Presage Magazine: Thanks so much for sitting down with us Jason. I’d love to hear a bit about how you got involved in the industry! Was there an AHA moment that initially got you into hair?
Jason Mönet: Senior year my high school guidance counselor asked about my college applications. I knew the traditional route wasn’t for me. Music was, and still is, my greatest influence. I was mesmerized by the style of heavy metal bands of that era. It was the 90’s, MTV was my religion. The hair was BIG, think Bon Jovi. My friends and I went to every heavy metal concert and club in NYC. We were “headbangers”! Back then, I had a talent for teasing and a love for hairspray. I didn’t know it would turn into a lifetime career. I told my counselor that I wanted to be a rockstar and she asked what instrument I played. I said “air guitar”. Her next words were “Have you ever thought about being a hairdresser?” That was the AHA moment, her guidance changed my life. I didn’t come from a family of creatives. I didn’t have a sister nor did I play with Barbie dolls. So, off to the beauty school I went. There, I was informed of what it would take to become a hairdresser. There were thousands of state documented hours and a state board exam to obtain a cosmetology license. If I had any doubt, worries or fears they went out the window when the head of admissions had one final thought for me.I must make you aware that it was going to be you and a class of 36 female students. I said “When do I start?”
PM: You got started with hair and then got into photography as well. How do the two differ for you?
JM: Hairdressing is my Craft. Photography is my Passion. My early training was very sophisticated, I did a four year apprenticeship under a British hairdresser in London and then I spent 6 years working with some of today’s legends. For me, hair and photography are synonyms when connecting with my subject. Only through dedication and practice can you become proficient in both. At the end of the day, we become beauty experts in the fashion industry through years of studying timeless classics and endless trends. Knowing what brings out the beauty of each person’s unique individual traits is a skill to be learned. I realized the natural progression to photography was vital to my growth. I can only see the evolution of my work when it’s captured in that moment in time through photography. I use photos to look back and study my work to see how I can do better.
PM: What’s aesthetic to you?
JM: Individuality. Anything done WELL. Especially when the hair is dancing around the lips, a little petal of hair popping around the eyes, and sweeping along the neck.
PM: What’s most exciting to you about the work you’re doing now?
JM: Focusing on new faces and portfolio development. It’s all about the team and sharing the creative process. I enjoy being on set production and being inspired by ideas. I’m one of the most passionate people you’ll ever meet and, when I met Max (editor-in-chief of Presage Magazine), I was able to see he had that same quality in him as well. I loved his French confidence, his “je ne sais quoi.” I found him very funny and I saw that he had a creative eye because his work really stands out. We were able to bond over it. I love what he’s doing with the magazine and with organizing regular meet and greets. I don’t really go to events that often, but the last Presage event I went to at Atmosfera was one of the best events I’ve ever been to. It’s been a win-win. The beauty of Max is that he reminds me to go back to what I believe in, instead of following what New York is doing. In a way he’s so oblivious to what’s going on in NYC because he’s so new. He does his own thing his way as if he was still in France. That purity he has is classic and he’s very true to it.
PM: I’m getting the sense that community and relationship building is important to you.
JM: I watch everybody, I watch every detail and I move with passion. I’m looking for people that are doing the same. I don’t want to be popular, I don’t care about being visible and getting likes. But I do want to be recognized by my contemporaries and work with people I feel connected to. I’ll give everybody my time at least once. The key to success is unselfishness, so the more you give and the more you do, the more you get to do what you love with people you want to be related to. And if there’s a pot at the end of the rainbow then that’s great and if not that’s ok too. As long as we recognize passion in each other, let’s just have some with it and see what comes.
PM: How has the industry changed since you’ve been on the scene?
JM: There’s definitely been a big change with social media and that has escalated since the pandemic started. During Covid, as a hairdresser, it was against the law to do hair. Nancy Pelosi got her hair done and the whole world went crazy. The liquor stores were delivering but you couldn’t get a haircut. As far as working and running around on set, we were doing hair with masks on, doing hair outside and just trying to keep up. In the meantime, a lot of new things spawned. There was a mass exodus in NYC. Younger people were stepping up into bigger shoes and social media has brought a fresh wave of models. The way we communicate our identities as professionals has changed. Before it was about emails and portfolios and now so much of it happens directly on social media. It’s become an entrepreneurial effort for everyone. The industry as a whole has changed because you’re able to find new people that would never have been discovered or picked up by an agency before, but that comes with its challenges too. You have to be smart and see who’s a professional and find the diamonds in the rough.
PM: Where do you think the industry is going next
JM: I believe it’s only gonna go up as far as opening new doors for new opportunities. We’ve had time to pause and look at our mistakes and grow from them. The industry is at a lull here in New York. If people aren’t buying magazines and clothes, there’s no “fashion” but people always need their hair cut. Madison Ave isn’t what it used to be. NYC no longer has a Mercedes-Benz sponsored fashion week so anyone can show at fashion week. We’re not seeing a NYFW dominated by big brands like Alexander McQueen, Versace, Prada and Gucci, but it’s a double edged sword because you are going to see new designers producing amazing clothes coming from Instagram. This is an aesthetic industry, so really as long as it looks good it doesn’t matter how you got there, which is to say it’s a finished product that appeals to people.
PM: Fashion democratization! What do you find most exciting about this moment?
JM: I’m excited for this new magazine and this new market. This generation doesn’t care about Vogue Italia and British Elle magazine. The generational shift is already happening. These kids are watching TikTok and YouTube videos and some of them are doing hair better than me and re-discovering middle parts. It’s the fountain of youth bringing a whole new perspective to the arena, oftentimes reinventing the old. Even in terms of world events, we’re seeing Ukrainian photographers and models coming into New York and the world becoming more gentrified in a way. But there aren’t too many French people coming in to make things happen for the love of the art so I’m happy to be a part of it.
PM: So, what’s next for you?
JM: I consider myself an innovator and as the world changes we respond and mold with it. I’m in this business more for the art than the fashion. Fashion for me is about business and making money. You can buy fashion but you can’t buy style. I respond to the moment and to what feels good and organic to me. Not what’s forced or fake. I’m interested in projects that put a new spin on things.
PM: Do you have advice for those early in their fashion/beauty careers?
JM: All that we can ask from anybody is: do your best and if your best isn’t good enough for the job, that job isn’t for you. When I’m working it’s very intense. I’m focused on what I’m doing at the moment, whether it’s a no-name magazine or Vogue. I show up for any team I’m on and it doesn’t matter how big or small the team is. I might not be the greatest hairdresser in the world but at least I’m happy if I’ve tried my best. If you didn’t, you need to go home and do your homework. My other piece of advice is: we make discoveries, we don’t make mistakes.
PM: Wise words all around. Thank you Jason!