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Canberra Hairdressers to work on New York Fashion Week

Wendy Johnson

There are big things happening for some of Canberra’s most talented and prolific hairdressers…

Although he doesn’t have his final schedule yet, Craig Rhodes knows he’s going to be flying high when he lands in New York City to work at one of the biggest—and most famous—fashion weeks in the world.

Craig is taking off to The Big Apple this week to work backstage at #NYFW for the third year in a row.

Craig, from Smitten Hairdressing, isn’t the only Canberran to travel thousands of miles to get to New York for Fashion Week. There’s a handful heading over, including stylists and colourists from Axis Hairdressing, Kundalini and 121 Hair (Queanbeyan). For some it’s a repeat visit and for others their very first time. Regardless, they’ll all be buzzing backstage creating perfect hair for an incredible array of fashion designers, and representing Canberra with every bob pin used.


Craig Rhodes backstage at Fashfest 2015. Image: Sparkling Weddings

Craig opened Smitten Hairdressing in Tuggeranong in 2007 and is the Creative Director of Hair for Fashfest. He’s freelancing at NYFW this year, but most of his work will be for Cutler Salon, owned by Melbourne’s Rodney Cutler, one of the biggest collaborators for NYFW, handling around 30 shows.

Today, Cutler has several salons in New York, including in Soho and Midtown. Craig will work on hair for Anna Sui‘s show with hairdresser Garran who has a celebrity following and more than 1000 magazine covers to his credit. Anna Sui takes guests on a creative journey unparalleled in the world of fashion. She has more than 50 boutiques in eight countries and her collection is sold in 300 stores in more than 30 countries.

In addition to these shows, Craig will also work on hair for Fashion Palette for the second time. This Australian fashion agency, established in Sydney in 2009, helps fashion designers expand their businesses through annual runway platforms by connecting them with industry professionals, consumers, media and buyers. This year, Viktoria Novak, a former Canberran who is now hailed as ‘milliner to the stars’, will showcase a collection at Fashion Palette.


Image: Sparkling Weddings

“It’s high end and high pressure working at New York Fashion Week,” says Craig. “Your work has to be immaculate. You have to rely on your skills and ability to work quickly to ensure quality, quality, quality.”

Lexi Bannister, a senior, premier colourist at Axis Hairdressing is also going to NYFW, teaming up with a former Canberran, Janelle Chaplin, who is the creative director for global style and colour company Original Mineral in New York. Janelle, originally from the capital, trained at Axis.

Lexi Bannister_Axis

Lexi Bannister


Lexi will represent Original Mineral for Korean American designer Ji Oh, who is on the NYFW calendar for the first time, and Sandy Liang, a 23-year-old designer who is known for her colourful fur collections.

“I’m counting down the hours and can’t wait to finish packing and get on the plane,” says Lexi, who has been with Axis for four years. “While there I’ll be checking out some other salons, conducting a bit of research, as well as working on fashion shows. It is New York, after all.”

Also working with Janelle will be Sheree Yap, senior stylist at Kundalini Hair, who is already in New York with salon manager Ashlee Darmody (we hear they’ve been whopping it up doing touristy stuff, like visiting Times Square). Sheree will also work backstage on designer Charles Youseff’s show.

Another regional representative heading to the Big Apple is Kathryn Ilijoski, who owns 121 Hair in Queanbeyan, operating for 10 years. This is her first stint at NYFW, although Kathryn is no stranger to major fashion shows. She has participated in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia for six years and has worked with Wella for 17 years, including on major photographic shoots and has been backstage at Fashfest since the inaugural event.


Kathryn Ilijoski

Kathryn is going to NYFW as part of the Haircare Australia team. Haircare is a major importer, manufacturer and distributer of hairdressing supplies, including Cloud Nine, Evo and Moroccan Oil. She’ll not only showcase her own skills in New York, she’ll showcase the work of local fashion designer The Label, with graduate designer Emma O’Rourke having launching a new collection at Fashfest 2015.

“Going to NYFW is one of the boxes I wanted to tick in life and now I can. It’s going to be amazing,” says Kathryn.

Both Craig and Kathryn will work hard and fast every day, all day, at NYFW just as they did at Fashfest. Indeed, Craig says comparing different fashion shows is intriguing.

“In some ways, New York and Sydney are almost easier than Fashfest,” Craig says. “We tend to have four hours to replicate one themed look for one designer in New York and so you concentrate on just that.”

“Fashfest is more ambitious. Backstage, we work on all shows that appear on the catwalk every night, each with their own aesthetic. So it’s like doing nine shows instead of one, with around the same prep time.”


Feature image courtesy of Studio Vita 

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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