Douglas J Alum Files

Oct 15 2014

Ryan Cotton has packed a lot of high-wattage experience into the past dozen years. After graduating from Douglas J Aveda Institute in 2002, Ryan moved to New York City, where his career blew up. Today’s he’s kind of a big deal.

Ryan has styled celebrities for the red carpet including Emma Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore, Kristin Wiig and Gina Gershon. He’s styled for editorial shoots in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, and InStyle. His New York Fashion Week resume includes shows for Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Rag & Bone. Ryan was happy to share his experiences with current and future Douglas J students.

What made you decide to go to cosmetology school?

I decided to attend Douglas J after a full semester at Michigan State and discontinuing college. I liked working with my hands, and listening to people. I also loved the idea of having something that I knew how to do well, that would always be marketable.

What type of person gets the most out of being a cosmetologist?

You can achieve anything with a cosmetology license if you are truly a driven person who connects well with people. If you are not self-motivated and generally uninspired or lazy, it’s not the career for you.

How did you take yourself from the Douglas J Aveda Institute to New York Fashion Week?

People always ask me how I got to where I am, and the funny thing is I never asked anyone that when I was younger. I knew that in order to be the best, I had to work as hard as possible, and surround myself with other talented people who pushed me creatively.

You graduated during a severe economic downturn. How did you get your career started?

Amidst many economic climates I have to say my career has only grown. Landing a job after school for me was pretty easy, as I was very determined to move to NYC. There is truly no better place for me to live than New York City.

New York is a very competitive climate for stylists. What gave you an edge?

Coming from such a great school really did prepare me on a lot of levels. I was technically much more prepared in comparison to a lot of others I encountered.

How did you get started in NYC?

I knew I wanted to learn more as an apprentice and that was the most important thing to me. So I chose to interview at salons that also valued educating their younger staff. Interviewing was a learning process in itself.

I started at the front desk and just really came alive in the setting of customer service and making people beautiful. Then I went on to become a salon assistant. Being a salon assistant is very hard work and pays next to nothing; you have to accept that you’re getting paid in experience and training.

What was the single most defining moment of your career?

New York Fashion Week for the first time was such an exciting experience. I felt like I had really accomplished something. I also felt a lot of fear and insecurity that only drove me to be better and better. The best part about being in our industry is that we never truly know it all. There is always an opportunity to learn more, and that to me is so exciting. I don’t ever claim to know it all, nor would I want to.

 Douglas J Aveda Institute: it’s where amazing careers are launched! Thanks, Ryan, for chatting with us. We’ve got an eye out for your killer looks on the red carpet & on the runways!