Graduate Spotlight: (Nikay) Nicole Higgins, Aveda Institute Denver cosmetology graduate
Nicole graduated from AID in 2012 and and left a legacy as the first Inspire Greatness student stylist NAHA nominee. A few short years later she won the 2016 NAHA Men’s Stylist of the Year. She easily recalls working with Brad VanDyke, Inspire Greatness Education Director, Carrie Bellus, then Cosmetology Team Lead, and Heggy Gonzalez, Inspire Greatness Creative Director on her 2011 student NAHA collection. Nicole’s current career focus is editorial hair while also running her own hair studio in Denver, Roots Salon. She’s also the elite ambassador for Balmain Paris.
Nicole strongly encourages students to participate in events and the extras the Inspire Greatness offers, like study abroad, NYFW, London Fashion Week, Beacon, NAHA and Editorial ReMix because, in her words, “it pushes you outside of your comfort zone as a hair stylist and also it shows you all the aspects of the industry you could possibly work in.”
Following Nicole’s win at NAHA, she took a moment to share insights on her experience with editorial styling and life since graduating from AID.
Q: What opportunities have opened up for you since your NAHA nomination as a student to your recent win as a professional?
A: Well, people have just taken me serious as an editorial stylist since I had a beginning portfolio backing me up. Then it all was progression from there.
Part of Nicole’s NAHA collection in which she won for Men’s Hairstylist of the Year 2016
Q: Who are your industry icons/mentors and why?
A: Hmm that’s hard. Ahnco Tran because his Instagram marketing game is insane and he’s a brilliant cutter. Nabil Harlow slays the editorial game for Balmain and isn’t even [egotistical] about it.
Q: How do you relate what you are doing in the salon/behind the chair to the work you create for events, editorial, shows, competitions?
A: Techniques really. Precision and attention to detail is key in or out of the salon.
Q: Recap the “behind the scenes” story for your NAHA win: who was involved? how much time and planning? how did you prepare?
A: I always start with a story board but in honestly, sometimes what you plan doesn’t work. My team and I showed up (Brad VanDyke, Kimmi Ade, and Kevin Alexander) in New York and we set out to shoot two NAHA collections. It was a very cold day in December. It took a lot of wardrobe pulling the day before and just planning the “feel” of the shoot and taking it from there. I knew I wanted a classic feel, and black and white. I was inspired by the architecture in the city and wanted to build strong shapes.
Q: What current projects are you working on?
A: Well I fly to shoot my next NAHA for 2017 in October, along with shooting with KaiZen for our team NAHA at the end of October. I just left NYFW and will be flying with the Balmain team for Men’s Fashion Week in Paris in January. Along with recently shooting for Viktor Luna (project runway winner) this past week and many other projects are on the way as well.
Q: What is your 5 to 10 year plan in this industry?
A: In 5 years I want to be traveling to Paris consistently for education and teaching with Balmain. In 10 years I want to be educating and traveling for editorial with my own line of tools.
Q: Tips for our students?
A: Do your work for you and everything else will fall into place.
Nicole will be presenting an Editorial & Runway Style Master Series at Aveda Institute Denver on November 1 & 2, 2016.
ABOUT THE MASTER SERIES >>> In this presentation, the stylist will work with our Kaizen stylist, nikay (Nicole Higgins) building vision boards to find inspiration. The stylist will learn how to style editorial hair for the camera; replicating looks from magazines, commercials, and the fashion world. In addition to editorial styling, the stylist will translate styles from the runway, learning to set and follow trends such as a true wet look, styling the perfect pony tail, and braiding. This will be one featured live model showing how to transfer from a street look to a runway ready look in minutes.
ABOUT NIKAY HIGGINS >>> Nicole’s path to hairstyling wasn’t conventional. As someone who thought cosmetology school was settling, she set her sights on fashion design. She apprenticed and designed for upscale shops in Los Angeles, eventually moving to Colorado to strike out on her own. In Colorado, Nicole quickly became immersed in editorial hairstyling and runway styling, but added another unconventional twist to her career. She decided she wanted to give back to the industry by educating future hairstylists, and began teaching at the Aveda Institute in Denver. Nicole can point to a particular moment when it became clear to her that her true passion was for handson education. She was nominated for the North American Hairstyle Awards (NAHA), published in multiple international magazines for men’s grooming and high couture styling, and helped her student stylist also be nominated for NAHA—all in the same year. But the greatest highlight was the mentorship she was able to provide. That experience pushed Nicole to want to enhance this craft by improving the future for every stylist willing to learn. These days, when Nicole is not in the salon, she’s either traveling for photo shoots, on set locally, or helping educate the younger generation of hairstylists. Nicole was also a naha student stylist nominee while she attended Aveda institute Denver.