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Maria Kovacs has been a prominent member of the TIGI International Creative Team for over a decade. The London-based hairdresser is heavily involved in the brand’s campaign imagery and education, however it is her position as TIGI’s European Session Director which commands much of her time and creativity. Biannually, Kovacs heads up the TIGI team backstage during Fashion Week, bringing hair to life for designers including Iris van Herpen, Christopher Kane, Mark Fast, Manish Arora and Pam Hogg.

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“It is such a great feeling when you are able to really tap into the story the designer wants to tell” she says. It also enables her to train the TIGI Session Team, young hairdressers taken from TIGI salons across the UK and France, who assist her backstage during show seasons. “This is a great opportunity to connect and inspire young hairdressers, bringing them into that world and opening a tiny door to glimpse fashion shows first hand” she explains. Following each season, Kovacs translates the most prominent trends and techniques into a Session Course, aimed at the aspiring session stylist.

INFRINGE spoke to her about the highs and lows of session styling, and how her start in the world of hair was originally born from a bet.

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Iris van Herpen
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Manish Arora
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Iris van Herpen
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Iris van Herpen

How did you first become involved in hairdressing?
It was a bet! I was studying Japanese with a plan to become a flight attendant, and doing a couple of part-time jobs to pay for the course. My best friends were all hairdressers who worked for a guy who was a competition hairdresser. I started modelling for him and couldn’t believe what it was like! Every model had a number and sat in front of a mirror with hundreds of people watching whilst the judges walked around. When your hair was done – in an incredible style – you had to pose… there was music and bright lights. I couldn’t believe people did this for a living!  A few days later I said to my friends, “what about if I became a hairdresser?” They laughed at me and said I wouldn’t last five minutes, so I bet them 50 bucks I’d get a job in a salon and hold it down for a decent time. I chose a little salon in the suburbs and offered to work for nothing. They were so surprised they gave me the job and I won the bet!

Can you tell us about some of your favourite Fashion Week experiences as TIGI’s European Session Director?
I loved working with Pam Hogg in Paris a few seasons ago. The clothes were fantastic and she really allowed us to be creative with the hair. We’ve also worked with Iris van Herpen over several seasons. The last show was fantastic, it was all based on holograms. She’s an absolute artist, it’s inspiring to work with her. Manish Arora is another stand-out designer. The last show we did for him was influenced by Burning Man and we used amazing braids. I’ve also really enjoyed assisting other session hairdressers, such as Paul Hanlon, with whom I worked on a Versace show a few seasons ago.

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Pam Hogg
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Pam Hogg

What are the most satisfying and challenging aspects of your role?
Fashion shows are both satisfying and challenging. It’s a huge bonus when you have a nice chemistry with a designer and have the opportunity to create something really great and they like it. But designers also change their minds at the last minute, the backstage space can be tight and models late. So, whilst it’s creatively amazing it can also be very stressful.

What are your recent inspirations?
For me, movies have always been a huge inspiration, especially old black and white Hitchcock films, but a current favourite is the science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets that was released earlier this year. I am always inspired by make-up and especially by make-up artist Pat McGrath, who I follow on Instagram. But my forever inspiration is everything Yves St Laurent.

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Iris van Herpen

Current favourite hair trend?
I’m really liking the current trend of going really short. It’s a turning point with a lot of celebrities, when they do a new film, launch a new album or go through a break-up, allowing them to completely change their image and evolve as their hair starts to grow again.

Any hair trends over the years that you’d rather forget?
Permed fringes in the 80s! I had one.

Most memorable experience of your career so far?
My career has taken me to so many otherworldly places and travelling with my team, who are also my close friends, is very special.

What advice would you share with aspiring hair creatives?
Be the first to start and the last to leave. Never give up, wear comfy shoes and don’t miss lunch!

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Iris van Herpen
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Iris van Herpen
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Iris van Herpen
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Zana Bayne
“It is such a great feeling when you are able to really tap into the story the designer wants to tell.”
Maria Kovacs
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Pam Hogg

Interview Alex Mascolo
Images Alex Barron-Hough Website barronhough.com
Special Thanks Maria Kovacs

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