Easily one of the most influential in the beauty & hair industry Nicolas Jurnjack's career is one for the ages. Born in the South of France Nicolas initially got his start while in his teens as an apprentice before snagging a life changing opportunity in Elle France. Nicolas attention to detail and meticulous ways eventually landed him gigs with some of the most iconic names and brands in fashion including Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott and Kenzo, to name a few. With hundreds of international covers under his belt, a showing of his work at the Louvre to the most recent release of his new book In the HAIR you can't help but wonder what is next in the more than thirty year career Nicolas has built himself.
What was it like growing up in the south of France?
Amazing, beautiful. I love the South of France, Light, color, movement, strong wind and endless beaches and the glittering Mediterranean Sea. My favorite tree lives there, the Pine tree. Marseille has a very relaxing vibe. I love the beach and walking around the old quarters of Marseille, it is an ancient and yet modern, very cosmopolitan history: an immigrant history full of life and color and culture. The sights and sounds and wonders from all over the world have been inspiration for me throughout my career.
What influences you on your day to day?
The weather has a magic effect on me. I like all kinds of weather but the sun energizes me. I love to walk and soak up everything I see, jarring and harmonious visuals inspire and inform my work: "a store window, the pink of a bag in vinyl for a little girl and the brown-brown color of a vase not really fitting to form, a little unusual, lucky finds feed me. The chance encounter smiles at me" and may resurface in a hairstyle in some manner of form or feeling.” Extract from "In The Hair” by Nicolas Jurnjack
Favorite album of all time?
That’s a tough one. I have very eclectic tastes. It’s difficult to come up with a favorite or even a style. What I chose to listen to depends on my frame of mind. Sometimes I choose a certain song for a feeling, a mood, a vibe that I want to immerse myself in to develop a style I am working on. Sometimes I just random shuffle my playlist and let whatever music comes take me on an inspiring journey of creativity. To list a few, my tastes range from: Mama Lulu by Ben Bow through Led Zeppelin to Chamber music and Madrigals from the 18th century to the reggae music of Two Sevens Clash through groove, hip-hop, Jazz to the slack key guitar of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole , the sounds of Bollywood and Tibetan Bells, Yé-yé and Serge Gainsbourg, Mano Chau, Veronique Sanson the list goes on. It’s a wild, frenetic, relaxing and wonderful ride, music inspires me, it feeds my creativity, and it offers me ideas.
Tell us about your new book "in the HAIR?
"in the hair" is my book for the world of hairdressing, for people who share my passion — hair. It started as a conversation with an art/culture historian and developed into a journey of my 30 years in the fashion and beauty industry. It's a mix of anecdotes, the day to day of a career in hair styling in the fashion industry, a reflection on femininity and esthetics, the marrying of technical skill with the creative muse as well as travels back through history tracing the rich heritage of our profession, the highs, the lows, how it is shaped by politics, culture and social mores throughout the centuries.
Did you do all the illustrations?
Yes, I did them over a period of 30 years. In the 90s when I was doing a lot of fashion shows internationally. London Paris Milan, New York etc. many designers asked for sketches of ideas for hair styles based on discussions about the feeling and tone of the collection being presented. You have to remember the iPad was futuristic at that time nothing was done digitally. At times fashion editorials also required hand drawn moods for hairstyles. Today, I am still asked to provide drawings for unique looks, usually for big cosmetic campaigns. I am happy that I kept all my sketches that number into the hundred’s as most things in fashion are ephemeral and fleeting. I used some of them in my book as a visual diary of my work to illustrate some of the things I speak about. They conjure up memories.
If you could host a dinner party with any well-known figure dead or alive who would it be?
Well, I’d really love to share a few dumplings, spinach and shrimp, with Confucius to get an overdose of « sagesse » the philosophy of life on this planet from a developed conscience.
What is something someone has said couldn't be done that you actually did?
When I was a teenager working in a salon in Marseille with aspirations for a career in fashion my boss said, "you’ll never work for Vogue". So I’d have to say my first Vogue cover when I was in my mid-twenties, followed by a career working with international Vogue editions all over the world. I sent my former boss my first cover; I didn’t see his face when he received it.
What is your least favorite product to work with?
Creams and pomades for the preparation and polishing of a style. They are fine for everyday use but for a fashion shoot when many styles, shapes and moods are required they make the hair difficult to work with, the hair absorbs them quickly and they fix the texture, this makes it tough to impossible to give expression to a variety of feelings and moods that a fashion story asks for.
What's in your kit today?
- Serum : Biosilk from Farouk system
- Powder color : Wow
- Leave in conditioner : Olivarium lime organic balancing — hydrating
- Shampoo : Olivarium strengthening shampoo orange extract
- Hair gel : American Crew light hold styling gel
- Hairspray : Phytolaque design botanical Hairspray
- Mousse : Phyto spray volume intense fine hair
- Holding spray : L’Oreal TecniART, fix design
A career moment highlight?
I have had so many fantastic opportunities to follow my passion and work with some of the greatest talents in the fashion and beauty industry. I was very proud to be the hairstylist chosen for the festival of fashion at the Louvre Museum in Paris. I created six hairstyles made from a variety of materials including paper and matchsticks with burnt heads, it also gave me the opportunity to work with Jeanloup Sieff, a master of photography. Of course all the firsts stand out, when doors opened for me to follow my path. My very first cover for Vogue. My first Haute Couture show for Givenchy by Alexander McQueen, working with photographers like Richard Avedon and Steven Meisel. Another great highlight was being given the opportunity to be consultant creative director for the beauty department at Vogue Australia.
If you were to give an eighteen year old a bit of advice what would it be?
The most important thing is love what you do and don’t limit yourself. Technique, skills, vision, talent is absolutely necessary for a long sustained career but it won’t necessarily open the door for you or keep you there. Be confident, be determined and stay your vision. In my book I write about preparation, ambition, the ups and downs of a career as a hairstylist in fashion, how to stay focused on your goals and build a solid career.
What is your ideal comfort food?
I like simple food, vegetables, pasta, rice. I’m not into complicated and elaborate recipes, a melange of tastes and textures: « new cuisine »
What are your thoughts on social media and work?
That’s a huge question and is closely intertwined with the advent of digital photography and the habitual use of the Internet. Technology has definitely changed the dynamic on set. In the past, there were far less people on set, the team could easily interact with one another. A creative atmosphere, an ease of interaction was encouraged not least because the end product had to be perfect, you had to have the shot in camera there was no fixing it after the fact. This harmony, people skills is not less important today, just seemingly less possible, maybe even less relevant what with an army of people on set sometimes as many as fifty including clients, the digital techs, the behind the scene shooters to inform the vast virtual audience. The selling starts before the shoot is finished, not just for the designers but by necessity the model and creative teams.
Before social media, especially for shows, there was a palpable excitement, four times a year teams would work together in total secrecy in an atmosphere bubbling with creativity: designers, hairstylist, makeup artists, stylists, set designers, culminating in an awe-inspiring spectacle on the runway that people waited for months to see. That aspect of fashion is in the process of having to reinvent itself. There is a hungry audience out there. Today, a new line of clothes is posted before the models have got to the end of the runway then posted and re-posted a thousand times, aging it almost before it is born. Fashion has been forced to compete on terms not of its own making or choosing – yet. Ironically more has become less. Fashion is still in the throes of understanding the best way to build a relationship with social media past marketing, promotion and commerce alone. Decades ago you worked on building a solid reputation, wider fame was secondary, even irrelevant outside the industry. Now you must make your mark in the wider world to stay relevant. These days an Instagram feed is more often looked at than a portfolio is requested. Increasingly, especially for people just entering the business ‘followers and likes" are taken as measure of a solid reputation.
Never the less, I like communicating with my followers, building a community, seeing what people are doing, being inspired and getting feedback, there is a sense that not even the sky is the limit. Ironically, social media has both expanded and constrained my world.
What was your last nightmare?
A very real nightmare that happily ended well. I was doing the hair for one of my first major fashion shows, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. Backstage was chaotic– the dressers, the makeup artists, my team descending on the models rushing in last minute from other shows. I managed to squeeze into the morass of people buzzing around a super model with a few seconds left to fix a very large and ornate style in place. With no time to spare I grabbed some hairpins and started to secure the hair while she was walking towards the runway. As she set foot in the spotlight I froze, unable to breathe, I had only to managed to put in a few pins, I imagined the hair piece tumbling to the ground in this much publicized show and my career coming to an end in a blaze of TV lights.
If you could only take one hair tool on a job what would it be and why?
My mini paddle brush, a simple paddle brush that I found in Chinatown, New York for 4$, which became my ultimate favorite tool. With only a brush you can start preparing the hair, you can tease it, shape it, and add volume and form. You can create a whole style with a brush alone if need be.
Do you think it's possible to "trend forecast" hairstyles as is done with clothes?
I don’t know if I would call it a forecast it's more of a movement, sure there is some driving of a new trend by stylists, celebrities, VIP’s. and influencers but social media has a loud voice and I am not sure any forecast will last long enough to make it a trend these days, the exposure on social media ages it out of existence almost before its begun.
Is all hair "good hair"?
All hair is great. All hair is unique, the trick to get the best out of it is to listen to it, work with it, not against it. Hair is never bad but what is done to it can be; its texture complicated by too many products, styled in a way that controls it against its nature, when maltreated it rebels, but it is never bad.
In your opinion what best compliments a hairstyle?
The best compliment, for a hairstyle is the way it is flattered when a woman gets up from her seat and walks down the street, Hair comes into its own, it comes alive when it moves in rhythm with her steps, swaying with her silhouette. Complements to hairstyle are the cut of jacket or dress that highlights its shape, an outfit that enriches its style. Curiously a hat can also be great complement for hair, as the shape of earrings and eyeglasses too.