Global traveller, interior design lover and stylist for over 24 years — Rachel Payne has a world of creativity under her belt. When she’s not taking care of her two lovely children, you can find her transforming guests at our Marlow salon. With so much experience and wisdom to offer, we wanted to get to know Rachel a little better. So, who really is the stylist behind the chair? Let’s find out.
So Rachel, how did you first get into hairdressing?
“Well, my mum is a hairdresser, but that’s not why I became one. I’ve always loved fashion, designing and just expressing my creativity ever since I was a child. When I became a teenager, I enjoyed breaking the rules — which ultimately transferred to my hair. With the help of my mum, I had every haircut and colour you could imagine. I just loved having that creative outlet and expressing myself visually.
During this time I was studying at a grammar school, so they really pushed you down the university route, even though that option doesn't work for everyone. One day, after an inspirational talk in an assembly, I was determined to follow my own path — and that path was hairdressing. I secured a job in a top London salon and 24 years later I have never looked back — except briefly to travel the world!”
How has your experience of travelling changed your outlook?
“Travelling changed my outlook on life entirely! By learning how others live, and even what real troubles are, it really grounded me and reminded me of how lucky we are in the Western world. I also found it hugely grew my confidence in making new friends and to be myself more - all lessons that funnily enough carry through to my hairdressing life on a daily basis!
I visited South-East Asia, Austalia, Fiji and India to name a few — taking my hairdressing scissors me wherever I went. As well as a source of income, hairdressing became a way for me to meet new people on my travels — because everyone in the world needs a haircut! But as I said, most of all, travelling changed my perception on life. It’s really made me happy with my lot. As long as I’ve got the basics covered, and a good head of hair on my head, I’m great.”
Very inspirational! What led you to The Chapel Marlow?
“I worked in Maidenhead in one of the top salons for 22 years, I loved my job but I was in my comfort blanket and wanted to shake it off. When I heard that they were opening a Chapel in Marlow, I became excited again — like that creative spark was coming back. Since working here, I’ve realised just how much more I had to learn as a stylist. It’s such a creative environment with a diverse range of stylists and skills. Just seeing how people do things differently is always a massive learning curve for me.”
How has the ethos at The Chapel transformed your experience as a stylist?
“The first thing I noticed about The Chapel (after the beautiful building) was how different the environment was here. Coming from a more traditional salon setting, I couldn't get my head around how it worked as first.
Unlike your typical salon, we don't have any assistants, we do the colours, cuts and blowdries; one stylist to one guest. It’s amazing because it allows us to carry out the joint vision with ease and actually a completely bespoke look. By not having a 'menu' of colouring techniques to stick to, we are free to look at your hair afresh each time, and add the smallest touches to create big impact. For example, to quickly freehand some lightness through the lengths on a regular tint or pop a few pieces around the front to lift one’s whole face (and mood!), we are free to use our creative flair and intuitive sense of style.
This one-to-one approach also gives us a chance to chat to our guests as we take them through the stages, from consultation and hair wash, to cut, colour and style. The Chapel really cares about giving us time to be the best hairdressers we can be.”
Do you follow trends, and which ones are you loving right now?
“I like to make everyone the best version that they can be. This means that I’ve always got an eye on fashion shows and magazines to anticipate trends, but I wouldn't push them onto someone if I didn’t think it was their style. It's just about creating the right style for the right person. As far as current trends go, I’m really enjoying the move towards cutting shape back into hair as I’m quite a technical cutter. But, at the same time, I absolutely love doing colour too. For me, it’s a whole look.”
How do you feel about the hairdressing industry today?
“In the 24 years I've been hairdressing, the industry has changed in a really positive way. Before, there was a tendency for stylists to be sneery and judgmental, especially when it came to the more editorial side of things. But now, it’s not like that at all. I recently went on a session styling course for The Chapel, and everyone was so welcoming, lovely and eager to share tips and advice. Looking at it from the inside, I’m really proud of how much progress we've made as an industry.”
What’s one piece of hair advice you’d give each of your guests?
I’d stress the importance of condition — especially when it comes to overusing straighteners. For guests who come in and want to achieve silky, smooth hair, I love to teach them how to blowdry instead. It’s an essential skill that you can pass on to guests to achieve salon hair at home, whilst also minimising damage. Even for guests who have naturally dark locks but love highlights, it’s important to make their colour easy-to-maintain. I like to guide people towards a more maintainable colour. perhaps bringing a bit more of their natural colour into it. When hair is overcoloured (we have all been there!) it’s impossible for it to look its full potential.”
We’ve loved getting to Rachel a little better. For some hairspiration of your own, follow Rachel on Instagram or visit our blog. If you'd like to meet her or any of our stylists for a free, relaxed consultation at any of our 5 UK salons, it starts with a conversation.