- Photos by Lana Eklund
Local cosmetologist Kylie Phillips discusses the salon industry, career goals and the art of hair braiding.
You don’t have to look far to see the ever-growing trend of hair braiding. Though hair braiding can often be found trending online or in pretty much every show on television, the history of hair braiding is rich and deep.
The oldest evidence of hair braiding goes back about 30,000 years: The Venus of Willendorf, a female figurine estimated to have been made around 28,000-25,000 B.C.E., is depicted with braids in her hair.
By the Bronze and Iron Age (1200-500 B.C.E.), many people in Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, were depicted in art with braided hair or beards. In some regions, braids were even considered a means of communication and social status.
History shows braids were often used to define tribes, social status and other societal classifications. This tradition of hair braiding has been passed down through the ages, and today braids are a way to celebrate and honor one’s ancestral roots as well as express personality and style.
Kylie Phillips, cosmetologist and color specialist at local salon MK Lush, has a front-row seat to today’s hair braiding trends and styles. Kylie attended the Davis Hart Cosmetology Institute during her junior and senior year of high school, graduating from both high school and cosmetology school at the same time. She then went on to complete a six-month associate program at MK Lush salon.
Upon entering MK Lush, located in the heart of the North Village Art District, you are met with rich, vibrant colors, and smiling faces. Stylist and founder of MK Lush, Micki Kliethermes, said that her desire to build her own business was largely inspired by her belief in self-love/self-care.
From there, I was able to have a sit down with Kylie to dive deeper into her career and love of hair braiding.
Kim Ambra: How did you manage attending both high school and cosmetology school at the same time?
Kylie Phillips: I had to be at Davis Hart Career Center in Mexico at 8 a.m. where I would start class with all the other cosmetology students. I left there at about 10:45 a.m. which would give me just enough time to grab some lunch and be back at the high school by noon to finish out my day before going to whatever activity I had going on after school. I did that for two years and then I graduated from the cosmetology program one week before I graduated high school.
KA: Why did you choose to work at MK Lush salon?
KP: They offer an associate program which allows newer stylists to really focus and continue your education without feeling like you’re in a class setting. It allows you to work hand in hand with a more experienced stylist and get that experience that you didn’t get in school to ask all of the questions.
KA: Growing up, did you always know you wanted to do this for a career?
KP: No! Actually my family and I were at dinner one night, and one of the ladies with us started casually french braiding my sister’s hair. I found myself just staring at it because I couldn’t figure it out. I watched her do it over-and-over again. From there, I taught myself how to braid on others and myself. I think that’s where it all started.
KA: What would you say that you enjoy most about your career?
KP: My favorite part is just how rewarding it is to be able to see the difference that you make in everybody’s day to day life that you come in contact with.
KA: What has been the most surprising thing to you about your career or this industry as a whole?
KP: Just how much growth the industry has had and how many different things you can specialize in. I wish that people would realize the importance and the opportunity for continuing education because we have to invest in ourselves to be able to perform what you’re asking us to perform.
KA: Talk to me about the trend of braids and what all the hype is about.
KP: Personally, I’m more intrigued whenever I see somebody who has a whole head of knotless braids. It is so gorgeous! And I love the fact that with braids, you can change it up. It also allows so much imagination with the hair, you can add in color, texture, length, etc. Maybe someone was not blessed with hair that they love. This gives them the opportunity to transform their hair into something that they absolutely love and are proud of.
KA: Is there a certain hair type that works best or are you able to work on all types and styles?
KP: I’ve pretty much gotten to the point where I can work with any hair type, but more textured hair is a lot easier to work with just because the hair is used to bending and maneuvering in different directions.
KA: Do you have any advice for first time clients that are wanting to experiment with braiding?
KP: Don’t turn away a stylist who wants to do a consultation with you first because likely they are just trying to make sure that they can provide you with the best service that they possibly can.
KA: It’s kind of like an art project…
KP: It really is. And every single person is different. I mean, I never come into work and do the same thing and that keeps it exciting. I meet new people every single day. I get to create relationships with people. I get to sit here and do what I love and listen to some spicy tea all day long!