On Saturday, October 23, HighBall Halloween 2021 will celebrate costumes and creativity as the show moves to the outdoors stage at EXPRESS LIVE! for 2021. Phía Salon is back with more incredible hair-raising couture designs for the White Castle Costume Couture Fashion Show. Stylist Annah Davis sat down to talk about hair design inspiration, why she keeps coming back to HighBall Halloween, and the upcoming show.

You have been part of the Phía Salon team that creates couture hair designs for the Costume Couture Fashion Show since HighBall Halloween’s inception, and part of the makeup team for almost a decade; what do you love about coming back each year?

Annah: It’s so much fun to collaborate with the designers to elevate the art of the whole collection. Whether it’s a large wig with lights and moving parts, a full face of makeup inspired by the work of Van Gogh or Tim Burton or by Disney films, or a clean slick ponytail with classic beauty makeup, our team loves seeing it all come together onstage.

How do you use your years of experience as a stylist when working with designers to create hair styles and makeup looks that help tell the stories of their HighBall Halloween couture costumes?

Annah: Being there every year, and leading the Phía team for more than half of them, has made working with designers have such great movement and flow. In the meetings I have with the designers, I suggest wigs or hairpieces we can create ahead of time so they can add embellishments. Sometimes, we recommend simplifying the hair or makeup to emphasize an element of a costume. Because it is a stage show and not an editorial shoot, details are generally bigger and bolder so the audience can see them and how they can connect to the story in the costumes.

Where do you find inspiration for couture hair makeup designs?

Annah: A lot of the time, the designers come with a multitude of pictures or sketches and we work from there on hair and makeup inspirations. Sometimes, we scrap everything and collaborate on something new inspired by paintings or buildings or landscapes.

What is your process like when creating couture hair and makeup designs?

Annah: With the pre-built items, there are some experiments that happen where we try things out. Sometimes, really unusual steps need to be taken; we’ve baked wigs in the oven, stuffed them with pillow foam and built around chicken wire. Just like the designers with the couture, we start from a place of knowing what we want to create and make it possible, rather than starting from a place of what we think is possible. Once we have an idea of the looks we’ll be creating, our team of stylists and makeup artists (along with a couple of independents) audition to earn placement on the production team as a lead, support, assistant or pre-build.

What are some of your favorite Costume Couture hair designs you’ve created or helped to create over the years?

Annah: I made a two-foot hair globe with lights and moving parts for Shiree Houf’s take on Van Gogh’s Starry Night, as well as the sheet of paper inspired hair for Ira Tecson and Lauren Primm’s “Book” costume design from 2020, and a gold leaf woodland-inspired makeup look for Vince Quevedo’s “Fortuna” costume in 2019. There have also been looks done by other members of the Phía team that are truly inspiring, including the hair sail for Ira and Lauren’s “Boat,” the marbled makeup and wild pink and purple hair buns for Aaron James’ “Queen” costume, and Pokémon-inspired hair for Que Jones’ costumes.

What can viewers expect to see from you and the Phía Salon team at HighBall Halloween 2021?

Annah: Some looks are sleek and sassy, some are elegant yet scary, and some highly structured creations that would have Victorian royalty jealous, but if you want to see it, you’ll have to get tickets now! We’re excited about the new prize that will be awarded to the costume that best integrates hair and makeup in the final look.

HighBall Halloween 2021 will feature hosts Virginia West and NBC4’s Monica Day and Matt Barnes, as well as performances by local band MojoFlo and Virginia West and The West Family, the Out of the Closet Public Costume Contest, and the White Castle Costume Couture Fashion Show. Tickets are available online.

Photos by Varinia Rodriguez