In a chic office at the back of Incline’s Perception Salon, Nicholaus Augustine the chemist is at work. Little bottles of ingredients line some tastefully modern shelves, waiting to be filled with ingredients stocked below.
Augustine the hairdresser’s career began over 20 years ago, at just 17, initially choosing it as a side job to keep busy through college. His family had been in the industry for three generations, with his grandparents owning 20 salons in the Bay Area. Augustine soon discovered it was his calling too.
“I’m very sensory,” he says. “I can remember being [at North Tahoe High] and there was a girl that sat in front of me and she’d always want me to braid her hair. That [was] kind of the beginning … the texture of hair, the fact that you can manipulate it into shape, color, and structure. When those things were shown to me, that was really exciting.”
Today, his credits include styling at fashion weeks in Los Angeles and Seattle, working fashion shows for Oscar de la Renta and Dior, and going on to work in nearly every major city on the West Coast. During this time, his curiosity grew about how to create products that were more natural, more effective, and not tied to major cosmetic companies, so Augustine began to research the process.
“I realized real quick it’s a lot of chemistry. I went to a couple suppliers, looked through their recipes, and I thought, ‘I’ve always been really good at cooking, so it should be kind of the same,’” he recalls with a laugh. “I was in our bathroom trying to make this gel and it was totally awful. I stuck with it, and I realized, ‘if I’m going to do this, I have to get serious.’”
In 2013, he committed to the process. “I got stacks of books and put myself through a university,” he says.
Augustine created Tahoe Born, an aloe-based collection of hair care products inspired by life in Tahoe. Local stores started carrying his line, and soon there were 15 accounts offering his products. But, looking to enter the cosmetics industry with a bang, he decided to hang up the collection and focus instead on perfume.
“I thought my ‘in’ would be to focus on fragrance [first],” he says. “Once I got in the door, though, I realized it’s all together. You need to be able to understand how a fragrance works with the texture [of a product], how it performs, the label, the bottle, everything.”
After three years in development, Augustine’s new line features carefully crafted fragrances, but is delivered in several forms. Three initial perfumes he’s created will also become scents for body oil, hair wash, and styling spray.
His aim with the collection is to show his sons, 18 and 10, that dreams can be achieved, and to honor his father’s legacy. As an artist, his current focus is to figure out who he is — in the context of his classical training and career experiences — and transform that into what he can offer to the world.
“[The collection] is an expression of me and my work in the salon around women for 20 years,” he says. “Some people say, ‘nobody wants to be put in a box.’ Some people do want to be put in a box. Their box! With big labels all over it and painted with lights, and they really want people to see who they are. Every person has something in them that wants to shine. That’s my favorite thing about when I’m doing hair or fragrance; when I can see somebody’s confidence spark, and they’re like ‘get out of my way,’ and I love that.”
Info: augustineparfum.com; for hair styling, @NicholausAugustineHair on Facebook
Main Image Caption: HUMBLE beginnings led this hardworking North Tahoe graduate to travel the country styling hair, working for luxury fashion brands, gaining celebrity clients, and eventually developing two product lines of his own. Photo by Le’a Gleason/Moonshine Ink