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Day 1 to 100 Years and NAHA

Patrick McIvor | July 10, 2011 | 10:32 PM
My grandmother was head patternmaker for Claire McCardell and did not marry until she was in her 30s because she wanted a career. I was thinking of her as I headed to spend some time behind the scenes with Matrix's three NAHA finalists Ammon Carver, Chrystofer Benson and Nicholas French. Life lessons could not have been more openly shared by so many amazing people in our amazing industry. Here are some of the things I learned from some truly great people.

Nicholas French (NAHA Avant Garde Winner 2010) – Nicholas, finalist for NAHA the last six years and winner of three awards, shared a great story about his collection for this year's NAHA Awards that he shot in Canada. Half way though the first day of the shoot, he realized it was not going in the right direction, so instead of working harder at something that was not working, he shut down the whole shoot. He paid everyone, took a huge financial hit and went home. He then used that frustration and anger and started again. His inspiration was a photo and a concept that he saw, that in his opinion, was not done well—an image of woven hair.  So Nicholas went to work and discovered a way to adhere hair to acetate, which now meant not only did Nicholas have woven hair, but he had also figured out how to make it flexible and moldable—true genius.  Nicholas taught me it is ok to be frustrated as long as I can use it to make things better and not to just complain.

Chrystofer Benson (NAHA Hair Colorist Winner 2010) – This is the second year Chrystofer was a finalist for Colorist of the Year and last year's loss was tough because Chrys had really put everything into his collection.  This year though, he had set out to submit in multiple categories, but not color. After planning for months, he shot his two other collections for submission to NAHA and during that process he kept thinking about a color shoot, and his heart told him he had to shoot for NAHA Colorist of the Year. So on that weekend, he and some friends put together Chrystofer’s idea of the model's hair color spilling off their hair to create their outfit and the rest is now history. Chrystofer taught me that like many of us that have been in love and had our hearts broken, when we trust are hearts again, we find that it is ok to put yourself out there, again.

Ammon Carver (NAHA Finalist Contemporary Classic and Editorial) – Every time I am with Ammon I learn something.  At 28 years old this is one very wise and amazing person.  This is the second year that Ammon has been a finalist at NAHA, last year (as I like to think of it) he came in second to another one of our Matrix family members—Edwin Fontanez in the Contemporary Classic category. This year’s competition was tough with unbelievable talent in both categories but we all new that Ammon had it. As I sat across the table from Ammon and his boyfriend Carlo for the first award, I watched Ammon as they prepared to read the winner. At first I saw Ammon’s nerves, then anxious anticipation and then true joy when the name was read for the other nominee that won. I was amazed, but thought and knew, Ammon will win the next award (Editorial). As that award approached, I watch Carlo holding Ammon's hand and again with the anticipation of the announcement Ammon's head dropped as nerves over took all of us at the table. As I moved to get a different view of Ammon's big moment, I once again saw real joy in Ammon's face as he clapped enthusiastically for a different nominee that won. Some melancholy set in at our table as awards continued, the award for Make-up Artist of the Year was announced and the Make-Up Artist Ammon had collaborated with for Editorial WON! Ammon leapt from his chair and ran over to congratulate Seong Hee Park with the joy I had on Christmas morning as a child. I watched as he sat on the edge of his chair as Seong Hee Park, a recent immigrant from Korea, nervously tried to thank us for the award she just won in a language that was not allowing her to do so. Out of the corner of my eye a flash went past as Ammon, to Seong Hee Park’s great delight, ran to give her the support she needed to enjoy her moment in our industries history. Ammon showed us all that you can have great joy for the winner no matter what name is read and be a superhero to us all because of the person he is.

The weekend was special, although all did not turn out with the storybook ending, Chrystofer and Nicholas' losses last year drove them further and deeper to ultimately win this year. And true inspiration from a life, 100 years old, lived by a woman that did what she knew was right for her at a time when women were not supposed to live their dreams, but instead serve the dreams of others. To a life that is just beginning: Understand like Ammon taught me, life is great no matter who’s name is called because it is how you live your life that really makes us winners.
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