Aveda Stylists Dominate NAHA Finalists
Year after year, Aveda artists are represented at the beauty industry’s most prestigious awards—the North American Hairstyling Awards— and bring home awards from multiple categories.
2017 was no exception. 12 of these talented stylists are Aveda artists who were nominated as NAHA finalists.
We chatted with these hairdressers, including the four Student of the Year finalists, about their creative inspiration, the challenges they encountered and the lessons they learned on the road to NAHA.
Category finalist: Master Stylist of the Year
Photographer: Keith Bryce
Wardrobe Stylist: Keith Bryce
Makeup Artist: Nick Marshall
“I have entered NAHA before— my mentor and two-time Hairdresser of the Year winner Allen Ruiz first inspired me to enter. He was a firm believer in the creative and career growth that a competitive shoot like this can have on a person.
“After my first experience in 2012, working with Aveda’s global team on their presentation for the show, I knew I was hooked. I surprised my Aveda mentors with my entry, nomination, and win of two NAHA awards in 2015, and since then I have become addicted to the process of creating a collection with talented and inspiring people.”
“I chose the Masters category because it was an invitation-only category. Once invited, you have two years to enter, and I was on year two, so I didn’t want my chance to go by without taking it.
“I was inspired by architecture and the embroidery of fabric for this collection. It was all about marrying those two concepts, so we focused on strong shapes with a complementary color and texture story. Aveda’s global artistic director, Antoinette Beenders, always tells me that hair is fabric, and I wanted to expand on this concept literally. My photographer and I collaborated on sewing and braid techniques that are showcased in every image of the collection.
“I researched multiple topics like embroidery, machine and hand sewing, and jewelry making. After that it was all trial and error. I tried to translate what I had found in my research into the language of hair styling. If my photographer and I didn’t like the result of a trial, it was back to the drawing board. Keith really expanded my knowledge of the process of creating a look from a fashion designer’s point of view. In the end we both loved the fresh look of hand sewing intricate cornrow patterns on the model’s head, so we built the strongest looks we could with our newfound techniques.”
Lessons from NAHA
“Every single step of the process is a new learning experience. I may have been in familiar territory, but you never leave a shoot without learning something new about yourself.
“This year I learned the beauty of mixed mediums, and the balance that has to be taken into account when non-hair items are added to the hair. There’s a different set of rules when it comes to proportions and placement for non-hair items. They can easily become too distracting, or not enough. Finding the balance here was my learning curve.”
“The beautiful work that the team that I work with continues to produce drove me to enter this year. I wanted to showcase it to a broader audience.”
“‘To care for the world we live in’ is an important part of the Aveda mission statement, and right now the bee population needs our help. This collection of ‘Honeycomb Headpieces’ was designed to look like the honeycomb bees create, to bring attention to the serious issue of how the bees are dying off because of pollution and chemicals in the environment, and the serious impact this will have on the world’s food supply.
“Everything on the planet is connected, and we have to take care of and respect all of it, and right now, the bees urgently need our attention. Avant Garde is usually non-traditional, experimental and innovative, and those are all characteristics that my team and I find particularly intriguing.
“The process started with making mockups of shapes to test how the construction and assembly of the pieces would come together. Once the blueprint was in place, the shapes were cut out of hair paper and assembled. It was a very detailed, labor-intensive process.”
Lessons from NAHA
“Keep working at it. The process is the experience. It’s all about the experience of putting your best work out there to support your journey of creativity. Never stop making beautiful things.”
“I’ve toyed around with the idea of competing within the nail industry before,” Clark says. “And Tangerine owners, Brandon and Janet Hensley, have always encouraged participation in NAHA. So when the Nail Professional of the Year category opened up, they and my coworkers encouraged me to enter.
“I have entered and been a finalist in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I won the honor of being Nail Professional of the Year in 2016.
“I was inspired by the beauty and peaceful nature of koi ponds for this collection. I wanted to incorporate a water element for this look as well. Being able to produce a collection with nail art as the focus is really exciting.
“I spend a lot of time brainstorming before sketching. I sketch a dozen ideas of how I want the final art to look, but when I begin the actual painting and fabrication, it becomes a combination of referencing my sketches and more free flow work. The three sets of nails take a total of about 60 hours of work to finish.”
Lessons from NAHA
“I’ve learned new things each year I’ve participated. “This year I learned so much about styling and shooting a nail-focused collection and have been able to put my fabrication skills and ingenuity to the test.
“Each time we’ve wrapped a shoot, we’ve accomplished something I’m very proud of, and I leave with a few more tricks up my sleeve.”
“I love NAHA because it gives me an opportunity to really work on my craft and always challenges me to better my best,” Gonzalez says. “Each year I enter, I always strive to create something new (for me) and am endlessly inspired by the other artists who enter as well.”
“For this collection, it was all about team work and connecting everyone’s vision into a collection of photos. Editorial is my passion, and for this particular category the collection has to be published. I almost didn’t enter it, but the photographer encouraged me, and I’m so glad he did! It was the first year I have entered the Editorial category.
“I wanted to create styles with texture through braids and accessories. I was really inspired by the wardrobe and makeup at the shoot. I also believe when you work as a team you are able to create amazing images. So find a team of creatives who constantly inspire you.”
“I absolutely love creating images, so to have a platform where I can showcase my work is just a phenomenal experience,” Ervin says. “Last year I entered and won the student category.”
“I chose the Newcomer category because I’m newly licensed and it’s a category designed for artists with under three years’ experience. A lot of research and thought went into this collection. I studied the history of the culture I was referencing, and Derek Ridgers is an amazing photographer who did a lot of work around the time of my reference, so I looked a lot to him for imagery.”
Lessons from NAHA
“I learned to just let go. I tend to get so caught up in my thoughts and ideas that it actually restricted me. The images I love most in this collection are ones I would have never thought of when building it in my head.”
“What drove me to enter NAHA was the challenge—not just against other competitors, but myself. It pushed me to look at things in a new perspective that I was not used to and acquire new skill sets that I was uncomfortable with before.”
“My inspiration was fueled by the contrasting background with the hair colors and various textures. It just seemed to catch my attention and hold on to it.
“Creating my looks and images was a lot more work than I had anticipated. Once I gathered models, brought in a photographer, wardrobe stylist and makeup artist, we were all able to collaborate and be on the same page. When it was time to put everything together, an open model call was held one evening. After carefully selecting the models based upon desired looks, the following two days were dedicated to prepping the models and completing the photo shoot. Seeing everything in the end come together was worth it.”
Lessons from NAHA
“Entering NAHA not only pushed me beyond my creative boundaries, it also taught me to be bold and take risks I never would have been comfortable with before. One of the most important things I learned on this journey is that there are so many positive people in this industry and around me who are encouraging and empowering.”
“Entering NAHA was a way to challenge myself,” Spencer says. “When you’ve been doing hair for so long, routine sets in and you get comfortable. When you get comfortable, you can become uninspired, and it’s easy to take what you have for granted. Entering NAHA seemed like the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit. I’ve always wanted to create my own collection, but I never had the confidence to do so. Pushing myself to be more open with my creativity has really made me fall in love with hair all over again. This is my first time entering NAHA, but certainly not my last.”
“One of my big inspirations for this collection came from the Pantone Color of the Year, ‘Greenery.’ It speaks volumes about our world right now. We live in a time of excess and waste, which has led to pollution, global warming, etc. However, the pushback has led to a movement to be more sustainable.
“I like to think ‘Greenery’ represents that resilience. Working for Aveda, a company that promotes green living, using natural ingredients, and reducing your environmental footprint, has shaped the way I view the world.
“I chose to enter the Haircolor category because while I’m a dualist at the salon, I spend most of my time educating advanced haircolor at the Aveda Institute and Academy in Toronto. Green isn’t a shade we use everyday in the salon, so I was drawn to the challenge of it, and excited to play around with different shades and tones.
Lessons from NAHA
“Much of the process was just turning over the looks in my mind. It’s good to think about something for a while, maybe jot it down, leave it alone, then come back to it in a week with fresh eyes.
“Vision boards were also a big help for inspiration and goal setting. After months of creating those vision boards with my partner Tracy Newton, we came up with our set looks. All of my looks used either wefts or swatches, designed to enhance the model’s base color, with added elements of texture and visual interest. The swatches used in my minty pixie look were colored and crimped. The long wefts were colored using liquid developer and Aveda’s pure pigments to create a tie-dye effect.
“I learned to trust the creative process. It’s never as straightforward as you might imagine. There are days where no ideas come, and days where nothing you do feels quite right. But you keep pushing and working, and eventually you overcome those obstacles. What you set out to make might not be what you end up with, but it’s uniquely yours and all the more wonderful for it. There is no good thing that doesn’t have a good story behind it, and there is no good story without a bit of struggle. It’s all part of the adventure.”
“This is my third year entering and my second nomination,” Skrabanek says. “I see NAHA as an annual challenge to push my creativity and skill to a new level. I was nominated in 2016 for Hairstylist of the Year. It’s such an incredible honor to be here just one year later!”
“I have been greatly inspired by editorial work lately. I was looking to create a collection that highlighted the hair, but could still pass as a beauty shot in a non-industry publication.
“Ultimately, my collection was clean and classic, perfect for the new category, ‘Styling and Finishing.’ I am still a young talent and believe that mastering basic techniques is essential to improving my skills and abilities.”
Lessons from NAHA
“I keep a live mood board on Pinterest, and around the end of the year, I start to study similarities in what is inspiring me at the moment and how I can create a collection around it.
“This year, I decided to do a shoot four weeks before the deadline. The procrastination is essential to my creative process, but maybe I won’t wait as long next year to shoot such an intense project. Also—don’t forget to have fun doing it!”
Aveda Students Wow NAHA Judges
In recent years, students from Aveda Institutes have dominated the Student Hairstylist of the Year category. Attention to detail, creative work and flawless execution have given Aveda students the competitive edge.
This year, four students from Institutes across the country found inspiration everywhere from Greek mythology to Queen Elizabeth I. Learn more about their unique submissions and how they put together their first NAHA submissions.
“I started school at Aveda Institute Denver in August 2016,” Cross says. “The educators and team there had presented NAHA as an option for the students, and I instantly knew this was an event I wanted to attend. Three or four weeks into school, I applied to be the student selected to create images with the mentors. Even though I had never done anything like it, I genuinely believed this was the direction my career was pulling me, so I went for it.”
“My creative inspiration came from a lot of different things. Each new idea led me down a new rabbit hole. However, I have always loved dreads and felt they are a highly under-appreciated hair trend. I wanted to play with texture and show that dreads can be high fashion and editorial.
“My process started with a lot of story boards and a lot of process of elimination. I had many discussions with my mentors all the way up until my last image was taken. I have always been interested in arts and crafts and had a ton of yarn at home. One night I was crocheting, thinking about how much extensions and wigs would cost to dread my models hair and I looked down at my wool, and BAM, I realized that’s a dread waiting to happen.
“I colored the ‘hair’ and presented the idea to my mentors. We all knew this was something new that could set apart my collection and rolled with it. After coloring pounds of wool and attaching it to wig caps and the model heads, my collection was made.”
Lessons from NAHA
“I always tell people the experience and opportunity I have been given is priceless. Something as small as my make-up artist, Brad Van Dyke, telling me to take bracelets and hair bands off my models’ wrists so they don’t leave lines on their skin for the photos sounds so inconsequential, but it’s those details you learn over time that I will carry with me over the course of my career. It’s knowledge like that I value most.
“It’s the little things that will set me apart from my peers. I will always remain humble, and I am grateful for any advice my fellow artists and stylists have to offer.”
“This is my first time entering NAHA,” Stone says. “I wanted to enter because the competition is so creative. I love that you have to brainstorm three different looks and have them tell a story. I believe that’s the beauty of this competition and something I wanted to be a part of—I’m grateful to have the honor of representing my school and myself.”
“I found a lot of my inspiration through artwork. I was drawn to period-specific paintings, and really fell in love with a painting of Queen Elizabeth I. I loved how regal she looks in all of the paintings and wanted to build off that, which is very apparent through my second photograph. While looking at paintings, I also noticed the subjects felt very gloomy, especially if they weren’t from a royal family. I wanted my images to achieve these emotions.
“For my first image I did a color melt, while deepening her base to a Level 3 with pure pigment blue and the ends were melted into enlightener. I wanted the toner to be golden, so I used the Gold Blonde Finisher and added some pure pigment yellow to ensure the color would pop. The haircut was a round graduated style that took a lot of patience and a steady hand.
“For my second image I had to formulate bright copper. I created this with some Intense Base, L O/R and pure pigment orange. Next I curled the hair and styled it into a heart-shaped updo.
“For the last image, I did a hair painting technique, and then toned her to a warm shade. For the style, I had to smooth out the top of the hair while creating some fine curls in a halo shape. Then I picked out the curls to create texture.
“I wanted the first and third images to convey a dull, sad feeling. For the second image, the emphasis was regal and powerful.”
Lessons from NAHA
“Since I was a student during the submissions, I was able to work closely with a mentor—Juli Smith. While working with her, I was able to gain a lot of strength as a stylist, as well as learning new techniques. I was able to come out of this with more confidence in myself as a person, too.”
“I was attending beauty school when I first heard of NAHA. I had a passion for creating bright and dramatic looks, and when I heard about NAHA, I felt it would open doors of opportunity to advance to the career platform I wish to achieve one day.”
“My inspiration was mainly driven from nature and Greek mythology, more specifically the Auria.
“I learned to have a red thread to connect everything, to have a solid theme and inspiration, and to hire good, professional models. I wanted to take advantage of being able to utilize my skills with dramatic looks, so I immediately thought of color melting, combining contrasting colors. But I needed to be able to connect each of these dramatic looks together.
“I thought about the seasons, nature, Greek mythology, and the daughters of the Wind God Anemoi. Each embodied an element, a season, and different colors. While creating the images, I wanted it to convey different elements, like the wind in the hair. That was difficult to achieve—we had to stand with blow dryers and fan cardboard to get some wind in the hair for the image. It took three days to prep the models’ hair and then shoot each look.
Lessons from NAHA
“It’s a lot of work creating three images with a large transformation! The next time I enter I’d give myself even more preparation, because every little detail counts.”
“I was really inspired by the collections from other Aveda Institute students, and wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do something comparable. Additionally, I work in a homeless shelter where I see women challenging themselves every single day and I knew that this would be something I could do to encourage them—we all have to take risks and face challenges, but it can be so rewarding and worth it in the end!”
“As a student, I was really fortunate to be able to enter at all, I’m so glad there’s a student category! I was really inspired by strong women, in particular mythical women from the Celtic tradition. I think that shows in the color story of the collection.
“I’m so grateful for the mentors and creative support I had from the Inspire Greatness family. I had guidance all through the process, and I could not have done it without them!”
Lessons from NAHA
“The list of things I learned is far too long to put into writing, but the biggest takeaways I had were in technical skills as well as the type of professional I want to be. I took back all I learned while finishing school, and I strived to emulate the example set by the Inspire Greatness mentors.”