Nicholas French became the first honoree to earn the Beauty Maker Award (BMA) in platform artistry, awarded by the BE! Entertainment Network on April 15 at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J.
“Platform artists perform and work from a stage, usually in front of beauty [industry] makers, the public, and from a few up to thousands of people at a time,” explained Steven and Annie Casciola, founders and editors of BE! Magazine.
“They have the unique communication and creative skills to excite the public about the salon experience.”
From this description, it is no wonder that Nicholas French merited this honor, singled out as No. 1 from among “so many people traveling the world doing this,” French said.
Inspired by his late father, Freddie French, Nicholas has devised a course of innovative hair styling that triggers the imagination and ignites the fire of creativity.
He said that his father used to tell him, “You have to understand the inside of a person’s head before you understand the outside.” He applies this principle in his work with clients, as well as with hair-styling students and industry colleagues.
Largely, his role is communication—finding out his clients’ diverse personalities and whether they prefer a classic style or something edgier. The same goes for choosing the right hair colors to suit each person.
He also learned never to talk down to anyone, giving colleagues confidence so that they can move forward in the industry. He enjoys sharing the techniques he cultivated while under his father’s wing.
Nicholas currently serves as the artistic director for Matrix USA, a division of L’Oreal, and also as national creative director for SHE by SO.CAP.USA Hair Extensions.
His mission at Matrix is “Awaken, Imagine, Inspire, Connect.” His range as a stylist reflects that motto whether he is doing traditional cutting or styling at runway shows and trade shows—from red-carpet celebrity looks to avant-garde styles, his forte.
His presentations on stage in addressing seminars and motivational speaking have excited audiences worldwide. Perhaps one reason for the enthusiastic responses is his philosophy that “hair plus art equals imagination.” He says in this industry that you have to have heart, and it all begins with the “P’s”: “Passion, perseverance, perfection, and persistence.”
No surprise then that French has been invited to appear a whopping 10 times at the Alternative Hair Show. Now in its 25th season, this show originated in London, appearing at many different venues as well as at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, and has become one of the most spectacular Las Vegas-like shows in the world.
His work as a guest artist has taken him to many glamorous destinations around the globe, including Japan, Australia, Italy, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Thailand, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Croatia.
The French Family Legacy
Nicholas French’s story dates back to his roots—no pun intended.
His father, Freddie French, also known as French of London, opened a small barbershop in London’s East End in 1924. He started his amazing journey in the industry as a lather boy and became one of the most innovative and groundbreaking hairdressers of the last century by creating the key looks that changed the uniform approach to hair at that time.
Freddie French created looks for hundreds of magazines. His press coverage was big in the United Kingdom with over 8,000 features published about him, including coverage in the 1950s Pathé News Films, the only news media of that time.
At his death in 1986, Freddie French left a legacy of 27 salons, many located in department stores, hotels, and cruise liners—a first of this period. He was one of the first to start his own hair product company.
This impressive history originated from a lather boy earning one shilling a week, or approximately 20 cents. And this was just the beginning of the French family story.
After apprenticing with Vidal Sassoon in the 1960s, Nicholas French went on to own and operate several salons in the United Kingdom before relocating to the United States 18 years ago.
“What is the difference between couture in dress design and hair couture?” he asks.
“Designers can buy their fabric. With hair—a person you don’t know shows up, hoping we can do something for them.”
“We help make a difference in people’s lives—that has not been recognized yet,” he emphasizes.
French wishes to give back to the industry in many different ways, using the teaching platform to enable the continuation of his tried-and-true techniques. He feels he has “a responsibility to lead the next generation” and to help them understand the importance of their roles.
His experience spans working in print, video, motion pictures, and session hair.
He has designed runway hair for Emanuel Ungaro, Eres, Luca Luca, Alpana Bawa, Guess Jeans, Levi’s, Dollhouse, Mavi, and Betsey Johnson, and has made numerous television appearances, including an appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
He led the Vavoom Hair Team for the InStyle runway show and created the hair for the 40th Anniversary runway show for the magazine giant “Cosmopolitan.”
In addition to winning many awards, he has been featured in two books on British hairdressing icons called “From Salon to Celebrity” and “50 Hairstylists.”
His work has been as diverse as producing and developing trends to doing film and print work. Some of the directors he has worked with are Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Adrien Lyne, and Terry Bedford.
The list of photographers is no less impressive. Among them are David Bailey, Gilles Bensimon, Cecil Beaton, Lord Litchfield, and Roberto Ligresti.
Among his celebrity and royal clients, to name a few, are Elizabeth Hurley, Dame Judi Dench, Twiggy, Dawn French, Julie Walters, Elkie Brooks, Patsy Kensit, Elaine Paige, Kelly LeBrock, Jerry Hall, Claudia Cardinale, Paul Hogan, Tommy Tune, Bob Hoskins, Hugh Laurie, and Princess Margaret.Nicholas has been married for 28 years to Carole, his right-hand adviser and coordinator of his appointments and world trips. He currently lives in the Hamptons, New York.
As a creative hairdresser in the year 2012—one of the most exciting professions around—Nicholas French stands out as one of a kind.
Author, hairdresser, innovator, Harold Leighton has worked in the beauty industry for decades in Europe, the Far East, and the United States. He is currently creative director and adviser at GKhair. Find him at http://www.hleighton.com/ or contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org