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Frederic Fekkai

Hair icon Frédéric Fekkai on sustainability and being the Tesla of haircare

TextAlex Peters

The celebrity hairstylist is back at the helm of his namesake brand to take the beauty industry to the future

When it comes to hair, Frédéric Fekkai knows what he’s talking about. A legendary celebrity hairstylist in the 80s, Fekkai would cut the hair of the likes of Hilary Clinton and Demi Moore from his namesake salon in Bergdorf Goodman in New York, which he opened at the advice of Calvin Klein and where the waiting list to get in the door was months long. In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods has a Frédéric Fekkai haribrush on her vanity next to her OPI nail polishes. In 1995, he launched his first luxury hair collection when the concept of luxury haircare didn’t exist, before the brand was sold to Procter & Gamble in 2008. 10 years later, he bought the brand back and has now relaunched it, newly formulated and newly rethought as a vegan, clean, cruelty-free 100 per cent recyclable luxury haircare line.   

Driven by a lack of clean, sustainable haircare products in the beauty space that are effective and high-performing, Fekkai’s range promises to produce results that are just as good as traditional brands and he worked with labs and MIT engineers to create the ingredients, such as their plant-based substitute for silicon, and technology to achieve this. “Now, we can do great products that are great for us but not detrimental to the planet,” he says. “To me, that’s the most important thing coming back, to make sure we demonstrate that you can do really good products that are eco-friendly and sustainable.”

The range is made up of five collections, each targeting different areas from coloured hair to strengthening and volume. All products are made with 95 per cent recycled plastic and in its first year, the brand plans to repurpose 64 million grams of plastic, roughly the equivalent of 7 million plastic bottles.

With almost four decades of experience, seeing hair trends come and go, Fekkai gives us his predictions about where hair is going right now and tells us all about his new range.

Why did you decide to come back after all these years?

Frédéric Fekkai: You know, it’s a very good question. If it was not my name on the bottle I wouldn't have got it back but it was my name and I am young and it’s my legacy. I wanted to make sure we correct the philosophy and the message here and to make sure we have a product that can deliver great performance by being sustainable and relevant.

Why did you want to be so sustainable and clean? Is that what you were hearing from your clients or was it something that you implement in your own life?

Frédéric Fekkai: First it started with me. When I sold the company, I changed the way I lived for myself and my children. We banned plastic in our house, we are careful to make sure that everything we use is as eco-friendly as possible and we saw that the options were getting better and better. I thought: ‘Wow this is good. Let's apply this to our industry, to beauty’ and it's been a great journey.

Beauty has in the past been very unsustainable.

Frédéric Fekkai: It still is. I was at the drug store recently and all the plastic used was depressing, it’s unnecessary. Some brands are using so much useless plastic and it's not making the product prettier. It's a waste and it's not even recycled plastic. I mean we're killing so many birds, fish, everything, it's crazy. But sustainability is becoming a new way of life and the new generation is so clever. 

Do you think it's up to brands to start changing or the consumer?

Frédéric Fekkai: It's not the consumer it's the brand. I just read an amazing article that consumers are shying away from brands that are not sustainable. How great is that? You know, how great. The thing about it is it's all about the approach. Electric cars are not new, they've existed for more than 20 years but before nobody cared about them. They were ugly and they were not sexy but when Tesla came in, all of sudden everybody was talking about electric cars. It's all about making it appealing to the consumer.

What are women looking for when it comes to their hair?

Frédéric Fekkai: Shine. Shine is the quick fix to make the hair look great. It makes it look healthy. Especially when you colour your hair. When you colour your hair you take the natural shine away, bleach automatically makes your hair a little more matte, and so it's so important to restore that and it's good when you can do it without making your hair heavy and weighing it down. We used to create shine with silicone but now we’ve created the effect without it. So it's all about the perception, and when your hair's shiny all of a sudden it looks like fresh air.

You still work as a stylist. What are the big trends that people are asking for?

Frédéric Fekkai: It's interesting. You know for two decades it's been long hair, this is why we have these blow dry bars and now if you can see on Instagram and Pinterest, there's a resurgence of shorter hair which I am delighted about. When I say shorter hair, it's all lengths from pixies to bobs but with daring colours like Billie EIlish. You see lilac and pink, all these colours and it's a bit rebellious. It's great because I think the new generation doesn't want to have the same hair as the past. It’s about thinking outside of the box and being daring. 

What do you think we are going to be seeing in the future?

Frédéric Fekkai: What is going to happen is that we're gonna see, I call this ‘deconstructed haircare,’ so for instance instead of having a perfect bob, it would be a jagged-edged bob you know a little bit grimy. It's so fun, it's great and then the colour also, it's only on the ends, it's not all over. Maybe it's lavender blue and then pink hair and that's the beauty of it, it's creative. We need creativity back, otherwise it's too boring, it's too stale. We need creativity. I want to make sure people can express themselves.

Hair can be quite emotional like for example when you have break up you often change your hair.

Frédéric Fekkai: It used to be that but now it's more about saying, ‘this is me, this is who I am.’ It's more about affirming identity and personality. It doesn't need to be just because of a reaction to a negative situation. It’s just: ‘I feel like it.’ It's a whole different game, it's great.

Hair is the perfect way to express yourself because you change it so easily.

Frédéric Fekkai: It's exactly right and why should it be only when you are a teenager that you can be rebellious. No, why can’t you say: ‘I want blue hair today.’ It's no longer the predictable colours. It's orange, it's blue, it's Billie Eilish. What social media has done to make-up, it's happening to hair too.

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