Editorial hair has a look: a look that says low maintenance (which is not true), easy to do (also not true), “I’m born with this” (only true if you’re Grace Coddington, Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt, Freja Beha, Charlotte Gainsbourg or the Saint Laurent clan), and uncontrived.
Editorial hair, whether it’s long and wavy, a chignon, a braid or ponytail, gives the impression that it was put together by yourself haphazardly, even if it took two hours (and it usually does) to create by a stylist.
This “je nais se quoi” quality is one of the reasons why editorial hair has gained traction with the ladies (from celebs to real women). The other – more important – reasons: It makes every woman look like an editorial model, makes her look younger (or more youthful), and every outfit she wears more modern.
That’s why the likes of Kim Lim, daughter of Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, Stephanie Er, stylish girl at large, and Phoebe Leong, owner of multi-label store Tribeca, are seeing Miki Gao, Kim Robinson’s “editorial specialist”. You want a young, modern “natural” look? Gao is your girl.
Like most 24-year-olds now, Gao has an Instagram account (@mikigao). She has over 4,000 followers, and it’s not because she posts food pictures. Her admirers follow her because of the hairstyles she creates for her loyal clients.
Most of Gao’s inspirations (and rising popularity) for hairstyling come from Instagram. “It’s like a magazine to me and I am addicted to it. I look at it every day for inspiration for hair, makeup, and dressing,” she says. “I usually browse random feeds and screenshot styles I like, and I’ll also show Kim styles that I think are cool and fashionable.” Then, she road-tests them on herself. “I’ll keep trying to perfect them till they’re good enough for my clients.”
There are the one-sided braids, corn-like rolls, Freja Beha waves, French rolls – all done, well, in an editorial way. But unlike editorial, which generally serves as aspiration and inspiration, Gao’s “editorial” takes have to pass the functional test for the obvious reason that most of her clients only want to look like models; the styles she creates for them have to stand up to real life, and its idiosyncrasies like humidity.
Sporting the “young and edgy” look that’s favoured by many fashion insiders now – shoulder-length, bleached platinum blonde hair, a leather vest and leather pants during our shoot – Gao says: “The time spent on trying to achieve a natural wave affects the final outcome: If hair is curled too much, it will not look natural.”
Hair texture also affects the result. “Curly hair takes longer to style, so does dry and frizzy hair with rebonded ends. Singapore’s weather also poses a problem as humidity makes our hair frizzy, hence it can’t hold its shape.”
“Miki is my go-to hairstylist because the styles she gives me last till my next wash,” says regular client Er. “The other salons give me curls that lose their shape the minute I leave the salon. Miki’s doesn’t.”
Gao has built enough rapport with some of her clients that they now send her photos of what they’re wearing ahead of upcoming events, so she has lead time to think of creative ’dos.
“Individuality is vital in this industry,” she says. “I want to make my clients look special and unique in a way that suits their look and style.”
Get Editorial Hair – the Gao way
• She charges from $113 for styling (compared to $68 for a normal blow-dry) as it “requires research and patience, which means time – and time equals money”.
• House calls to style for photo shoots or weddings – around $1,000 for half a day; the full-day rate can go up to $2,710.
• By appointment please – and a month in advance; she’s that in demand.
• First-time clients should come with ideas, tears or pictures, so Gao can better understand what you want.
This article was first published in Female Dec 2014.