Sweet Home beautician works her small-town magic at New York fashion event

By Sarah Brown
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Beautician Kayla Rowe has just returned to Oregon after a whirlwind “amazing experience” in New York that not many small-town girls have an opportunity to encounter.

“It all feels like it was a dream,” she said. “It still doesn’t seem real.”

The Epic Salon cosmetologist was invited to style hair during the star-studded New York Fashion Week, held Feb. 10-15, primarily at Spring Studios in Lower Manhattan, with runway shows throughout the city.

A model, ready for the runway, poses for Kayla Rowe to display her hair work. Contributed photo

The prestigious, twice-a-year event showcases collections from around the world, attracting such names and brands as Sergio Hudson, Proenza Schouler and Christian Siriano. It began in 1943 as the first of what became known as the “Big 4” major fashion week events in the world – the others take place in London, Milan and Paris – all featuring trend-influencing designs.

Rowe said her adventure began when a lead NYFW hair designer reached out to stylist Emily Nunn at Shear Country Salon in Sweet Home after seeing her work on Instagram. Nunn introduced her contact to Rowe and following an interview, both were invited to join the lead’s team.

Nunn later declined the offer because she was too busy, Rowe said, and she almost backed out, too. The pressure began piling up before she even left for New York, and she didn’t want to go alone.

“It was fear,” she said. “Fear of being from a small town and going to a place that’s so big, and just having the confidence that I’m good enough for that.”

Rowe also had to pay to participate, leading many of her friends to question the offer’s validity. The cost, she explained, could be considered an advertising expenditure.

“You’re going to Fashion Week to get your name out there,” she said. “They tag you in all of your content that you do on the models. You’re paying to basically advertise your name.”

On the first day, fashion designers showed the team how they wanted their models’ hair to look, and the stylists practiced on dolly, or mannequin, heads. Rowe’s team worked for partner designers from Italy, referred to only as Stylist’s Choice.

Kayla Rowe uses a comb to create a slicked-back look. Contributed photo

“It was very fast-paced,” she said. “It was intimidating, but it’s all about confidence when you get out there. Once I started getting going and saw the hair that I had to do and the product I was using, it just clicked. It was about getting past that fear and reminding myself that I know what I’m doing. Once I got past that and I just got into it, everything just went away, and it was like I was just in the salon working on a person.”

Rowe couldn’t even count how many heads she styled that week. She’d work on one model’s hair, then move to the next.

She said she was asked to return as a lead for NYFW’s Sept. 7-13 showcase but explained that she wanted more experience before managing 30 stylists. So, she’s coming back as an assistant, instead.

“I’m glad I went, but it’s a whole other world in New York,” she said, describing the metropolitan city as a “dog-eat-dog world” where people think only of themselves and fight to be first to the top – a stark contrast to Sweet Home.

“Here, we’re loving and it’s a community,” Rowe said. “Here, you build each other up; you want to bring people up with you. After the end of the week, I was ready to go back to my little town.”