How a Beauty Pro Went from Hair Model to Creative Director


You may recognize the name, or the copper red haired hair whiz from her stage appearances for Aquage. And if you don’t know her yet, you will.

Nicole Fowler first dipped her toes in the hair industry as a hair model. The first gig she booked was with Teri Dougherty when she was at Wella alongside Fabio Sementilli, The Doves and Nick Arrojo. Fowler hit it off with Dougherty and the pair began traveling the world together with Fowler as the choreographer/model manager. That’s when she crossed paths with Luis Alvarez, and everything changed.

Fowler started working with Aquage, Alvarez’s creation, by first sweeping hair onstage at shows, and then graduated to production management and then copywriting scripts for educational DVDs. That’s when she got into the nitty gritty of hairstyling. She caught the bug, and the next stop was beauty school. After learning the ropes at Aquage, she became the brand’s styling director, learning directly from Alvarez and becoming a sort of protégé.


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“He shaped everything I am today,” Fowlers says. “He really strived for perfection. No stone unturned. He treated everything like it was for the Queen of England. There’s nobody busier than he was, and he always found time to train.”

As Alvarez transitioned out of the role, Fowler was ready for the next step. “At first, I was really scared because I was like, there’s no way I can fill those shoes,” she says. “What I realized is it’s almost a bit more empowering, that I’m being forced to fire on all cylinders and really exercise those things he has instilled in me. What I’m so grateful for is the team’s response to that.”

As Artistic Director for the liquids division of Beauty Quest Group, which acquired brands including Rusk and Aquage, it’s Fowler’s responsibility to maintain a certain aesthetic identity, but also evolve an aesthetic identity that is cohesive and new and fresh.

Education is our number one thing for Aquage, Fowler says, and she just created two texture classes. “One is editorial based, but really takes a huge front on how to prep the hair or style it to shoot it,” say says. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, we got a few tricks up our sleeves. We can show you how to make the hair look fuller, we can show you how to compliment this side of the face when you push the hair this way, to show you how you’re going to show off those big chunks of texture to show off this.” The second class is natural texture, and how to enhance or transform it. “It focuses on how important product cocktailing is, and how to develop the right language—everything from silk-press, to two-strand twist, to volume blowout, to edges,” she says.

For Rusk, Alvarez and Fowler spent lots of time reidentifying the legacy brand. “It has such strong heritage, but it hasn’t really evolved,” Fowler says. “So, we put the pieces back together and created what Rusk is really meant to be, which is sophisticated edgy. People don’t realize it’s an Italian based color line created in Italy because it’s such a great value."

“Our long-term goal now is really galvanizing a super strong team, making everything team based,” she adds. “Before it was very compartmentalized—now we’re all hands-on-deck.”