INTERVIEW WITH NICOLAS JURNJACK
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HAIR STYLING AND SESSION HAIR? TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.
It was actually a chance encounter. I was not born with a brush in my hand and I didn’t have any interest in styling the hair of my sisters or their dolls. My ambition as a child was to play tennis professionally, but the training was out of my family’s reach. I was born in Marseille the second largest city in France with endless beaches and Pine trees to die for and a huge international shipping port. A Cosmopolitan city full of the wonders of the world, sights, sounds, colors, clothes, cultures, people from everywhere. My father worked on the docks and my mother stayed at home to raise the six of us, three girls and three boys.
I left school early and as a young teenager was automatically signed up for a work/study experience program. I was sent as an apprentice to try out a series of different opportunities none of which interested me in the least. The last was at a hairdressing salon and I had no option but to stay. At first I worked there solely to pay for essentials and have some spending money. But very soon I realized that I had an affinity for hair and it sparked something in me, made me curious. Past the day to day wash, cuts and blow-dry’s my imagination was on fire with all sorts of possibilities. Then one day a panicked fashion director opened the door of the Salon asking was anyone available to come down to the beach “right-away, now” to style some models and the person would of course be credited in the well known fashion magazine. I jumped at the opportunity. My first job in the fashion industry, the hairstylist that had been booked had failed to show up. I loved it, the sense of freedom, the team collaboration, the charged atmosphere.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR LIFE?
As a hairstylist in the fashion and beauty industry there is no “typical”. My time is divided into super busy stretches and relaxation time. The crazy, busy stretches are all airports and taxis. Hair styling my way through different time zones, in studios, on a busy street, in beautiful parks, half way up a canyon, or surrounded by animals who would be more at home on an from African Savannah but are part of the shoot! Different models, teams, clients, stories and always different hairstyles.
My busy days are consistent in one way alone. I prepare my kit(s), everything organized including packing extra’s for at least three dramatically different looks that have not been requested – from experience I know that on the day these may well be called for. I rarely go out if my schedule is back to back. After everything is prepared and in an effort to combat jet-lag or at least soften its blows especially if I am in a time-zone where my night is now day I watch nature documentaries or old black and white French comedies to unwind and relax. When I am not working I go to Yoga classes, it’s a welcome respite from being up in the air, flying from job to job. I have been practicing Yoga for years. I like cooking so I take the time to prepare my favorite meals, catch up with friends and take longs walks.
DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR SHOOT FOR ELLE (FRANCE) AS A TEENAGER TO BE YOUR BIG BREAK? WHAT HAVE BEEN OTHER PROMINENT MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER?
Well, with a teenagers infinite hope and naivety I had thought so at the time. I thought my ten pages would serve as my letter of introduction. I went to Paris to make my way into a profession I was excited and thrilled by. But with no connections, no agent or magazine would give me the time of day. I remained that young kid from Marseille for quite a while, the one turned up daily at this magazine or that agency. Eventually I was rewarded for my persistence with a quarter page here, a quarter page and I was beginning to be noticed, and then my really big break came, a cover of Vogue.
HAVING YOUR WORK SHOWN IN THE LOUVRE MUSEUM MUST BE HIGH ON YOUR LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS TOO. HOW DID THAT FEEL?
My career was going very well I was working for several international editions of Vogue but this propelled me into another realm. The exhibition was on show for two months. I was honored, I was intensely proud of to be chosen as the only hairstylist. It gave me an opportunity to do something really creative, use some of the ideas that were floating around in my imagination. I created six hairstyles made of a variety of materials. For one I cut paper into various shapes and styled them as hair on the head of the beautiful Olga Pantushenkova and for another I used the heads of spent match-sticks with their burnt ends.. I was honored to be given the opportunity to work with Jeankoup Sieff a legend in b/w photography and someone I had always admired from afar.
It gave me the confidence to follow my instincts, my inspirations and my aspirations. That experience will always be dear to me. I will always be grateful that I was chosen to do that project. I learned and developed from it: humility, generosity, teamwork, confidence, the power of creativity and instinct. It helped shape my approach to my entire career.
YOU HAVE STYLED HAIR FOR HIGH PROFILE MODELS INCLUDING GISELE BUNDCHEN, NAOMI CAMPBELL. ELLE MACPHERSON AND KATE MOSS. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH THESE ESTEEMED NAMES?
I always concentrate on showing their beauty and character. I trust my instincts. When I am working the relationship is between the model, their hair and me and harmony is what I aim for. The best approach is to be gentle with the hair, listen to it and listen to the person whose hair you are styling, sometimes that can be an unspoken gesture a shrug of the shoulders a subtle tilt of the head. I also use the least amount of products possible knowing that they are probably on their way to another shoot and more products. Most of the big models I have worked with are super professional they know their job and that this is a team effort. I have really enjoyed my time with them, they are supercool and fun always contributing to the harmony and joy on the set.
YOU HAVE AN IMPRESSIVE CLIENT LIST FROM KRISTEN STEWART TO JENNIFER LOPEZ AND ALICIA KEYS. ARE THERE DIFFERENCES TO YOUR CREATIVE APPROACH WHEN WORKING WITH CELEBRITIES? DO YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO CREATE?
The approach towards actresses is completely different from that towards models, mostly but not least because the reason for the shoot has different aims and modeling is not an actresses or singers profession. It has always struck me as ironic that a model is called upon to play a character in a fashion story, give herself over to a new persona to tell a story about the clothes who are the main character in the story. Whereas, an actress in a fashion magazine story is the main character, called upon to be herself, to present an image of her image. To present the clothes as her choice her personal taste. That image is often tightly controlled and a public relations team stands as a filter between me and the actress. My relationship with models is more intimate, them and me and their hair. Whereas with an actress a PR team is more often in the middle filtering the ideas. Often the styles I propose for actresses are first run by the PR
team first who then discuss it with the actress giving their opinion on the wider ramifications of it, then the PR team gets back to me with a response. Because of this disconnect I need to be able to describe in great detail the hairstyle I am proposing, my reasons, sometimes the relationship to cultural and historical icons or mores, its benefits and especially so if it is a radically new look. The hair is often subject to more control and less intuition. Generally the PR, Agent and assistants will be looking over my shoulder every step of the way so I must be clear and not deviate from the plan once set in motion so as to avoid delays and set backs and long discussions. It is important to offer many possibilities.
I have managed to create with freedom because I explain what I would like to do and why. Trust builds up with details and when the reasons clear and well laid out. Sometimes this leads to the actress initiating a direct relationship with me without involving the PR – what style do I think would suit her, what do I think about this or that. Conversation flows and a style is born, the style that suits her best that day that was not on the agenda.
WHEN CREATING FASHION-WEEK LOOKS FOR CLIENTS SUCH AS ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, GIVENCHY, JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER AND NINA RICCI; WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
It starts with a conversation with the designer, often their impressions, feelings, messages, the ambience they want to convey. Sometimes it’s more precise such as words or references to cultural icons or evocative words: Royal Horse guards, poppies, wild animals, grace, beauty, punk, strength, softness, sexy. I always start my research with books and movies and music, music is inspiration for many of my styles and ideas. I scour libraries for images that speak to me about the feeling behind the designer’s ideas, they can be as varied as landscapes, scenes from nature, to more concrete images of architecture, patterns. I also research historical and cultural hairstyles, what can we bring from the past into the future or what inspirational cultural design can feed my store of ideas. As I walk through the streets, sit on the metro, drink tea at a café, visuals inspire me I take note of them and store them in my mind : leaves swirling in the wind, shafts of light, movement, objects in store windows, plants and even things as seemingly banal as pasta and various grains of wood. I collect all these things in my mind allow them to mix with one another, all have the possibility of being transformed into a hairstyle, the feeling is what I am after when I start and the goal is to make that feeling tangible while guarding its integrity through the colours, textures, shapes, I decide to use to transform them into hairstyles. I ask myself questions, repeat words that convey the designers intent and watch the rich store of information I have collected give up images that flash into my mind. I relax and let everything wash around me. Next is how to realize the ideas that I have sketched and have been approved by the designer. I invent new techniques, I borrow from a wide range of crafts, engraving, painting, weaving, sculpture … and transform the effects proper to my material: hair remembering they will be on a models head in movement and in 3-D, and they must be unique to each model. I must also take into consideration that these need to be easily created on a models head, time is short backstage on a fashion show, there are stylists and dressers, makeup artists and manicurists all needing their few minutes to realize their art for the looks to come together as a whole when the model starts to walk. Details even the most seemingly banal need to be addressed, The process that leads from idea to realization is carried out with military precision and every effort is made to address emergencies that may happen, a model’s flight is late, she is tuck in a traffic jam, the prepared wigs need to be adjusted, there is often not the time to do a fitting on each model before the show. I rely on a team of loyal assistants to make it all work. Innovation and resourcefulness are key – there are no excuses for failure, it is absolutely prohibited.
EACH FASHION WEEK, NEW YORK, LONDON, MILAN AND PARIS HAVE A DIFFERENT FEEL. WHICH ARE YOU MOST DRAWN TO AND WHY?
Good question. Yes every city is different, the culture, the vibe, the expectation. The creative process that is unique to each show. when you’re on the road for 10 shows in 2 weeks in different parts of the world, weather informs your process, your inspiration, dress codes of the culture, the food: spicy, bland, exciting, the architecture…, the geography. I’ve done shoes in Tokyo, Sao Paolo as well as Sydney, New York, all of Europe. London has always been one of my favorite venues, it seems more inclusive the front seats are taken by whoever gets there first, well it was so when I was doing shows in the mid-90s to the early 2000s. There was a feeling of not even the sky is the limit, the spectacle, the drama was all.
YOU HAVE AN INCREDIBLE PORTFOLIO OF MAGAZINE COVERS INCLUDING VOGUE, V MAGAZINE, HARPER'S BAZAAR AND ELLE. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SHOOT THAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND?
Wow difficult, I have so many favorite shoots, for so many reasons, creativity, harmony, the team I am working with.
WITH SUCH A BUSY SCHEDULE, HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED? DO YOU EVER HIT A CREATIVE BLOCK?
I am curious and observant by nature, fascinated by everything I see, it feeds my inspiration, even when I am crazy busy there is a shaft of light, the breeze in the grass, the shapes of trees, reflections on a car at night, the stain of a coffee mug on a table, the shape of a pasta for lunch, the curl of the arugula in the salad, the movement or people, the shadows they cast on tables and floors and undulating surfaces.. I remember images and feelings and store them in memory. sometimes music, a word, releases them to me as a finished style. I cannot remember ever not having an inspiration for a hairstyle.
WHAT INITIALLY (AND STILL) ATTRACTED YOU TO THE WORLD OF EDITORIALS AND WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE UPCOMING ARTISTS TO BREAK INTO THAT WORLD.
The constant demand for different looks, the endless variety, the aspirations and inspirations, working in highly charged creative atmospheres, exchanging idea with team members, the challenges, the pushing to limits and beyond. Things have changed somewhat since I started my profession, there seems less room for creativity and difference – commercial first, creativity second. seems expected. I would still recommend learning the classics, the basics, educate yourself on the history of hair and other rich arts. Invent your own techniques, have your
own opinions, be passionate but remember you are working with a team. Be ready, a big break may come out of the blue and there are few if any second chances.. Develop a fingerprint, a style uniquely your own, a subtle measure of your passion and talent, it can be a feeling that your work conveys to others, a magic that makes people dream. A je ne sais quoi.
YOU HAVE AMASSED A NUMBER OF AWARDS INCLUDING ‘AUSTRALIA’S LEADING SESSION STYLIST OF THE YEAR’, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO RECEIVE THESE HONOURS?
It is flattering and I am very honored. But the process, the road that got me there is more interesting to me, it feeds me. I think what counts most for me is having the trust and confidence of the people I work with, developing that in myself. One of my earliest memories of this is when I was selected as the only hairdresser for an exhibition at the Louvre, I was still in my twenties and the entire process from the initial invitation to the work hanging on the wall of the gallery, the people I met, what I learnt from the experience: humility, generosity, teamwork, confidence, the power of creativity and instinct helped shape my approach to my entire career.
YOUR REPUTATION IN THE INDUSTRY HAS LED TO YOUR NAME AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF BRANDS INCLUDING REDKEN, MATRIX, JACQUES DESSANGE L’OREAL, SCHWARZKOPF AND WELLA. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ADVERTISING WORLD AND WHAT IT MEANS TO ENDORSE A BRAND?
It’s a tough one, But broadly speaking it depends on what your position is in the brand: Consultant, Executant, Creative Director. Each has a different role. But contrary to what one might think, the position is not as liberal or as game-changing as it may appear by the title. The communication, codes, the message of the product remain the same. They have been years in the making, millions, billions have been spent on focus groups, surveys, psychology of advertising, cultural mores etc. etc. a hairstylist will not change or be allowed to change the message, only the heads of the company, the business end of creativity can do that. One’s position is really
to give a stamp of approval and sometimes reinterpret the visuals that are stamp to the codes. All goals are at the service of the sale. It is a shame as I believe that creativity has the opportunity of meeting that marketing goal and at the same time offering visions that fire up people and open new avenues for success on all levels.
WHAT ARE THE KEY PRODUCTS IN YOUR KIT-BAG?
This is what I have in my kit right now. But I love trying new products so the contents change regularly. I like shampoos that have wonderful organic smells and I’m a fan of organic styling products:
- serum : Iles formula finishing serum
- powder color roots washable: color & lift from trūhair
- leave in conditioner bio-organic : olivarium lime organic balancing — hydrating
- shampoo bio-organic: olivarium strengthening shampoo orange extract
- hair gel : garnier hair gel ultra strong hold
- hairspray : phytolaque design botanical Hairspray
- mousse : phyto spray volume intense fine hair
- holding spray : l’oreal tecniART, fix design
DO YOU HAVE ANY REMAINING CAREER GOALS THAT YOU ARE WORKING TOWARDS?
I would love to create an organic hair-care and styling range. Sharing my knowledge is also dear to my heart, in a school academy setting. I have been working on an unique method for teaching for a while and would love to put it into practise. To paraphrase loosely what Karl Lagerfeld said: “It’s no use to anyone, if carried away in a box when your time comes.”
DO YOU STILL GET NERVOUS BEFORE A BIG SHOW OR SHOOT?
Normally now, never, I think I have experienced every problem there is from blinding winds and desert sands, to monsoons to having to do damage control because of lack of time, to explosive tensions on the set. The only thing now that makes me uneasy is when a fashion editor lacks confidence and is not sure about what to do, I know that the shoot will be spent trying out ideas, and endless discussions and the harmony on set with become contentious. Or when Ireceive a mood board that goes in all directions, with every imaginable style, a covering of all bases, in case, as it were.
HOW IMPORTANT IS SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR BUSINESS?
That’s a huge question. 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 and that is more so for the new generation entering the business. I started before social media and the internet became prominent, I am still know and have relationships with people in the business from decades ago. But, 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 and comments are taken as measure of a solid reputation, a history, a profile. An Instagram account can propel someone to fame overnight, but just as easily disappear
them. It’s a bit of a lottery at the moment.
I do think Fashion has been forced to compete on terms not of its own choosing, yet! It is still grappling with understanding how best way to build a relationship with social media past past what social media achieves at the moment which for the most part is marketing, promotion and commerce for individuals as well as brands. The process of creativity is in a bumpy back seat at the moment, the end product, the sale is sitting in front. Ironically in this ‘sharing’ environment more seems to have become less. However, I do believe there are ways that fashion can and will connect to its roots, that of awesome creativity, startling vision and limitless inspiration. It definitely needs to reinvent itself and use social media to its advantage with its rich heritage in
mind – but that is something that fashion has always been an expert at so I have hope.
Never-the-less, what I do like is communicating with my followers, building a community, seeing what people are doing, being inspired and getting feedback, there is a conversation albeit limited at present but never-the-less it is there. Ironically, social media has both expanded and constrained my world.
YOU HAVE A CAREER THAT MANY OF OUR ARTISTS ASPIRE TO. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO OUR NO NAME READERS? DO YOU HAVE A MOTTO THAT YOU LIVE BY?
Be passionate. Love what you do and believe in yourself above all because there will be peaks and troughs along the way, challenges and disappointments. You really do need to be committed to stay the course. Make sure you are prepared, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep fine tuning your vision. Also remember this is team work, have an opinion and push but don’t be pushy.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR 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.
YOUR EDUCATIONAL SITE IS AN INCREDIBLE RESOURCE FOR INDIVIDUALS OF ALL ABILITIES. WHAT DOES TEACHING AND ADVISING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARTISTS MEAN TO YOU?
I think it’s important to share knowledge and transmit skills, I would even say it is a duty. Much has been lost with new software that can change an image with the click of a button. Much has been lost between the hand and the eye and the mind. Technical are very important and are in danger f disappearing if not taught. But, my idea encompasses more than that. Much of what makes a hairstyle awesome is feeling, inspiration and the temerity to do what is in my mind, passion is a big part of it and that is the same for seemingly simple styles to the most elaborate. Technique is the solid ground from where inspiration can spring. We are in danger of losing techniques, know-how for detailed and elaborate techniques the history of hairstyles is fading, with the short cut of technology. We are in danger of relegating creativity t a lowest common denominator one that is easily achieved. Even fashion shows have become more homogenized. I have thought a lot about how I would teach, design a course. Briefly, because my ideas, my course, is too detailed too explain here the key words would be generosity and expertise : Expertise in technique, history, culture even the politics of hair would be the solid ground, self- knowledge, clear communication, focus, imagination, confidence, boldness, passion
would be taught in such as way as to feed the technical skills so creativity can bloom.