Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
Frédéric Fekkai has come full circle. The the legendary hairstylist recently bought back his namesake haircare line and expanded into the lifestyle products with Bastide, a brand inspired by his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, France.
And that's just in the past two years. Fekkai, who counts powerful women like Jessica Lange, Jodi Foster, and Meryl Streep among his first A-list clients, was a celebrity hairstylist-turned-haircare mogul before stylists like Jen Atkin had social media platforms like Instagram to help them build their brand's empire. On top of his famous clients, he has multiple salon locations, and a two vast lines of haircare products. No wonder he couldn't stand being in the passenger seat of his own brand.
Today, we caught up with Fekkai to talk about how he got his start in haircare, the products he's most proud of creating, and which trendy haircut he loves the most.
How did you get your start in haircare?
As a young boy growing up in Aix-en-Provence, France, I dreamed of becoming a sculptor, but I enrolled in law school instead to please my father. During that time, I had the good fortune of meeting an amazing artist from the Jacques Dessange Group [a salon franchise company] who introduced me to some of the best hairstylists in the industry. This catalyzed my journey into haircare. Eventually, I became the artistic director for Jacques Dessange in Paris, and in 1982, I moved to New York. In 1989 – at the advice of Calvin Klein, I opened my first Frédéric Fekkai Salon at Bergdorf Goodman. The rest is history.
Tell us a bit about working with your first celebrity clients in New York?
I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with celebrities for magazine photoshoots, films, red carpets, and in the salon. My first celebrity clients included Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Jodi Foster and more. It has been great to watch so many of them have continued success and recognition.
How is running a product line and salons different than working with celebrity clients?
The salon is my laboratory for inspiration, testing new products, and talking to customers and stylists for feedback and ideas. Working with A-list clients keeps me relevant and innovative.
How was deciding to leave your namesake brand?
When you sell your brand, you feel like an empty nester. You come home, and all of a sudden you realize nobody’s there. But, I had the opportunity to change my life and do other things, like investing in brands and looking into consumer goods. Then one day, I woke up and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I realized that the thing I like to do is build brands and do something I believe in. I wanted it back. Being in the passenger seat of your own car is not an easy situation.
What made you want to buy it back?
I desired to reconnect with the Fekkai salons and customers. It gives me the opportunity to reinfuse my passion for innovation, while reigniting its growth and guiding Fekkai Brands through its next chapter in a modern and exciting way.
What Fekkai product are you most proud of creating? Are surprised by the success of any particular products?
I am proud of all of my products! I have always sourced natural ingredients for my line. For example, I was the first to introduce shea butter in haircare with the Essential Shea collection.
The Gifted One Multitasker is also a favorite of both stylists and consumers.
You acquired Bastide (a beauty and lifestyle brand) with your wife Shirin in 2015 and relaunched in 2016. How is working with this line different than haircare?
Bastide comes from and is based on life in my hometown of Aix-en-Provence, France. The philosophy of Bastide is about living a pure and relaxed life, being closer to nature and finding the simple things in life. On the other hand, haircare can be more of a hustle and bustle type of atmosphere – like life in New York City. Each offers inspiration and provides balance and are representative to Fekkai brands as a whole.
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What has it been like to see the industry change with social media and things going digital?
The evolution of the industry in the digital space and social media has been incredible. Fekkai was built on the special tailored service for each client. AI and customization now supplements the artisanship and expertise clients have come to expect and want.
What do you think of Instagram beauty trends, specifically hair?
I love seeing the creativity and bold statement hair like eccentric colors photographed in a fun and beautiful way. I also love a blunt bob with some texture – it’s a bit of a nostalgic nod to the '90s, but also looks chic and on-trend. It’s easy to style for either a casual or more formal look, so it suits today’s modern woman who is always on the go.