Topeka, Kan. – In the summer of 2019, Dawson Hiegert decided the time had come to go from “hair” to “THERE” – with the best perk of “THERE” (New York City) being invited to work with some of the nation’s highest profile hair stylists on a Victoria’s Secret lingerie ad campaign photo shoot in New York City.
Not a bad resume builder for a 19-year old from Topeka who, less than a year before, completed the cosmetology program at Washburn University Institute of Technology.
“It’s all been a whirlwind that I don’t know anything could have prepared me for,” Hiegert said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be open to everything that comes your way and never be afraid to reach out to people – because I wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t sent that message on Instagram.”
Instagram? The magical powers of social media created a perfect gateway for establishing valuable connections to the world of stylists, and in particular, with Jacob Rozenberg, an assistant for Harry Josh, one of the biggest names in the industry. Josh’s well-tressed clientele who walk the red carpets include Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Fey and Jennifer Garner. He also works with celebrity photographers in the fashion industry such as Annie Leibovitz, Carter Smith and Patrick Demarchelier.
After numerous conversations with Rozenberg, Hiegert was recruited for a training spot with Josh’s company which later evolved into an offer to be the lead assistant. It is important to note these duties were in addition to Hiegert’s training at the Rita Hazen Salon, adding force to the new whirlwind of life.
Hiegert feels both fortunate and excited to learn the finer points of a field that flourishes without boundaries. At the hectic Victoria’s Secret shoot in February, he assisted in prepping the models with enhancement products in advance of the veteran stylists – definitely for him a new experience.
While a cosmetology student, Hiegert focused on making diverse style statements in creating braids, which resulted in a catalog of 365 days of braids he featured on Instagram. This artistic challenge was beneficial in expanding his creativity, “and it became second nature to me to deconstruct old ideas and then rebuild them.”
While his career prospects have expanded beyond his expectations, Hiegert credits the Washburn Tech program with giving him the opportunity to hone the important fundamentals of hairstyling.
“Had I attended a traditional beauty school, I couldn’t have enrolled until after high school and then would have had a full year after that before I could go out to start my career. While I’m still very young, had I not gotten out when I had and been able to make all these moves, I very well could have missed this opportunity,” he said.
Despite the excitement of the big city, he admits moving to New York after his graduation from Seaman High School was a daunting experience.
“The biggest adjustment was just the population and the mass of diversity anywhere you go in the city. To me this is freeing, because while I’m rather introverted, having all the crowds and things happening gives me the chance to just sort of blend in or go unnoticed,” he said.
While the social distancing required during the current pandemic has brought traditional life in New York City to a halt, Hiegert likes to remain productive as he experiments with designs on his home mannequin.
“It’s been wild to watch it unfold, especially in the city that never sleeps. When I was still working I could see the city becoming desolate and now it’s been two weeks in my studio. I’m trying to take advantage of the time off with relaxing and getting into creating again,” he said.