Jean Baptiste Santens was eight when his mother bought him his first doll, after noticing his obsession with touching the hair of everyone he came into contact with. The French hairstylist credits this moment as the start of his profound love of hair as a material.
As he grew older he became inspired by the hairstyles worn by 90s girl bands, tirelessly attempting to recreate these styles. His dream of competing in international hair competitions was realised in 2008 when Santens won the gold medal at Hair World in Chicago. He continued to compete, subsequently winning championships in Athens, Moscow and Paris. These achievements allowed him to begin working on fashion shows for session heavyweights Sam McKnight, Eugene Souleiman and Luigi Murenu. In 2014 Santens started working for Guido Palau, “from then on my life changed completely!” he says. We caught up with Santens to discuss his inspirations.
A major element of your craft is your incredible wigs. Could you tell us about this? I love wigs! They are such a great way to transform a model into a character. I’m a perfectionist – searching, practising and prepping are key in the expression of my art. I love to take two or three days to prepare a wig for a shoot, just so I have the time to process my ideas and create exactly what I’m looking for. Then I can prepare the model in fifteen minutes and have a dramatic and powerful style. I know that if a wig is very well prepared it could be magical on set.
What is your most unlikely source of inspiration? It changes every day, depending on my feelings, my energy, where I am in the world and what project I’m working on. I feel that everything could be a source of inspiration depending on how you look at it. Inspiration is caused by emotion so you never know when it’s gonna hit you. What I can say is that I love underground culture, submarine world, Haute Couture and the future.
Image credit: Emmanuel Giraud
“I love wigs! They are such a great way to transform a model into a character.”
Jean Baptiste Santens
Images and wigs: Jean Baptiste Santens
Image credit: Paul Morel (for Elle Mexico)
Who is your hair icon? During my career I have had the chance to work with almost all of my idols. I don’t really idolise any hairstylist anymore. Now I simply admire the quality of work that top hairstylists in the industry produce – in terms of creativity, business management and personality.
If you could cut and colour any one’s hair (dead or alive) who would it be and what would you do? With no shame or fear of being a cliché, I think it would have to be Lady Gaga! She is so creative in everything she does and always incorporates an element of fantasy into her looks.