I am pleased to introduce to our Iles Formula Hair Talk segment, hair maestro Nicolas Jurnjack. Nicolas is by far one of the most exquisite hair technicians I have ever witnessed with hair. When I first arrived in Paris some 20 years ago I had the privilege to work alongside Nicolas on some of most prestige defiles, Dior, McQueen, Chanel, Galliano to name a few. His hair creations were written about for weeks after the defiles had passed. He is a maestro with hair, watching him work is hypnotic and stimulating and it's evident that this French gentleman absolutely breathes hair.
Do read his book that has just been released, inspiring in every way. Details under the interview.
IF : Tell us what you think is the biggest challenge in a hairdressing career today?
NJ : For a newcomer it is often lack of the technical skills needed to deliver all requests and an increasing reliance on shortcuts that miss out the solid foundation of knowing and practicing step-by-step how to create a style that stands the test and the rigors of a shoot – for salon hairdressers the rigors of a party, a prom or just everyday life. In my opinion many hair schools are not teaching a wide enough range of the techniques and skills it takes to embark on a hairdressing career as well as other accompanying skills needed for a successful career such as a solid knowledge of products and the art of communication.
For session stylists today less time is allocated for shoots, what was a three-day shoot a decade ago has been compressed into one day so you really need to know what you are doing, how to deliver flawless work quickly and have the self-confidence and belief in yourself to come up with ideas and ways to address problems at light speed, be adaptable and not fade under the intense pressure to deliver.
Today styling hair seems to be more in demand than cutting hair. Knowledge of products has become part and parcel on that work. There is a vast array of new products appearing all the time, which are very specific to a particular purpose.
The range of hair products in a line can be as many as eighty in comparison to eight or so in years gone by. For the best results quite a bit of experimentation on many different types of hair is needed. I think one of the biggest challenges for someone considering a career in hair styling, in particular the fashion industry – a conversation I have had with my assistants – is the dedication, commitment and work it demands to build a solid business with a stellar reputation that endures.
IF : What’s the most enjoyable part of your current job?
NJ : I love that the creative world, the fashion industry, my job as a session stylist offers me the chance to indulge in so many of the same things that delight and enrich my daily life. I love watching films, reading books, walking and observing nature and people and I am happy that I can use all these as inspiration for my work. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world from all backgrounds and cultures, exchanging artistic viewpoints and ideas. I love harmonious teamwork feeding off and into each other's ideas to create a character, a story, an image of beauty that is inspirational and aspirational both in the fashion industry and to a larger audience. Everyday is exciting, revealing. I love the freedom to express myself. It's a real joy to discover something new every day: personalities, viewpoints, ideas and be able to push the boundaries of aesthetics and imagination. It is never, ever boring.
IF : Why did you choose the path of hairdressing?
NJ : I didn't so much choose hairdressing as it chose me. I did not have any childhood dreams of being a hairstylist I was not interested in cutting my mother's hair or styling my sisters or their Barbie dolls. I come from a background where the focus for the future was a safe job and a secure income. I was bored at school so I left early and was obliged to sign up at an employment agency that presented me with a list of positions one of which I had to take, by law. I didn't chose to be an apprentice hairdresser and was forced into it. At first I stayed for the pocket money it afforded me, but slowly I found myself drawn to it. I started taking more notice, studying techniques and experimenting with new ones. In short, I discovered my passion – hair, it offered me endless avenues of creativity, it is my vehicle for expression.
IF : If you had not made the decision to be a hairdresser what would you have been?
NJ : My dream as a child was to play tennis professionally. I could watch tennis for hours and hours. The teachers at my school said I had the talent and disposition for it but the means to support the expensive training were not available.
IF : What is your greatest strength?
NJ : I have always seen the future as bright in spite of any lows. I am lucky to have been born with immense powers of discipline, fortitude and concentration. I am able to focus intently and immediately on my work and deal with problems rather than allowing them to stand in my way.
IF : Your favourite hairdressing tools?
NJ : My mini paddle brush, a $10 emergency purchase I made one day long ago. It's amazing, it seems as if it were made especially for me, it is molded exactly to my hand.
IF : Tell us about your relationship with Iles Formula. How you discovered us and which formula is your favourite?
NJ : I've known Wendy for a very long time. As long as I've known her she has always been concerned about the quality of hair products, and for all different types of hair and the possibility of damage some may cause. Wendy was always knowledgeable and careful about the products she used on models and clients hair. I knew that if she ever created her own brand the products would be of the highest quality. A favorite product from Wendy Iles Formula is definitely the Haute Performance Finishing Serum I use it to get an instant magic silky shine.
IF : New Hair trends ; Is there something happening with hair right now that is exciting you?
NJ : In the past hairdressers may have been inspired by a look they saw on the street or in a museum, a book and then developed and customized it into a defining style that became a lasting trend. Fashion is always reinventing itself, but now the cycle has been sped up to the ninth degree by the participation of everyone having access to an audience and the possibility of extensive coverage via social media. Trends come and go as fast as scrolling through posts on an Instagram feed. A savvy social media user has the opportunity to become a "trend-setter"; overnight, even if only for a night.
IF : What was your worst hair moment and why… Privately or on set or in the salon?
NJ : It would have to be some of the international hair campaigns I have worked on, when the model has been booked for her face, not the quality of her hair, despite the fact that the hair is the main subject and the result wanted is abundance, volume and shine. There are signs everywhere saying no hair extensions, no this, no that so essentially a miracle is needed to meet the client's expectations.
There is no pointing out that casting a model with abundant hair would help towards their aims and we would avoid working into the early hours of the morning. There is no showing the client that the model's scalp is clearly visible beneath the fine strands of hair. It's a hairstylist nightmare. It's an incredibly intense and stressful position to be on set with fifteen or more clients waiting for you to perform a miracle of volume, abundance and shine out of a paucity of fine hair.
IF : If you could cut and color anyone's hair, who would it be and why?
NJ : I have been fortunate to style top models, major celebrities and stars of the music world for almost thirty years now. For me, one of the rewards of hair styling is when a model, a client, is happily surprised with a very different look or they discover a new aspect of their personality, or a way of presenting themselves that is in harmony with their idea of who they are, or they see hidden facets of their character that they had wanted to reveal or make more obvious.
I have long wanted to share my knowledge and experience of hair in offering stylish cuts and styles at the quality of the profession I work in to women who cannot afford it. I know that a haircut or hairstyle can make a tremendous difference to someone's well being, even offer a path forward, a chance to see oneself in a different light. A while back I started to visit some of women's homeless shelters. Many of these women cannot afford to visit a salon and had never had a professional haircut or any styling at all. It is a rewarding experience to see someone happily discovering themselves through something as seemingly simple as being given an aesthetic choice about the way they look and the means to make it happen. In this case being able to decide the style and cut or being given advice on a myriad of new options to choose from and having it done professionally to suit her unique taste. Having one's hair done is a huge confidence booster.
IF : Where do you pull hair inspiration from?
NJ : Anywhere and everywhere. Light, shadow, nature's color, shapes and forms. There is always a creative detail in even the most unassuming of things, in sensations, a fleeting movement, a ray of light on a dusty floor or shadows on a wall, even a sunset and clouds streaking across the sky. I'm naturally observant and curious. Everything I see lodges in my head sometimes without me taking conscious note of it, and weeks later it surprises me presenting itself as a fully formed idea, sometimes it is released by music, a word, an idea that a client has mentioned for an editorial or fashion show, it's beyond anything I can explain.
IF : Your 3 favourite Instagram feeds?
NJ : @david_attenborough, @laprovence, @mucem_officiel.
IF : Your advice to young hairdressers starting out?
NJ : Be passionate. I recommend learning the classic techniques to start but never stop learning and fine-tuning your technique, educate yourself on hair, the history of hair and other rich arts. Be observant, be curious. Invent your own techniques.
Build your confidence by challenging yourself and don't be afraid to take risks. Hone your communication skills, hairdressing is one of the more intimate of professions, people skills are a must whether with a client in a hair salon, an actor on a movie set or a team on a fashion shoot, a lack of communication and understanding can be damaging. Experience, knowledge expertise is an ongoing acquisition, concentrate on acquiring them always, and do not take shortcuts.
Even though I've been in the business for thirty years I am always discovering new things. These days more and more people are entering the industry, so much so it's becoming a revolving door. Always aim for quality, for the best, whether a classic ponytail, a glamorous up-do, shiny waves or something more creative and elaborate, develop a signature, a style, be capable of doing everything you are asked to do and more.
There seems to be a burgeoning trend for styling, which offers an ephemeral change rather than a haircut that cannot be changed so easily, so again, hone your skills, keep on top of trends and culture as well as coming up with your own ideas. Don't be lured by the mirage of stardom that social media sells. It may be easier these days to get a magazine cover, exposure for a salon, name recognition, but you are only ever as good as your last job. It will be tough to impossible to advance if you lack the techniques, vision, imagination and communication skills to deliver whatever the client wants – in any circumstance, under any deadline and harmoniously.
A MUST READ...
Nicolas Jurnjack has just released his first book on hair where he speaks about his personal trajectory, unveils the mysteries of a fascinating and complex industry and illustrates those sublime creations he masterminded on those fashion shows where he first met our co-Founder Wendy Iles. A must for all who are hair obsessed available online "In The Hair".