In a literal sense, Adam Garland is not very far from home at all. Having grown up in a small seaside town on the Somerset coast, today he lives and works in London, a mere two-hour train ride away. Figuratively speaking, the session stylist is a long way from home indeed. He grew up not really knowing much about the hairdressing, beauty or fashion industries. However, there must have been something in the air in Weston-super-Mare, as young Adam got his first job in a salon in his hometown at 14. Not only does he still have a passion for hairstyling at 35, but his sister is a hairdresser too. According to Adam, he loves his job “too much sometimes”, but 20-odd years of beautifying hair have yielded an impressive portfolio. His editorial work has been featured in the pages of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel and Vogue – to name but a few. Models and celebrities styled by the British session stylist have walked catwalks and red carpets around the globe. In our interview, he explains why he has joined the Authentic Beauty Movement, what inspires him and why the Authentic Beauty Concept Memento is important to him personally.
Real Expert Talks: Session stylist Adam Garland
The British stylist talks mindfulness, pure beauty, “no filter” attitude and authentic hair
Authentic Beauty Concept: What inspires you professionally?
Adam Garland: We were walking to lunch yesterday and I spotted this statue in a shop that had some great sculpting on the hair. It caught my eye and I had to stop to take a picture. So I can be inspired anywhere, at any point. It’s all about keeping your mind open. From a professional point of view, people that have inspired me and continue to inspire me would be people like one of my main mentors, make-up artist Lan Grealis. These people have been key in guiding me, supporting me through my career. They have seen me for who I am and supported me in a very authentic way.
What is pure beauty to you?
It might sound a bit cheesy, but happiness is beautiful. Living life, enjoying the day, seeing the positive side. I think it’s really important in this industry to be able to stay grounded, to be aware of mental health and of mindfulness. I like to surround myself with that kind of energy and those kinds of people.
How do you find pure beauty in your work?
I always want to make a woman feel and look beautiful, that’s the most important thing. I also like to work with what we’ve got and not overcomplicate things. On set, that means having the confidence to say, “We don’t need to change much. That woman looks fantastic. Let’s just add a little bit here and a little bit here, but let’s not destroy the beauty she arrived with.”
Does this fit with a “no filter” attitude?
At the moment, we are coming full circle with filters. When I first went on Instagram, I was guilty of spending, like, 15 minutes retouching and filtering. I work for some high-profile celebrities and I am very conscious of how they are responding to the industry at the moment. I find it really refreshing that they are minimising their filters and that they are less obsessed with flawlessness. Everybody is trying to dial things back a little bit.
What does the phrase “Beauty has no rules” mean to you?
I think we can understand how flexible beauty standards have become by looking back to the past, when beauty was more narrowly defined. You can identify a general identity for every decade of the 20th century and we have a whole heritage of references, from the 60s right through to the 90s. Today, we can use all of those variables, but we are more free to express ourselves in our own way. As an artist, I love being inspired by references from the past, combining them and then adding a twist. It’s also exciting for the next generation coming through, to work with a catalogue of references without being restricted by it. When there are no rules, we can take whatever we want to create our own look.
How do you relate to the Authentic Beauty Movement?
The great thing about the idea of a movement is that it's not just about products. To be part of Authentic Beauty Concept is to be part of the movement, too. It’s very empowering for people who want more of a dialogue. Personally, I really like the mindfulness aspect. It’s something that I practice daily, through meditation and positive thinking. I think it’s important, in a world that is focused on the exterior, to become conscious of emotional wellbeing – to think less about the outside and more about the inside. That is truly authentic to me.
What makes the Authentic Beauty Concept Memento so special?
The Memento, as we call our in-salon treatment, goes beyond a hair wash and styling, it’s an experience in itself. The client gets an eye mask and is offered soothing sounds or noise-cancelling earplugs, which is a fantastic way to start the salon experience. What’s even better is how we incorporate that mentality at the end of the experience, too. People can start to get involved at this stage and that can develop into an involvement with the community. It’s going to be really exciting to see where this can go over the next few years.
How would you describe Authentic Beauty Concept hair feel?
It’s been fantastic to work with the products. They allow me to create that undone look which is very much my aesthetic. I’ve worked on building up layers with the products. The hair maintains a fantastic condition, but it’s workable. As a stylist, I need to be able to change things really quickly on the go, so I am really happy with how these products react.
How can people recognise your work as a stylist?
People I work with, my mentors and people that have guided me in my career, have repeatedly told me that I have a touch. That might translate to some baby hair across the face, a ponytail with a little bit of movement, or maybe how I apply a product. I find it really humbling and am very honoured that people notice it. I approach each client individually, I connect with a person and I like to ask questions. Making a person feel comfortable allows me to have as much creative freedom and control as I need and that’s really important.