L.A. Stylist Sarah Conner
SARAH CONNER, CELEBRITY STYLIST
It’s a balmy summer day in West Hollywood and I’ve got a brunch date with Sarah Conner. The outing itself is pretty commonplace, as she’s one of my best friends; I’ve known her since 2002. But today, it’s not just our usual stroll down Melrose in search of a cocktail and a snack. I’ll also be interviewing her, and I’ll admit that given our rapport it’s sort of difficult for us to carry on in an official manner. (Well, not difficult, necessarily, but it’s likely amusing to watch—at least we’d like to think so—and it’s certainly amusing to me, listening to our recorded chat.) However, it’s important to me that we do take care of business like the businesspeople we are. Being someone who writes about beauty for a living and having access to someone like Sarah—a star colorist at the posh-yet-completely-chill Neil George salon in Beverly Hills—is awesome. For the past several years, her star in Hollywood’s competitive hair scene has, so to speak, been on the rise. And earlier this year, she took her show on the road, setting up shop at NYC's Pipino salon, thus reaching a significant career milestone: going bicoastal.
I snap a photo of her outside, next to a tree, before she comes in and pulls up a chair at the dining room table. Then, I switch on the voice memo function on my phone, and we’re on the record.
ELIZABETH: Trend-wise, what’s hot in LA right now? What’s over?
SARAH: Well, for so long, everything was all about ombre … that’s fading out now, and to be honest I’m pretty over the trend—for a while there I felt like I was doing ombre to every client all day long! Now, most of my clients who did ombre are coming in wanting the two tones connected. Keep in mind, you can can still get that beachy, kind of tipped-out look with lighter ends and do it so that it looks natural, like it happened in the summer sun as opposed to a salon. Really, in LA, it’s all about getting your color done so that it looks totally believable—like you’re just born with it.
E: Yeah, I’m pretty over the whole ombre look too—but what about the bright colors? Those aren’t natural.
S: Nope, they're not. She laughs at me. See, though, that’s where ombre still looks fresh and new—when the hair fades in to a striking, bright color. In the past, it was chic to have a single panel of hot pink or lime green. Now it’s all about a gradation. I’ve also been doing a lot of muted greys lately. Think Kelly Osborne. I just did a girl with super dark hair, and it faded into purple, then muted purple grey.
E: I feel like the colored ombre look is a blonde thing. How does that work for someone who doesn’t have blonde hair? Like, my red … that would be tough.
S: Yeah, it would be. For red you’d have to be really crazy—maybe a more vibrant red, or even an orange, a forest green or a canary yellow. I love pink—but I agree, that looks best on blondes. For brunettes, I like contrasting colors, like the turquoise-y blue I did on Gela-Nash Taylor. (photo below)
E: Yeah—not sure I could pull off canary yellow.
S: You could start a Ronald McDonald trend.
E: But even if I wanted to, how would you go about doing that?
S: Well, it would be the same process as it is with brunettes—we’d have to bleach out the ends and take them all the way blonde before depositing the bright color on them. For anyone who wants to give this look a try, it’s important to keep in mind that these colors fade quickly. And it's like, a commitment—you should want to rock the look for a little while, and you should also be willing to get the color touched up every few weeks. Otherwise, what's the point of bleaching out your ends in the first place? So you can go back dark?
E: So what about your New York clients? What are they into these days?
S: In New York, it’s a little more about fashion and style than in LA, where I feel like the focus is more on beauty. So the short answer is that almost everyone in LA has color-treated hair, and in NYC women keep their color natural until they have greys to cover. Blondes are a different story altogether. With them ... the 'in' thing is a more contrived look.
E: You'd think the opposite would be true.
S: Yeah. But women in LA come to the salon to get that natural beachy blonde—and everyone in LA knows that beachy blonde so well because it’s everywhere. When you’re talking about blondes in New York, you’ve got that Upper East Side blonde, which is more of a contrived look. Very solid, very one-dimensional.
E: Ah yeah … that socialite blonde is pretty intense. Like Gwyneth Paltrow blonde, right? How do you even get that blonde without getting all brassy?
S: Depends on their natural color. It takes a full-on bleach base if they’re dark to begin with and want Gwyneth blonde. Sometimes it's just balyage. Most of them are double processed blondes, though.
E: You know I change my hair color all the time. You know my boyfriend loves blondes...
S: Oh no.
We both laugh. Besides myself, nobody's more familiar with my ongoing hair color identity crisis than Sarah. Last summer, it took 4 8-hour visits to get rid of my last color, jet black. I'll never do that again.
E: What? Sometimes I wish I could go blonde again! And I guess I could. But I feel like I’d get tired of it after a week or two and I’m afraid of ruining my hair. I should just get a wig, huh?
S: Totally. More people should rock wigs. Half the time when I pull editorial images for my blog, the models are wearing wigs—they can’t just have different colored hair for every single shoot they do! There are some great wigs out there, too—and while they are expensive, they allow you to try fun looks you don’t necessarily want to commit to. You can even color them! You can rock a bob for a day, or maybe something shaggy and rocker-ish … or be a blonde again. But of all the colors I've seen you with ... I like you red.
And I totally believe her.
Want to learn more about Sarah's work? Check out her blog!
Article posted 8/07/2012.