Kim Kardashian West's Hairstylist Talks Wigs, Roots and Big Hair Coming Back
Chris Appleton is also the man behind Jennifer Lopez's showstopping hair.
Chris Appleton, the British-born, now L.A.-based hairstylist is one of the few sheer geniuses working in Hollywood now to make headlines with nearly every job he does.
Last month he took Kim Kardashian West from brunette to icy platinum to pink and back again. And the high ponytail has been making a resurgence thanks to Appleton working his magic on Jennifer Lopez during the press blitz for her three TV shows and Las Vegas residency.
Wearing his hat as the global artistic director for Color Wow, the Connecticut-based product line specially designed for color-treated hair, Appleton sat down with THR at Andy LeCompte salon in West Hollywood to talk about his famous clients, the latest hair trends to cop for spring and more.
THR: You’re known to be a wig and hair extension master — faking us out with faux lobs on Kim, Shay Mitchell and you put Kris Jenner and her mom Mary Jo in blonde wigs for the latest KKW Beauty ad. What’s your best faux hair resource?
Appleton: The thing with wigs is they’re better than they used to be, for sure. I use Helena Collection in New York quite a lot, as she does great wigs. I always think wigs are good fun to try things out. When we’re talking about a dramatically different cut or color, I always suggest that you try a wig first because it gives a vibe of how it will look and how it a new color will change your skin tone. Or do clip-in bangs if you want to just try them to see how you feel. And clip-in ponytails are great.
I love the high ponytail you’ve been doing on J. Lo recently.
People went crazy for that. That was just lots of volume, full-on glamour. It was very Jenny from the Block. I think there’s a thing about a really good snatch on the face when you get that lift. I call an updo a ‘snatch.’ A woman’s face it so beautiful and the position of a ponytail can really accentuate all those features. I do a lot of ponytails and it can be one of the hardest things to do. You can have so much fun. Go snatch or go home!
Are you inspired by any particular era right now?
At the minute, there are a lot of ‘80s references. We’re doing a lot of texture. Big, sexy, curly hair almost like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, that looks effortless is back in a big way. I feel like we’ve worn sleek hair for so long. I don’t know if women are ready to go all the way, zero to one hundred, and frizzy is quite a lot I think. Sixties influences with half up, half down styles are also very big right now. J Lo’s Met Ball look from last year was a bit ‘60s — very Old Hollywood icon — and her hair for the Guess event [in L.A. on January 31] was inspired by a 1940s Vogue cover that I saw with this pile of curls, all pulled up, that I thought looked so regal and elegant and rich and glamorous like a classic Hollywood star. I had so many people DMing me and sending me their variations of the hair style. Back in the day, I’d carry a suitcase full of fashion books as references, whereas now my iPhone is all I need; it’s full of about 30,000 hair reference pictures.
You created signature braids pierced with gold rings on Rita Ora and Ariana Grande. Any new accessories on your radar?
At the minute, I’m using a lot of ribbons. Even something like a Chanel ribbon from your Christmas present wrapped around the hair can look so chic. Or ribbon wrapped entirely down the ponytail, which I’ve done on Kim, can be a cool look. Sometimes the most inexpensive things are the most effective. And I’m loving headbands right now. The black headband on Kim was so bold and super model-esque, very Naomi Campbell back in the day. It was just a drugstore headband. Fashion doesn’t have to be expensive. Even some pearl pins look really beautiful in a chic, wet look.
What’s new in color—can you talk to Kim’s unique shade of platinum and whether the roots were intentional?
I thought of Kim’s shade as an ice queen; it’s an icy cool blonde, a silvery hue that’s very delicate. For me, it was the new platinum. When we did Kim’s hair blonde, we really loved the roots because they added a nice accent. Roots are huge and I think everyone’s going to be embracing them this summer because they add a different dimension and attitude. We’ve been taught, over time, that you have to have your roots done and roots are bad. But it’s 2018 now and it’s time for change. I think pastel tones of blonde are going to be big this summer: pastel pinks or peach or blue or the ice. The tones are light and iridescent and sparkly, where the hair looks healthy and shiny and glossy. The most important product for anyone with color-treated hair is a shampoo without sulfates and silicones that won’t strip your color; my favorite is Color Wow Color Security Shampoo.
Any other trends you’re into?
With the focus on independent women and women’s rights, I feel like there’s definitely a confidence to cutting hair shorter. Pixie cuts and the lob that everyone was doing has gone into a shorter bob with bangs, very French. People are playing with a lot of bangs at the minute, which is super fun. And blonde, blonde and more blonde!
Is there a rule you have to help a woman get the most flattering shade of blonde?
You’ve got to look at skin tone and eye color. But the one thing a lot of people actually forget is personality type. I think there are three types of women: The woman who tends to whisper, the one who tends to talk and the one who tends to scream. The scream woman likes to set trends, so a platinum blonde is amazing because it’s such a statement color. The talk client would like to follow trends so maybe she has a balayage. And the whisper client would like to keep it as low-key as possible so platinum might not be right for her. And if you do a dramatic change in [hair] color, you have to change your makeup because everything looks different. Makeup tones get softer and brows get slightly lighter with platinum hair because you already have a lot of drama.
Are most of your clients a scream?
I think I’m a scream! Listen I love a brunette. I love all tones. But I think everyone should experience blonde at least once. And anyone blonde should go dark once. It’s good to go to the other side just to try it out.
Any method to how you work with Kim and J. Lo?
It’s always a collaboration of ideas and moods and inspiration. Most of the time, we start with the outfit. As I was talking about personalities before, it’s about ‘Who do you want to be?’ Is it a sexy look or a cold look? Sometimes if the outfit is sexy, we make the hair and makeup more cool so it doesn’t get too glam. Or sometimes we go with the sexy. Hair and makeup is like the brightness on your iPhone: You can bring it up or bring it down to change the whole vibe.
Have you always been interested in hair styling?
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I’d ride with my mom on the bus to work and I was always fascinated by how hair told a story or gave an impression. I remember thinking, ‘She looks quite glamorous, she must have this kind of life.’ Or ‘That woman looks like she doesn’t care about her hair.’ When I was 13, I got a job at Remy Hair Salon in Leicester. Up until then I used to pay my younger sister to let me cut or style her hair. When I styled my mom’s hair, I wanted her to look like a Hollywood star and have a minute of glamour, because she was a mom of five and she worked so hard. I’d do her hair in all these interesting styles and she’d look in the mirror and stand a bit taller. Women act differently when they have great hair.