Matt Benns in New York. Photo: Emma Anderson

Top hairstylist Matt Benns is back in town (and on the salon floor) for a limited time only

One of our top talents in the hair industry has been making significant waves overseas, and is now back on home turf (and, more importantly, in a local salon) for a limited time only. Matt Benns got his start as a trainee at renowned Auckland salon Stephen Marr in 2007, working his way up to Creative Director for the company by 2014 and moving to London in 2016, then New York in 2017. Having built a formidable portfolio of both in-salon and editorial work already in New Zealand, Benns’ roster of dream jobs, and dream clients, is now fit to burst. 

He’s a master O&M colour trainer based at the company’s New York headquarters, and has also been assisting top hairstylist Jawara Wauchope on editorial and commercial shoots since early last year. Through this, Benns has tended to the tresses of Beyoncé for British Vogue and several of the world’s biggest movie stars for Vanity Fair’s 2020 Hollywood issue — plus he was in charge of grooming for Anwar Hadid’s recent Numéro Magazine cover, and so much more.

We caught up with Benns to hear a bit about how he’s doing, and some of his key inspirations. Read the Q&A below — and, if you’d like to have the very same hands that have coloured Beyoncé’s hair colour yours, we suggest you contact Stephen Marr where he’s taking clients today, the 22nd and 26th of January.

Hi Matt! Welcome back to Aotearoa. How are you feeling upon your return?
Thank you, it’s honestly a crazy feeling. I’m feeling really blessed to be able to return.

What is one of the biggest things you’ve learned?
To be okay with not having long term plans. Before the pandemic, I was constantly thinking about what was next — I still do of course, but at a much healthier pace. The pandemic has changed the way we’re able to work especially in the beauty industry, our jobs require touch and human interaction so it has affected the pace that we can work. Also, the importance and value of community. We all have been through it, some more than others, and as New Yorkers we pulled through and supported each other in many ways. I felt very privileged to be a part of that.

Talk us through a typical day for you if you have a big shoot in the works. 
Depending on the shoot, the brief is emailed through a day before and we research, sourcing from historical moments, films, art, and books. We have a library of pre-researched works that we draw from that’s updated constantly. If needed, we pre-colour wigs, pre-style wigs and sometimes we travel too — all our kits need to be ready. Once on set, we unpack and begin working, however we usually have about 85 percent of work pre-done to make time on set as smooth as possible. This leaves room to make quick changes if something isn’t working. There are loads of things that are getting ready at this time, like set-build, styling, lights, photo, etc. so efficiency is crucial. 

Any strong hair trends emerging that you can pinpoint?
At this moment in time because of the pandemic and major shifts in beauty norms, there is nothing I can define as a trend. I really don’t think this type of forecast is overly relevant in beauty, which is actually really exciting. We’re expressing ourselves with more fluidity and confidence, looking internally and pulling from our own backgrounds. 

Could you share some key advice for taking care of your tresses in summer?
I think the biggest advice I could give anyone over summer is to avoid heat as much as possible, the less you work your hair the better. I do a lot of “fake haircuts” which is a very quick dusting of the ends.

Who or what inspires you?
People and books are heavy sources of inspiration. I’m lucky enough to be in New York where there are libraries of books I can access. I can spend hours in a bookstore or a library. 

And what else are you planning on getting up to while you’re here?
Spending as much time at the beach as possible, this trip was very last minute and unexpected — I’ve worked on a few shoots already while I’ve been back, hoping to collaborate with this new influx of talent we have here.

In recent times, what is the best…

Podcast you’ve listened to?
I listen to The New York Times The Daily ritually.

Book you’ve read?
Assata: An Autobiography 

Show you’ve watched?
I’ve started HBO’s Veneno and recently finished the Netflix Fran Lebowitz documentary by Martin Scorsese Pretend It’s a City — brilliant!

Meal you’ve eaten?
Brunch yesterday at Honey Bones, the Istanbul eggs.

Item you’ve purchased?
A USM Modular cabinet from my favourite NYC furniture store Lichen.

Social media account you follow?
@samyoukillis is my favourite.

Song you’ve heard?
‘Love Me Tonight’ by Fern Kinney (my summer jam).

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