Celebrity hairstylist Matthew Preece on his career, meditation and more
By Srianthi Perera
When he’s not cutting hair, celebrity hairstylist Matthew Preece turns inward. “Meditation is a way to remove yourself from the daily chatter and the daily grind, it’s a place where you can connect with the universal consciousness,” said Preece of his namesake hair salon in Santa Monica.
Preece also finds value in connecting with his clients.
“I like knowing that I have the ability to be able to change how they’re feeling to the positive. There’s nothing I like more than seeing my clients walk out with beautiful hair and feeling beautiful as the day goes,” he added. “I like to help them transition to a different state of mind if they are suffering with something. So, it’s all about connection.”
Round French mirrors with lighting, brushed aluminum stations, Buddha statues, pictures of the Sex Pistols and graffiti art – in this eclectic, high-end establishment, clients such as Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, Robert Downey Jr., the Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse step into an ambiance where spirituality meets with rock ‘n’ roll, while also hobnobbing with the ultra-modern.
“Living in Los Angeles and working in this industry, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be bumping shoulders with celebrities, and obviously making friends along the way,” Preece said.
But does he get nervous that the scissors will slip or the foam will flow just a tad much?
“Personally, I don’t really get nervous,” Preece said. “I’m not in a position where doing a celebrity really means anything to me other than maybe making a friend. However, occasionally, depending on the situation I find myself in, it can be a little nerve-racking.”
It’s nothing compared to Preece’s beginnings in the industry back in his home country of England. He was just 21 when he opened his first salon.
“I got into the hair salon business because I was at the forefront of fashion in my youth and it seemed like a natural step,” Preece said. “I immediately took to it, finding I had a natural ability to create.”
However, it was premature.
“It was a nightmare, I was far too young to deal with managing and running a salon. I was full of testosterone and fear. It was very difficult,” Preece recalled. “I promised myself I would never own a salon again. And, of course, I came to America, and one thing after another, now I own my own salon again.”
In 2008, Preece received an opportunity to open a Fred Segal Salon in the same location as the older Fred Segal beauty salon. Coincidentally, it was located in a place he had called home for many years.
“At the time I was working at the Chris McMillan Salon in Beverly Hills when Fred and Michael Segal personally asked me to resurrect the Fred Segal salon space to its former glory,” Preece said. “I reluctantly agreed, but as history shows, obviously that was a great decision for my career at that time. Unfortunately, Fred Segal in Santa Monica closed its doors in 2015 and I was left with the option to open a Matthew Preece Salon or go to work at another salon elsewhere. I meditated on this decision and decided to go with my own name salon.”
Preece brought to the table a good work ethic.
“Fortunately for me, starting out my career in England and working with a sensational group of stylists, my training was exceptional and my work ethic was, and still is, one of a very high standard,” Preece said. “Obviously, I brought this with me across the pond and I install these high standards in my salon by guiding and nurturing my team.”
There are many benefits to owning and operating a hair salon: the hands-on experience, the camaraderie with the team and nurturing/guiding the connection.
“I really enjoy seeing the clients in the salon leave happy and healthy with beautiful hair,” Preece said.
The pandemic, however, adversely affected their livelihoods as salons were closed in LA for nearly nine months.
“The whole of the industry’s blueprint has changed, stylists were forced out of the salon into people’s homes by no fault of their own,” Preece said. “Once we get some stability within the industry, stylists will start prioritizing working in the salon because economically it will make more sense.”
During these economically depressed times, Preece has another avenue of income: his two product lines of hair care products, Matthew Preece and Pure Bao, which are completely natural and toxin-free, while offering a great performance.
“I wanted to create a product that was natural, safe and clean with no harmful chemicals that would outperform the best products on the market and I feel 100% that I have accomplished this,” Preece said. “Everybody that uses these products reorders and is amazed by the performance.”
The other good news is that Preece’s salon is back open with 13 stylists and business is growing again.
“We’re getting a lot of new clients, which is fantastic,” Preece said. “We’re getting the clients back that hibernated for a year-and-a-half because of Covid-19. A lot of us have been vaccinated and people are feeling much safer now. It is definitely moving in the right direction.”
Then there’s meditation, which goes in tandem with Preece’s work. Even during pre-pandemic times, meditation was much in demand. Preece learned the philosophy in a transcendental school in India that he continues to visit. He used to teach in the salon and now presents online.
“There’s a massive demand for meditation right now,” Preece said. He has up to 50 students on Zoom classes and also guides people one-on-one. There is no charge but donations are accepted. He contended that people are conflicted.
“Now, they’re finding it hard to connect to people, they’ve got in the habit of staying in the home. They are finding it hard to socialize. What are the rules? People are internally conflicted,” Preece said. “They see what’s going on in the world, they have fear, a lot of people are unemployed, a lot of lives have changed. I’ve gone from the really busy, bustling salon to having to close down. That goes across the board. It’s crazy the sacrifices the small businesses have had to make in this pandemic.”
What happens from there?
“I can either be in a place of fear and I can stress and worry about the future,” Preece shared. “Or I can be in the moment and not have any fear-driven stories to my daily existence and I find that I’m a lot calmer when that happens. Because the story is in the moment. The story is facing fear. If you have that realization that you’re making a story about the future, then you’re adding that fear emotion that can cause illness in various different ways; then you’re golden if you can practice that. That’s what I do.”