Behind the Hair: Mat Johnson

We’re definitely not short of talented hairstylists here in Adelaide but not many can boast their own luxe haircare and skincare line and jet setting overseas to be a global educator to their list of achievements. This is a reality for the incredibly talented and charismatic, Mat Johnson. He’s been named as a finalist for best South Australian hairdresser by the Australian Hair Fashion Awards (multiple times) as well as receiving accolades for the video that he shot alongside other Adelaide creatives in Paris last year.

We had a chat to the man himself about life, inspiration, being responsible for Tigerlily’s locks and all things MJ.

Hey Mat, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I started at 18 and bought my first business at 22 so now I have been in business 10 years with 14 years experience which has gone past so quickly.

I am a Global Artist for MATRIX have worked all over the world on photoshoots, hosting shows, hosting and facilitating education events, business seminars and global fashion forecasting. I am currently responding to this from the 35th floor of the L’Oreal building in NYC where we have just shot the 2018 spring campaign for MATRIX (April/May for Australia) . This involves the global artistic team creating cuts, styles and hair colour and palettes that we as a global team predict will be on trend for the upcoming season. We then design colours that the brand will create and launch with the collection so salons all over the world can recreate these trends. The images will be used for the global branding, advertising, social media and will be made into an education platform that will be implemented all over the world.

Your salon in Norwood is a little bit of a hair styling and colouring institution in Adelaide, can you tell us about the team behind it?

We at MJ are more than a team. At MJ, we are a strong family. We work so well together and there is a great deal of support and respect for all team members.  All my team are very highly skilled and super passionate about hair, fashion and our amazing clients. Nothing makes me more happy and proud to see my team grow, succeed and achieve their goals!

If you haven’t yet seen the salon, it’s to die for. We are located in the backstreets of leafy Norwood in a beautiful heritage home with an incredible history. I have had some clients for 14 years, so customer service is our main priority with beautiful hair.

You spent some time in Paris last year and shot your AHFA collection there, tell us a little about what went down behind the scenes?

This was an experience that I will never forget. I hired a huge loft AirBnb apartment in the heart of the fashionable Marais district where we stayed and also shot the collection. There was so many different textures with each room and windows huge that cast incredible light and shadows. Not to mention I flew over my brilliant photographer and great friend Alex Drewniak to shoot the collection, we work so incredibly well together and our passion for the craft fuels the energy on set. Having such a large apartment meant we could hold all the models at once, have everything in one location with hair, makeup and several areas to shoot the models. There was always great music playing and keeping the vibes up, loads of laughter and this electricity in the air that is so hard to describe. Simply magic.

I found all my models on model mayhem website besides one that I met at the Lion Hotel in North Adelaide. About 6 months beforehand, I was there having a drink on a Sunday night and after chatting to a random girl I found out she lived in Paris and  was a model. So six months later, there we were working together in Paris! Emma Dodd does all my image retouching, her skill is like no one I have ever seen. After we shot each model inside, we went out to shoot on the streets of Paris, which just oozed the Parisian vibes. (Check out the videos on the MJ website or Facebook.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather so when we weren’t shooting it was Aperol Spritzes on the streets with gorgeous food! We share the passion of food, wine, culture, architecture and, of course, fashion. So we would sit on the street with a drink to watch and absorb all that was happening around us with beautifully dressed men on bikes with a baguette under their arm, women in Chanel suits smoking with a whippet on their lap and the elderly looking like they’ve been styled by Vogue.
How did it then feel to be named a finalist for SA/NT Hairdresser of the year at AHFA?
I didn’t believe it at first, then I started to get bombarded with messages congratulating me, it was a moment that you take in and think, yep, I’m on the right path. I couldn’t wait to call Lady Drewniak and tell her, because we also were finalists for Australian Hair Fashion Video of the Year. The collection has been featured in a several international hair magazines so I couldn’t ask for more.
You have your own line of haircare products, how do they differ from other products on the market?
All of my products are Australian made and owned plus contain Certified Organic ingredients and are a great option for those who care about what we absorb into our bodies and what goes down our drains and into our water ways. The skin we have on our scalp is the same as is on our face, and I know I would never shampoo my face so why our scalp? This all came about 2 years ago when I was in hospital and off work for 6 weeks so I had lots of time to think about what direction I wanted to move in and started researching into the products.
When I was an apprentice I used to make organic hair and skin care for my boss Peter Francis who is internationally awarded and recognised for his Certified Organic  formulas. At the time I didn’t love staying back after work to mix and make all these potions, but I am so thankful for everything that I learnt in the process as I understood so much on it already.

 You even have a great (and delicious-sounding) skincare range, what made you want to expand into skincare as well?

I am very passionate about great skin and what we put on our skin. There are so many chemicals that go into skincare that are derived from petrol (petrochemicals) that are cheap to purchase and easily made into ingredients for skincare. I just wanted to keep it clean and simple with as many organic ingredients as possible, no added fragrance, easy to use and affordable.

You’re the man behind DJ Tigerlily’s luscious and always beautiful locks (and just basically the king of pastel hair) – what is it like seeing her take on the world with the perfect hair in tow?

Tigerlily and I have a very special relationship and she is so much more than a client we are really good mates! I am so proud to say that my team and I colour and cut her hair especially because she lives in Sydney and there are a lot of great hairdressers there. She will fly me to location or we tee something up in Adelaide when she has a show which is incredible loyalty that is rare these days. For styling I have one of my talented network look after her where ever she maybe, same as lots of my clients especially my international brides. We have tried many colours, tones and variations which keeps it very exciting. But her social media followers are the first to critique her new looks.
Seeing my work on a globally recognised artist like her is really something words cannot describe. We do love working with pastel tones because they are so easily changed and aren’t permanent, hair colour is the new makeup! So the way a lady can pick a new lipstick, that is what we at MJ can do with hair with out compromising the quality of your hair.

Where does inspiration come from when you create a hair collection or just looking for new looks to try?

With all of my travel I get to see so many trends six months to a year before they hit Australia, so this is where get lots of my inspiration from. Also being part of the MATRIX global team I am constantly surrounded by incredibly talented stylists from all over the world and I pick up lots of tips, tricks and ideas from working with these industry pioneers.

What’s been the most exciting highlight of your career so far?

There are too many to list. Working on stage all over the world inspiring and educating my peers, creating global trends that get implemented globally, styling international weddings, DJ Tigerlily’s world tour in Vegas. BUT my salon and staff are what I am most proud of!

What is still on the bucket list of things to achieve?

World domination!

Any exciting upcoming plans that you can share with us about yourself or the MJ Haircare/Skincare line?

This August marks 10 years of being in business. I have something big in store, but you’ll all need to wait for this one.

MJ by Mat Johnson is located at 37 William Street, Norwood.
08 8331 1411

See the full range of hair and skincare products at





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