Star hairstylist, salon owner and serial entrepreneur Frédéric Fekkai is going back to his Provencal roots for his latest venture in beauty.
His vehicle is a 26-year-old Aix-en-Provence-based company called Cote Bastide, which he acquired and is transforming into a new brand.
Fekkai recently rolled out a blueprint detailing his vision for building a family-run business, founded by Fekkai and his wife Shirin von Wulffen. It will be a naturally based personal-care business utilizing and featuring local manufacturers, which are family-run companies operating within 50 miles of Aix.
Renamed Bastide, a French word referring to a country homestead, the rebooted business will start broadcasting original content via its Instagram account today and a company web site with an e-commerce platform will start broadcasting in France on Dec. 20 and in the U.S. on Jan. 11.
A new 440-square-foot flagship boutique is expected to open in Aix in March, at which time Fekkai will start looking for a boutique in Paris in the same 400- to 500-square-foot size.
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A hunt also has been under way for a similarly sized location in downtown Manhattan. Design concepts are already being discussed, and the goal is to open in the middle of next year. In addition, Michelle Lin, who oversees commercial development, said planners are keeping an eye open for a larger space in New York that could accommodate a Bastide concept store, which in addition to merchandise will offer features like a health café and juice operation.
But the root of the concept is implanted in the artisanal traditions of Provence.
Getting it right is an issue with Fekkai, who maintains that “all these brands that are from Provence are very touristic right now, very caricatured. Let’s celebrate the terroir of Provence and the artisans.”
What will set Bastide apart from other homegrown brands is authenticity, followed by transparency, he maintains. “We know where it comes from,” he asserted. “We’re listing all of the artisans and our suppliers.”
Fekkai was referring to local custom, where people pay close attention to details of the derivation of their household products and the food they eat, such as the names and locale and herd size of the breeders who raise the cows that end up in the local butcher shop. That ethos should appeal to young consumers, he reasons.
“The Millennial of today wants a different Provence than what other brands have offered. They want to know the quality, they want to know how it is made, what packaging we are using, where it comes from,” Fekkai said.
Von Wulffen said they use the term “beautisan” to describe the artists who work on beauty products.
Fekkai said the positioning of the store “is not L’Occitane, but it’s more like Jo Malone of Provence, the premium brands.”
The original company, Cote Bastide, was founded in 1990 by Nicole Houques and at its peak did $9 million to $10 million in sales, according to estimates by industry sources, with retail outlets scattered from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Paris and London and “a little bit” in the U.S. The original assortment was heavily weighted in home fabrics, decor and fragrances with a slice of bath and body products. Although it may have been outdated, the brand drew respect from Fekkai. “They were always the trendsetters,” he said.
Nevertheless, “we got rid of the home decor and we’re really focusing on the personal beauty,” Fekkai said, noting that the plan was to preserve the beautiful and charming apothecary feeling of the old brand, “but modernize it to make sure we can scale it globally.”
Pierre Jeand’heur redesigned the packaging, and Nicolas Ouchenir, a calligrapher, created a new logo.
So far, the line includes a hand and body section: a liquid hand wash, priced $35 for 300 ml.; amber, honey and fig flavors of hand and body lotion, $45 for 300 ml.; triple milled soap for $20 and $8; a $12 hand cream; a nourishing cream blended with shea butter, $24 for 75 grams, and a bath salt from Camargue.
The Home Ambiance section has three candles — scented with honey and lavender, amber and fig in hand-blown glass containers from Provence with a burn time of 50 hours. They are priced $65 each. “Amber is the heritage of the brand,” Fekkai said.
There are also three eau de toilette fragrances, created by Mathieu Nardin of Robertet, which bills itself as the premier supplier of natural ingredients and fragrances.
One of the Bastide scents, Rose Olivier, was inspired by a local oddity. Fekkai was having lunch in nearby Grasse when he noticed how rose bushes had entwined themselves around the trunks of 100-year-old olive trees. The roses were blooming and the trees were somehow flourishing. Another flavor that is used in the brand is lavender and honey, which stems from honey bees buzzing around the lavender fields that painter Paul Cézanne made famous. A Neroli Lumiere fragrance is based on the sunlight of Provence and Ambre Maquis was created to capture the mood around sunset.
Each fragrance retails for $130 for 100 ml., or 3.3 oz. A 10 ml. size is available for $32. Three more fragrances are expected to be launched by March.
The original headquarters store in Aix was “a beautiful space but in a bad location,” according to a spokeswoman. So a new flagship was found a few blocks away.
For the moment, the group is focused on three locations — Aix, Paris and New York, while also exploring wholesale. Fekkai gave no sales projections, but industry sources estimated that the dynamics that he is contemplating could generate as much as $100 million after three years.
Plans for the new brand involve home and personal fragrance, bath and body care, skin care and then men’s beauty in 2018, mother and baby in 2019 and hair care, 2020. The hair care is last because Fekkai has to wait for a non-compete clause to expire, apparently a leftover from the sale of his namesake company. The non-compete expires on Jan. 1, 2020, he said.
Skin care will be launched at the end of the first quarter of 2017, Fekkai said, and he expects the entire line to swell to 50 stockkeeping units by next September.
He said the thrust of the skin care line is more oriented toward moisturizing than antiaging, and above all, natural. A tonic elixir will be included, but he gave no details since it is still under development.
“We want to capitalize on again the important ingredients, the essential oils, the plants. We’re not going to pretend to be Lancôme or La Mer, but more having a skin care that is giving you rituals — the moisturizing cream, the serum, the mask. We are going to use all the clay from Provence that is detoxifying.”
He continued, “This is French beauty, so it is not Botox, it’s not trying to reverse age. It’s about how can we fully embrace aging, how can we age beautifully and more naturally.”
He added that the treatment involves “getting a great ritual everyday that keeps your skin and your body healthy, luscious and glowing.”
Turning to the bigger picture, when Fekkai was asked how it felt to be going from salon owner to shopkeeper, he gave a hearty laugh, and said, “I was the artisan and now I am celebrating the artisans.”
He paused, then said, “I still want to be an artisan, so in some way I will find my way there.”