The architect of some of fashion’s most iconic looks shares his digital hotspots.

It is no exaggeration to say that Sam McKnight is one of the most legendary high-fashion hair stylists of all time. His stellar roster of clients spans Kate Moss to Lady Gaga who, creatively coiffed in the McKnight style, have graced knock-out covers of countless glossy magazines. And the most iconic look of all in his star-studded four-decade career? That accolade must, surely, go to Princess Diana’s short, slicked back do in the 1990s, which Patrick Demarchelier then shot for her famous Vogue cover. Unsurprisingly, Sam went on to be Diana’s personal hair stylist for the ensuing seven years.

No wonder then that he is known as the best in the business, the default option for many of his celebrity clients. After all, his well-documented work with the supermodels of the 1990s, from Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington to Naomi Campbell, and his work on some 190 Vogue international covers would, surely, reassure even the most exacting of starlets. Indeed, even Madonna – known for her meticulous approach to each and every one of her many looks ¬– chose him for the cover of her album, Bedtime Stories. Let us not forget, either, all the fashion brands with whom he works again and again, from Tom Ford to Balmain, Burberry to Chanel. Sam McKnight is, in short, a man in dizzying demand.

It all began in the early 1970s, when he moved to London from his native Scotland, cutting his teeth at Molton Brown. By 1977, he had made an indelible impression, for that was the momentous year in which he landed his very first Vogue cover. He never looked back. In the 1980s, life became more thrilling by the minute, as he moved to New York, where he remained at the cutting edge of high fashion editorial, working prolifically alongside uber stylists Liz Tilberis and Lucinda Chambers to create some of the looks that have since gone down in fashion history.

It stands to reason then that he has been garlanded with awards and achievements left right and centre, these days, the sort that usually come with the prefix of ‘lifetime’. As well as a retrospective exhibition at the hallowed Somerset House, there was also the release of his book, Hair by Sam McKnight, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at both the Scottish Fashion Awards and Creative Head Awards.

The genius behind some of the most iconic looks in fashion shares his favourite tweeter (God, no less) and why, surrounded by haute couture as he is, he just cannot get enough of a good sock.

My favourite website...

The National Trust’s website is always inspiring.

My favourite app...

PlantSnap, an app that can identity a plant. Great when I’m travelling and spot something new. Also Instagram. I use Instagram as a curated magazine. It is my space for my interests, work and it’s just a wonderfully creative and inspirational medium.

My favourite blog...

The Business of Fashion is an incredibly important resource for all within the fashion and beauty industry.

My Internet hero...

Janey Godley, the stand-up comedian and writer. She’s brilliant.

My favourite podcast...

Desert Island Discs. It’s a weekly radio broadcast but I catch up with it as a podcast, either in the garden, on a long drive or whilst travelling. It has introduced me to so many people I have found incredibly interesting.

My favourite YouTuber...

None, though I do look at old music videos and TV clips from the 70s and 80s.

My most recent buy online...

Roses from David Austin.

Last book you downloaded or read...

Face It: A Memoir by Debbie Harry. I enjoy a good biography with a great story and Debbie Harry certainly has one.

Favourite tweeter...

God.

Favourite Instagrammer...

@blackjaguarwhitetiger, a foundation that rescues animals born and sold in Mexico.

Favourite tech gadget...

My phone. I can work from anywhere with it. It is also my diary, my source for media and my lifeline to friends and family. It does it all.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...

My Bluetooth speaker. I’m a big music lover, and it’s always on in the background.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown...

The Royal Horticultural Society website for all things gardening and horticulture. I’ve been able to spend even more time in my garden through this time.

Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...

Vogue Italia made its archive free for three months. It’s a treasure trove of beauty and escapism, with every issue from 1964 until now.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...

I do yoga first and then I check the news.

Last thing you binge-watched...

Tiger King. I also caught up on Corrie! Finally.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...

Thunders Love Socks. Rather love a good sock.

Social media allowed me to meet...

Oh, one of the best things about social media is reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in years – people who I worked with over the years, or from back home in Scotland or from when I lived in New York for twenty years.

The best digital advice I've been given...

Have different passwords for everything. Though it’s very frustrating remembering them all!

My screensaver is...

The time.

My pet online hate is...

Bullying and making hateful and hurtful comments from behind a screen. Be kind. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions (such as a time your religiously switch off devices, for example?)

I’m trying to not keep my phone by my bed or use it as my alarm clock. It’s a work-in-progress!

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

For good, but the balance is easily tipped by people.

By Nancy Alsop
July 2020

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