James Pecis (recently knighted member of the “New Guard;” must-have for Inez and Vinoodh; and one of Vogue Paris' four “hot new beauty talents”) had most of ITG HQ swooning when he stopped by one sunny day mid-NYFW to share his expertise with us for a braid-inspired shoot (by "braid-inspired shoot," we mean, of course, that we’d heard much about his prowess with braiding hair, and we wanted to see if he was the real deal). Was it his Venice Beach-boy hair, tied loosely in a bun? The toned arms full of tattoos? The total disinterest in any of us, despite how we kept bending our heads under his hands (hoping for a tutorial)? When not hanging out on set with Kate Moss in Ibiza for her Vanity Fair December cover shoot  or showing off his bicep cradling Kati Nescher’s head  in November’s Vogue Paris—he was responsible for the cover as well as another shoot inside—James Pecis can weave some hair magic, and for all that reluctance to talk about his skills, the man knows his shit. We gave him free reign over Bambi’s tresses, watched him work, and all died a little inside when he left.
“I’m originally from Northern California, but I lived in New York for six years while I was assisting Jimmy Paul. I started working in the city and I began to find my style and myself and then I moved to London, where I’ve been for the last five-and-a-half years. I used to think that New York was central for everything, but I realized that, for what I’m doing, London is the most central place for me to be. I can get pretty much anywhere in Europe really, really quickly, which is where most of the people I work with are, and so many people in London—or, who are originally from London—really inspire me. It’s just a very inspiring place. People do things differently in London, there’s a different creative energy there. I think moving to London was the best thing I ever did.
After fashion week, I go straight into [doing magazine] editorial. I mean, I’m doing shoots in between shows now. We take so much stuff with us when we’re traveling. Do you see all these bags? [Laughs] All the hairdressers go to the same place to get the best products. In Paris, it’s MGC International, which is down a little alleyway in Paris, by Saint Denis. You can get fedora pins there—the really big hairpins, like the ones Odile made out of gold and sold at Colette. She made them slightly bigger, but they look great as hair pins. MGC also has certain brushes that they just don’t sell anywhere else. The thing is, the world keeps getting smaller and smaller, and you can start getting things anywhere. Most of my wigs, I get in New York, at Helena’s: it’s like the industry wig place. If you have the luxury of getting custom wigs, like having your head measured, then that’d be a couture wig, which start at like $10,000. [Laughs] Finding the right wig can be tough, though. Last season I was in New York, and the girls from my team were back in London working on all of the wigs. I have close to one hundred wigs with me here right now. In this room. [Laughs]. Actually at the end of last season, I finally used a wig that had been in my bag for six years! It just ended up being right for the shoot. That’s what you hope for.
Hair is a very difficult industry to break into, and you need to find something that sets you apart. The reason I started braiding is because a lot of people didn’t want to braid—I remember going to a show once and no one wanted to braid. For me, I’m inspired just by mindlessly playing with hair, sitting in front of the TV just playing with the hair on the mannequin’s head… I also have a ton of sailing books on knot tying. When I was assisting, I would wake up early to play with hair. I became a little bit obsessed. [Laughs] I love doing braids; it’s just fun. There’s so many different things that you can do.
When I was really, really young—around eight—I went to town on friendship bracelets and would sell them to kids at school. That was the beginning of my tying knots for money. [Laughs] I’m still tying knots for money. I can’t really plan what kind of braid I’m going to do; sometimes, you find something great when you’re taking a style apart and you just kind of go with it. I think a lot of the times hairdressers think too much like a ‘hairdresser,’ and not enough like a kid. Sometimes you just need to do something crazy and fun. I’m in love with this girl, Grimes. [Ed. note: We are, too.] But if you asked a hairdresser to cut hair like hers, they would just do some hairdresser version.
Your hair should always be in a style of a girl that you want to be—or the girl that you want to date, you know? I was going to say something else, but…[Laughs] Hyper-fashion is great, but it’s a completely different thing. You just can’t worry about fly-aways when you’re doing a style like this. That’s a big thing.
Bumble and bumble Surf Spray is the best product to use when you want to add some texture. It’s definitely the favorite. We’re also using the Queen For A Day. You must know about Queen For A Day?! [Laughs] Oh man, it’s annoying how good this product is because everyone is using it. Like, everyone is using it. We’re using cans of this stuff at shows. It’s a product by TIGI. It smells horrible, the can looks sort of horrible, and it’s probably the best product I’ve used. You can put it in your hair, blow it out, and get beautiful, huge, Chloé hair, and it never, ever goes flat. Also, do you know the peanut butter trick? It will take out anything stuck in your hair—oil, gum, whatever. One time a girl came in, and she had been in the hospital for a long time after a car accident, and she wanted me to save her hair, and the only thing that worked to get it back to normal was peanut butter. All of the oils in it are incredibly moisturizing for the hair strands. It’s not the easiest to get out, but it works. The harder the problem is, the chunkier the peanut butter you use. [Laughs]”
—as told to ITG
James Pecis photographed by Emily Weiss in New York. Other images: Pecis' editorial work in Vanity Fair and Vogue Paris.