The Frederic Fekkai Interview
Of all the celebrities I’ve interviewed over the years, Frederic Fekkai remains one of the most interesting. He was charming, thoughtful and very smart. I had no idea that he is close friends with Martha Stewart! Here’s my interview with him:
Born: 1958 in Aix-en-Provence, France
Training: Studied with legendary French stylist Jacques Dessange in Paris
New York: Opened his own salon in 1989 at Bergdorf Goodman creating a sensation. Went on to open several more high-profile Manhattan salons.
Celebrity Clients: Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale
Flagship salon: The Fekkai flagship store on New York’s tony Fifth Avenue has been the highest grossing salon in the world for the past 20 years. It’s a massive 10,000 square foot space boasting fresh flowers, Wi-Fi service, private changing rooms and in-house caterers. His salons around the world service 1,500 women and men daily.
Prestige Hair Care pioneer: Fekkai created the “prestige haircare category” in beauty when he launched his signature premium line in 1995
Tastemaker: His homes and lifestyle are often featured in Vogue, Elle Décor and Town and Country. He’s seen at the chicest galas and events with his wife Shirin.
Martha Stewart: Frederic serves on Ms. Stewart’s Board of Directors for Martha Stewart Living.
A Year of Style: In 2000, Fekkai published a day-by-day guide offering advice on hair care, fashion and personal style.
Legally Blonde II: He made a cameo appearance in this Hollywood film
“I always remember the best piece of advice Ralph Lauren gave me: Don’t be overly trendy – make sure what you do is timeless.”
- Frederic Fekkai
“The simplest and most natural styles are the most beautiful.”
– Frederic Fekkai
Frederic Fekkai and family on vacation
Frederic Fekkai: In His Own Words
Right now, I have 16 lab samples of shampoo and conditioners in my bathroom shower that I’m testing. I’ve been testing them for the past two weeks and have to report my result to the lab this afternoon. I’m judging each on its consistency, its texture, its fragrance and how it rinses and lathers. I’m obsessive about quality. That’s why it often takes 18 months to create a new product.
When I opened my salon at Bergdorf Goodman in 1989, I noticed that my clients were spending $300 to $400 for a jar of La Prairie, La Mer or Sisley skin cream. But they were then using a $6.99 generic shampoo. I immediately knew there was a problem with this. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating a premium hair care line in the same spirit as luxury skincare.
I built my business on exceptional customer service. I designed my salons to look like the lounge of a great 4-star hotel with modern lighting, fresh flowers and no clutter. You’ll never see any hair on the floor of any of my salons. Staff greet customers and offer cappuccinos or raspberry iced tea. Then they take the time to really listen to customers to truly understand what they want. Listening is the most important part.
I sit on the Board of Martha Stewart Omnimedia and I’m always amazed at Martha’s amazing talent. She’s a very curious person. When she travels, she often visits the library in the town she is staying to learn about the history and culture of the region. She has this desire to understand the character of each town.
The product I’m most proud of is my Glossing Cream. What drives me today is to come up with formulas that offer instant results. This product produces shine and texture the minute you apply it. It takes frizz away and smoothes hair. I love it.
My favorite vacation destination is the South of France – Provence. I love the quality of light there – how the sea meets the mountains. It’s peaceful and the food is delicious. It’s a very special place.
Great hair stylists are like hotel concierges today. They give much more than just hair styling advice. They can recommend skincare, makeup, eyebrow shaping and even a great local restaurant. But only if they are asked. It’s discreet advice.
My favourite movie is To Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. I love classic movies including On The Waterfront and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. I’m also inspired by Downton Abbey, Suits and Homeland. I used to visit libraries for inspiration but today that has been replaced by traveling and the internet. I find what is happening in China, Japan, South America and Italy particularly exciting.
I don’t like to be stuck in one mindset. That’s why I have such an eclectic taste in music. I listen to opera, classic rock, R&B. I like to explore different worlds.
Stylists can get caught up in creating something outrageous but truly flattering cuts enhance your natural bone structure. If you have a round face and decide on bangs, it will make your face appear rounder. If you sweep the hair to one side, the face suddenly has a diamond shape. It’s like a designer raincoat. Wear one too long and you look shorter. But wear one that hangs to just above the knee and you look taller. It’s all about proper proportion.
I think Proenza Schouler are fantastic designers. I love Philip Lim’s easy, approachable style. And I admire what Karl Lagerfeld does in many ways. He’s relentless in terms of innovation.
Celebrities have changed the way women wear their hair today. I was recently in Dallas which is a very conservative town. And I noticed all these young girls with very interesting styles. You could see the influence of singers like Rihanna and Katy Perry who love to play with their hair styles.
Today’s hair care formulas are very technologically advanced. A good product can help strengthen hair, add shine and control frizz. The biggest trick to great results is to learn how to use the products properly. This is a big part of what we do in the salon. For example, never apply conditioner to the scalp – only the ends of the hair. Then rinse thoroughly with water as cold as you can stand. It will stimulate the scalp, close the hair shaft and create shine.
It’s a good idea to alternate shampoos if you have more than one hair concern. If you have thin hair and highlights, use Full Volume Shampoo one day and Salong Technician Shampoo to protect the highlights the following day.
The most exciting moment of my career came at the opening party for my salon at Bergdorf Goodman. It was a who’s who of guests: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, John Kennedy Jr., Meryl Streep.
Today’s best hairstyles are what I call ‘casually chic’. They are not too groomed but have enough shape as to look polished.
I will never use inexpensive, generic ingredients in one of my products. Never. The way we formulate products is to start with superior technology and ingredients that feel great and offer the best results. Even something as simple as a polymer must be the absolute best on the market.
Hair care products in the future will work faster. A hair mask that used to take 30 minutes at home now works in three minutes. We’ll also see more dual-benefit formulas that create say, volume and shine at the same time.