It may be 9am on a wet morning in early October, but Adam Reedis all smiles. He is fizzing with energy as he arrives at our meeting spot, a hotel on the South Bank, slightly windswept from the school run and chattering away as if he’s known me for years. ‘I love meeting new people,’ he grins, ‘and you’ll soon see my mind is like a circus, because I find it really hard to stay on track!’
If Reed’s mind is like a circus we’re all invited to the show. One of London’s most in-demand hairdressers, he’s come a long way since starting out, aged 13, as a Saturday boy in his local salon in Somerset. Since then, Reed, 46, has styled the hair of celebrities such as Diane Kruger and Madonna, as well as worked on advertising campaigns for Harvey Nichols and Agent Provocateur. Recently, he was nominated for British Hairdresser of the Year. In 2007 he co-founded haircare brand Percy & Reed with fellow hairdresser Paul Percival, which now has two booked-out salons in London and a product line (sold in more than 20 countries) that you’ll have seen all over your local high street.
‘I always knew I wanted to do hair,’ he smiles. ‘I was so lucky — I’d go to the salon with my grandmother and watch what they were doing.’ Born in Dalston but brought up in Somerset, Reed was hooked on what would become his career from an early age. ‘We would come up to London for half term and my sisters wanted to go and look at HMS Belfast and the Tower of London, and I just wanted to go to Selfridges. I loved fashion and beauty.’
At 21 he moved to London, where he worked for Charles Worthington for 13 years, and made his name through a mixture of salon, session and editorial work. Early in his career he met magazine editor Isabella Blow. She introduced him to ‘all sorts of people: Sophie Dahl, who’s still one of my best friends, Plum Sykes, Honor Fraser and Iris Palmer.’ That gave him ‘a foot in the door’, which led to ‘networking, which was so important for me. I really believe there’s an element of right place, right time, right people.’
Percival, who ran styling agency Phamous Artists, was certainly the right person. After a few years of working together on videos, campaigns and editorial, the duo launched Percy & Reed on Great Portland Street. The business soon expanded to include an east London salon, that highly successful product range and a list of celebrity clients including Ellie Goulding, Will Young and Anna Friel.
‘We had this shared vision of something that wasn’t a super salon, where you could have your own personality,’ says Reed. ‘Coming from Somerset, I just wanted a great haircut and a great group of people around me.’ Now, after more than a decade, Reed is leaving to set up a salon of his own — a move that has the beauty industry whispering of a rift. But Reed puts me right. ‘It’s so easy to say that. In hairdressing especially, that’s normally what happens,’ he laughs. ‘But Paul and I chatted about it, and we decided it was the right time to do our own thing. Percy & Reed has been incredible, and such a huge part of hairdressing in London in the past 10 years. I’m so proud of it. But I really felt it was time to move on.’
While there may not have been any high-drama bust-ups, Reed’s move hasn’t been a spur-of-the moment decision. He is vocal on Instagram about mental health and his own struggles with addiction, even showing me inspirational quotes he has saved on his phone. ‘When I gave up drinking, I just realised that a lot was changing,’ he says. ‘I was going in a different direction because of what I’d gone through personally.’
Reed realised that alcohol ‘wasn’t good for me’ when he was 38, after years of networking on the London party scene. ‘I found London really quite difficult, as it’s such a lonely place,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t from London and at the time, in the hairdressing industry it was very much where you came from and who you’d worked for. And I didn’t have that history, so I sort of had to make my own.’
But the nights out soon began to take their toll. ‘I became reliant on drinking to network and I had mental health issues, like social anxiety, that were blown out of proportion by alcohol,’ he says. He is upfront about the negative effects his drinking had: ‘I was a bit of an idiot when I was drunk — I thought it was really funny to swear, to call people names. I used to get the fear the next day. I thought that drinking gave me my social life, my friends, my relationships, but actually, a lot of it was quite toxic.’
Reed decided that enough was enough. ‘I wasn’t very well, and drink was my self-medication,’ he admits. ‘I tried to hide it but what I actually needed to do was stop drinking. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’ He tried AA, but ‘for me, it didn’t work’. Instead, he started seeing a therapist. Did he worry that being sober would affect the networking that he found so important? ‘Without doubt. For me, it was better not to go out, because the risk of drinking was too high. When I gave up, I lost loads of friends. But now, you can do a lot of networking on social media, and you don’t have to go out so much.’
Since giving up alcohol Reed has met his husband, Kenny, with whom he shares an adopted eight-year-old son, Riley. Reed grins broadly when he speaks about his family. ‘Kenny came into my life at the right time,’ he beams, ‘and we decided to adopt, which I never thought I would do. Riley wants to be a hairdresser as well, and he’s the funniest little thing — he definitely takes after me with that! It’s given me a much better view of myself, having that responsibility.’
Responsibility is something Reed has a lot of right now as he starts work on his eponymous new project, Adam Reed Salon, which he describes as an ‘emporium — a curated space that just makes you feel great’. He plans to open it later this year in east London, ‘because that’s where my home, heart, everything is’, and will offer more than just the salon experience. ‘I love when I go somewhere and there’s more than what I go for.’ There will be coffee-table books, an in-salon book swap and everything from plants to perfumes and jewellery will be for sale. The salon will also be dry and Reed says he’s in talks with Seedlip about creating a bespoke non-alcoholic cocktail. He’s also working on a perfume podcast, styling hair for The X Factor and mentoring young hairdressers. In short, he’s busier than ever.
‘When I left Percy & Reed three months ago, I thought I’d have some time off. Not a chance!’ he laughs. ‘These days, I have more genuine friends who really care about what I’m doing. I didn’t value myself as a hairdresser or as a human before. But actually, I love what I do; I’ve never lost that.’