From the time she was a child, Nicole Gary was destined to succeed. She learned the value of discipline and hard work through dance. As a cosmetology student, she surrounded herself with world-class talent-including Luis Alvarez, who mentored her and photographed her first professional collection.
The result? Gary received her cosmetology license and her first major award for NAHA Student Hairstylist of the Year in 2014. One year later, she also received two NAHA nominations for Avant Garde and Newcomer of the Year.
As a young girl, Gary dreamed of dancing on her toes and being a Tony-winning choreographer. Unlike so many childhood fantasies, the ensuing years never dampened her passion for dance. Long on talent and an amazing work ethic, Gary was well on her way to earning her dance degree when the darnedest thing happened: She became a hair model for Aquage.
"I really fell in love with the leadership and teamwork, and what Aquage stood for as a company," says Gary. "I started doing whatever it took for them to keep asking me to come back: organizing models' shoes, schedules and even picking up trash. When I finally worked up the nerve to ask Luis if I could join the company, he nodded thoughtfully and said, 'You know, we're doing a NAHA presentation. Let's chat.'
"I wasn't from the pro-beauty industry and had no idea what he was talking about. All I knew was that I definitely wanted to do it! I had an OMG moment after researching NAHA and realizing that Luis had placed a huge amount of faith in my abilities."
Shortly after graduation, Gary began doing production work for Aquage shows and academies. After several years, she also wrote copy for Aquage educational DVDs. "I gathered the materials and wrote the first drafts," says Gary.
"Afterward, Luis and and I worked together to create the final version. At the time, I didn't realize the amount of education that I was receiving while writing copy: Eric Fisher's theory of haircutting, Ann Bray's backcombing and updo techniques and so many wonderful categories taught by Luis.
After working so closely with him and many of the hair masters who belong to the Aquage team, I fell head-over-heels in love with hair." [Pssst...View Fraktel, Gary's 2015 collection, and learn more about her journey to conceptualize and create her latest stunning work of art.
"If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together."
I've always loved shapes and texture that are highly intricate and delicately detailed," says Nicole Gary. "And, I've been taught that when using a simple technique, repetition is key to bringing your idea to life and giving you the ability to control where the detail and intricacy occurs. With that in mind, I began going through my craft closet to see if anything caught my eye that might inspire me.
"I had previously purchased some wire mesh that I originally tried to use as a base for other hairpieces. I began experimenting with the mesh and after much trial and error, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, 'Why am I trying to cover the metal? I should be using it as a design element!' The next morning I began to weave hair through the tiny holes in the metal mesh. The softness of the hair and the glimmer of the metal paired together beautifully. Each tiny piece of hair I wove through the metal added delicate detail to the design. Each strand had to be visually evaluated before and during the weaving process. Slowly but surely, a shimmering textural pattern emerged that had a futuristic, computer microchip, tech-art feeling. Finally, my NAHA series concept became clear to me.
"After sharing and fi ne-tuning my idea with my photographer and mentor, Luis Alvarez-whose eye for shape, balance and texture is in a class by itself-I honed in and committed to creating a delicately detailed, futuristic series that captured the essence of our technologybased, fast-paced lives. That's when I started feeling like something incredible was happening! After countless hours of tedious repetition, trying different alternatives, evaluating and adapting the designs, the pieces developed into a cohesive series that had the potential to deliver maximum visual arrest.
"Though my vision for NAHA started with creating the hairpieces, the ability to tell a story and evoke emotion with these three images was only fully realized when lighting, photography, wardrobe and makeup completed the collection. During that collaborative process, Luis shared with me an African proverb that put everything into perspective, including my two nominations this year: 'If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.' This philosophy has helped me and the entire Aquage team grow creatively by leaps and bounds. I can't wait to unveil next year's entry!
The creative process begins with a tiny spark - a glimmer of an idea that literally evolves, grows and develops out of the artist's hands. Aquage team artist, Nicole Gary, used Aquage Working Spray to prep each golden strand before weaving it through shimmering metal mesh to create stunning textural patterns. Nicole's creative genius took center stage when she was chosen as a NAHA 2015 finalist.
Hair: Nicole Gary for Aquage
Makeup: Wanda Alvarez
Fashion: Rocky Gathercole
Photo: Luis Alvarez for Aquage