Exquisite photos, impossible hair -- getting models' hair and makeup right for the annual French Festival Fashion Ball is often no more difficult for a hair stylist than working on regular clientele, except this time of year, some of the biggest names in the fashion industry will be watching.
Hair stylists and makeup artists
add French flair to their work
for the upcoming fashion ball
By Nadine Kam
You don't toy with aesthetics when Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix entrust their reputations to you.
At CHOP salon in Restaurant Row, there's electricity in the air as stylists wave crimpers, styling rods, curling irons and blow dryers over Rosella Tomas in trying to duplicate the toussled, moptop runway-ready hair of Chanel models, experimenting before showtime Saturday.
"It's always fun, it's like a reunion," says CHOP co-owner Kihan, who has welcomed the top stylists from other salons into his space for the practice session. "We don't see each other the whole year but we all get together to work on the French Festival. There's no egos because this is not about competition; it's a privilege to be part of it."
The stylists watch the Paris runway videos for the first time, then start to experiment with techniques on three volunteers. After an hour, Tomas' hair is deemed "too crimpy," it shouldn't show the obvious wavy lines of the iron.
There is talk about starting with a perm. The experiments on real hair and wigs -- for long-haired models who must also wear the above-the-shoulder 'do -- will continue until the day of the show, and Kihan, a five-time veteran of the French Fashion Ball, this year dubbed "Technique Moderne," says "It's never right until the day of the show."
As for the makeup, he laughs. The look is supposed to be reminiscent of Coco Chanel, but he says, "I think it looks very '80s with the dark eyebrows and permed hair. Of course the '80s is a real big influence today, like in the '90s it was the '70s.
But in Chanel designer Lagerfeld's hands, '80s style has been updated and tamed by a touch of 1940s glamour and sophistication.
"It's not trashy," Kihan says. "The '80s were so trashy, with Madonna and Boy George!"
THISYEARIS proving to be an easy one for the stylists compared to last year, when hair and makeup looks were extreme, making use of multi-color extensions, cinnamon-roll hair pieces (think Princess Leia), Twiggy-style eyelashes and plastic eyebrows.
In addition to the '80s-meets-'40s look of Chanel (those close to the runway Saturday should note the gold toenails), the Christian Lacroix haute couture segment will feature minimal makeup punctuated by bright red lips as a counterpoint to the heavy ornamentation of the collection that will feature garments that seem pieced together from a grabbag of fabric and texture. A single outfit might have one pant leg in lace, the other in rhinestones, topped by a coat of fur and wool plus sequins. On top of this, models' hair will be covered by lace trimmed hats (think Zorro or TV's "Queen of Hearts" meets "Fargo") of feathers and fur.
At any rate, it promises to be every bit as fantasy driven as the Dior shows. This year, Dior's bad boy designer Galliano will be surprising Honolulu with a 2002 spring prêt-a-porter collection that has never been shown or photographed.
Fashion ball director Dean Christopher, who regularly travels to Europe, has not seen it either, and awaits its last-minute arrival with anticipation and dread.
"The way these garments are put together is so complicated and tricky, it can be difficult to figure out how to put them on. They're not how you see them (presented on stage), they have an entire interior architecture that's so elaborate it's amazing.
"It reflects the experimentation behind what they do," he said. "They know these pieces are not going to sell, but they have a notion, a whim and they have to exercise it. They create a high standard that all other industry designers watch and emulate."
The shows are the triggers for what will be seen on ready-to-wear racks one to two years from now. Doubters need only look at the abundance of see-through and chiffony garments available today, until recently restricted to the runway.
A NEW OPULENCE was surfacing, but after the tragic events of Sept. 11, the direction of fashion has become uncertain. Christopher is sure that fashion will find its footing even in hard times.
"During periods of war, creative people have always gotten together in innovative ways to contribute to society. If you look at the "Théâtre de la Mode" show at the UH, these were miniature vignettes created to satisfy peoples' desires for beauty."
Plans earlier in the year had called for a "high attitude" show with the longest ramp in the festival's history, but now garments will be presented salon style, with 12 models per designer posing in vignettes.
"We didn't think it would be appropriate to be flashy or excessive," Christopher said.
Looking back to the Gulf War and its impact on retailing, he said, "Because we live on an island, it really has an impact on us. It's a very challenging situation we're facing, but that's why we do this festival, to show that beyond beautiful scenery we do have these cultural events that make this an attractive place to visit."
Today>> Cruise 2002 Ready-to-Wear trunk show: Noon to 4 p.m., Chanel Ala Moana, 942-5555.
>> "Les Distinees Sentimentale": Screens at 7:30 p.m., Academy Theater, $5, 532-8700.
>> Cinderella Search: Women may try on Cinderella's slipper, created by Christian Dior. A perfect fit makes you a finalist in a drawing to win two tickets to the Festival Fashion Ball, a Dior gown to wear to the ball and the slippers to keep, 7 to 9 p.m., DFS Galleria Waikiki, 931-2700. Winner announced at 9:15 p.m.
>> French tasting: Chef George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro's will make vichysoisse with wasabi tobiko garnish, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Neiman Marcus.
Tomorrow>> "The Art and Music of France": Tour of French art holdings, 2 to 4 p.m., Honolulu Academy of Arts, $8. Call 532-8726.
>> Cruise 2002 Ready-to-Wear Collection Trunk Show: 5 to 9 p.m., Chanel Waikiki.
>> Fete Du Village: Parisian street fair with food, music, wine, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tapa Bar, Hilton Hawaiian Village, 949-4321.
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $300 to $1,000, to benefit Hawaii Community Foundation's Sept. 11 Fund
Call: 1 (877) THE FEST (843-3378)
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