Oréal Professionnel sponsored me. In the beginning, she mostly put me on small shows: five hairstyles for 15 models. I made up my own team with my colleagues from Odile Gilbert, whom I trusted.”
“In The World Of Fashion, You Need To Have A Network”
“Of course, my agent got me lots of work, but also I got to meet lots of stylists at the fashion shows. For example, I did lots of photoshoots for fashion magazines where I often met stylists who, in turn, asked me to do their hair for their shows directly. In fashion, you need to have a network and contacts.”
Today, five hairdressers are working full time at Studio 34, Delphine Courteille’s salon, and her agent manages her studio schedule. As a visionary woman passionate about her work, Delphine has built bridges between her two worlds, and suggests to the women in her salon to be inspired by her studio hairstyles. She says she wants to modernize the average woman on the street.