Prominent fashion hairstylist Sam McKnight, known for his work with celebrities and fashion houses,  has been the focus of the latest Somerset House exhibition. The major arts centre invited London College of Fashion media students to explore the exhibition and a content creation workshop, which resulted in a Somerset House social media take over by the students. We explore the results.

Illustration by Holly Farmer for #HairbySamMcKnight.

The students first explored McKnight’s work and the instrumental role he has played in creating some of the most iconic images in modern popular culture. He previously worked with Princess Diana, Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album cover and Tilda Swinton channelling David Bowie, alongside working on fashion shows from everyone to Vivienne Westwood to Chanel to LCF alumnus Ryan Lo.

The students used material showcased at the exhibition to create content for the takeover. During the workshop, students were taught tips for creating engaging content for social media over different media formats. There were students from both undergraduate and postgraduate media courses. The full list included Creative Direction for FashionFashion PhotographyHair and Makeup for FashionFashion IllustrationFashion JournalismFashion Public Relations and Communication and MA Fashion Media Practice and Criticism, Illustration course leader Sue Dray was also present. 

#HairbySamMcKnight x @lcflondon_ #InstaTakeover – Ningyue Hao

A post shared by Somerset House (@somersethouselondon) on

McKnight’s work traces a vast array of movements and hairstyles, from nostalgic to androgynous, romantic to sexy, red to platinum, cataloging the transformative nature of hair within the image. The students also explored some of his countless fashion editorial shoots (including over 190 Vogue covers), advertising campaigns and catwalk shows with supermodels Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell.

Clara Searle, BA (Hons) Fashion Illustration student at LCF spoke to us following the workshop.

The images I made were photos of some of the dressed mannequins from the collection. Although I’m a Fashion Illustration student, I’ve also started exploring photography for my FMP. I’ve found that I like working with relatively simple images that focus strongly on composition. I liked how the mannequins allowed me to work with angles and the lighting of the rooms. I took the photos with my iPhone 7 on the camera app and then added a filter using VSCO. After that, I adjust elements such as contrast, saturation, and warmth (still on VSCO). This is how I usually create content for social media.

It was really interesting learning all about the apps and different approaches that Nova takes when it comes to content creation – social media is so important in the art and fashion industry now so it’s great to have had the opportunity to explore it more. It was also good that she recommended different apps to different people and focused on our individual ways of working rather than just giving generic advice. I was really happy to see my work on Somerset House’s Instagram, especially as it was the first image they reposted. It was great seeing so many people like my photo – and then LCF’s Instagram also shared it and that was a nice surprise! It’s very encouraging for me to see my work being appreciated by so many people!

A display of mannequins at the ‘Hair by Sam McKnight’ exhibition at Somerset House highlights his work for Chanel. Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid.

Abigail Butler, BA (Hons) Creative Direction for Fashion student also spoke to us about having the opportunity to collaborate with Somerset House and Nova. She said:

During the workshop, we learned about the curation of Instagram for promoting an exhibition, and the different angles that could be taken to represent this. I discussed ideas with my peers, and experimented with short animations, considering ways we could incorporate text and images to best communicate our ideas. My featured work focused on an unexpected area of the exhibition – the Chanel section of ‘Hair by Sam McKnight’, resonated with my own aesthetic so I took an image to capture this unanticipated detail from the space.

Throughout the workshop, I was able to explore the exhibition to capture different elements which I found most interesting. Some areas, particularly those featuring movement, warranted moving image techniques. For this, I used simple app techniques such as Boomerang, as well as Photoshop animations. My final image was more a consideration of aesthetic curation, so was simply a case of photographing the desired detail and using Instagram edits to create the effect I wanted. Working with Nova was very insightful in relation to the process of working to a brief for an arts organisation such as Somerset House. Before this, I was unaware of some of the restrictions faced in terms of image manipulation for social media when promoting photographic material. It was also great to find out some of the methods Nova uses in her own creation of content for social media!


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