Classic Contemporary NAHA Winner EDWIN FONTANEZby Naomi Monnino
I´ve heard you say that this industry saved your life; how did you decide to go to cosmetology school?
I grew up in the inner-city of Cleveland and when I was a teenage kid, I was a punk rocker and we were all dyeing our hair crazy colors. Everybody always came to me to do theirs and one of my friends said I was so good at it I should do it as a living. I went to my local vocational high school and took cosmetology classes and I really loved it. I thought I could make a living at it and it has elevated my entire life. Coming from the inner-city, I had to prove myself to get where I am.
What do you think is the major difference between training as a hairdresser in America and training overseas?
Personally, I think the difference is that Americans are a lot more structured in the way we approach hairdressing — we´re very rule-oriented in approach and abroad they´re more out-of-the-box hairdressers. It can be good and bad - it´s a fine balance of both. we tend to have more consumer friendly hair in America, although American companies are now pushing the envelope towards more creativity.
What is the significance to you of the North American Hairstyling Awards?
It´s a platform where American hairstylists can show off their craft and celebrate what they do best. I love photography and doing classic, movie-star hair and it´s a platform to be the best that I can be. this competition is just for hairstylists in our own industry to elevate your craft to the next level — it gets stronger and stronger every year and I´m honored by that.
As a first-time entrant and winner, what do you think was the secret to your success?
It was my first time entering and I didn´t expect to win because my entry was so different from everybody else´s: I did dress-work because that´s what I do best. I thought, ‘I´m either going to win or lose.´ I was thrilled to be a part of it!
Your creations this year look so elegant, supple and curvy…movie-star-like. What was the inspiration behind these styles?
I have worked a lot of award shows like the Golden Globes and oscar events and I am always inspired by Hollywood glamour and I just took it to the next level for this shoot. ‘French Boudoir´ was the feeling we focused on in styling, silhouettes and movement and for the photography we did a play on a ‘see no evil/hear no evil´ theme with the model. It´s all a matter of balance, proportion and silhouette. you step back from your work and look at it from a distance. the more you work at it the more you develop your eye for creating a style.
Are the styles all created using the model´s real hair?
on the African American girl and the redhead, I used their natural hair. the Asian girl has a piece in the front and the rest of it was her natural hair. that´s the trick — to make hair look seamless. there should be no transition from the added hair to the real hair.
How is styling for the Contemporary Classics category different from what you really do on a daily basis in the salon and as an Artistic Designer for Matrix?
when it comes to editorial work that I do regularly, it has to be a lot more consumerfriendly. when you´re shooting for nAHA it´s all about pushing the envelope with a distinct edge to it. In my daily work it´s all about knowing the job that you´re working on and knowing what your client needs because every single job is different. But styling for a nAHA is all about me and what I want to show. when I do hair for matrix, I still do special event styles which I love but usually I have to tone it down a bit. I style for all of the matrix photo shoots, educational work, ad campaigns, posters and videos. I still cut hair and service clients in my own salon, salon Cielo in lakewood, o.H., because I love my clients and my craft. they made me who I am and I never want to give that up! It´s all about giving back and keeping yourself in the salon working environment — otherwise you can forget what it means to be a hairstylist and you can´t relate.
Many stylists wonder about photography, creating collections and photographic competitions. How do you learn to style for photography and create collections of your own?
It´s funny how I started — I went to the local dance clubs and approached beautiful women and explained I was trying to break in to the business and I´d love to do their hair for a photo shoot. now you can go online to model mayhem to find aspiring photographers, makeup artists and models that suit your taste and style a lot more easily and professionally. once I found a photographer, I was able to build a portfolio. I definitely recommend searching out professional models because a client or friend will not bring the same level of skill to your shoot. A professional model knows how to show off your work — that´s her job! People think you have to spend so much money on a photo shoot, but when you´re just starting out and testing your skills, approach people who are just starting out like you. do a lot of test shoots and you´re going to get some great shots at minimal cost to build your portfolio. you can get really strong just by testing. Everyone involved has the same goal which is getting great photos to show off their work whether photographer, hairstylist, model or makeup artist — so you´ll all work together to accomplish it.
What´s the story behind how you got started in the photographic aspect of hairstyling?
My very first job was working with vivienne mackinder as her assistant and we were doing a show where Julie Brown from mtv came on the set and I was just thrown into styling her hair — it was my first celebrity and I was so nervous! working with a lot of people, you develop a reputation and many relationships. working with vivienne really opened the doors for me to meet a lot of celebrities and celebrity hairdressers and it all rose from there.
What do you think of the current American economic situation and its effect on hairdressers and salons?
we have to be very respectful in how we approach our clients. It´s important as a stylist, to also reinvent ourselves in the salon and in how to approach different types of marketing. For my salon, I´ve found that co-op advertising, where we get together with a local makeup, spa, boutique or bridal vendor and host a soiree or event and everybody invites and interacts with each other´s clients is a great way to feed off each other´s clientele for a minimal investment — it´s a win-win local situation. doing creative things will help save your business…that and quality work!
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for newcomers to this profession?
open your own doors. set small goals for yourself instead of jumping blindly ahead to huge, difficult goals. set small goals so you can attain them easily. then you can keep upgrading the goals as you achieve them and set new ones. that´s what always worked for me when I was in beauty school. I would focus all my energy on that one small goal and when I achieved it I could cross it off my list! there´s no better feeling than that! I´ve won a NAHA, so now what? now I have to set my eyes on trying again — a new category…I´ve gotten the nAHA bug!