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When Frederic Fekkai was a young man, he had no intention of entering the beauty space. In fact, he didn’t even know it existed.

“I started out in law school, so I had no idea I was going to get into beauty. One day, I got pissed off at my dad, and I said, ‘I’m going to do everything that you don’t want me to do.’ So I started modeling at the time to make some pocket money and met a wonderful stylist, and discovered an entire business that I never thought of.”

Shortly after this discovery, Fekkai quit law school, moved to Paris and threw himself into the world of beauty. He began to work fashion shows and photoshoots, and establish meaningful connections with some of the top players in the industry. Over the course of the next four decades, Fekkai would go on to establish and sell his own namesake company, buy and rebrand Côté Bastide to Bastide, and, most recently, buy back Frederic Fekkai.

On this week’s episode of The Glossy Beauty Podcast, beauty editor Priya Rao talks to Fekkai live at the Glossy Beauty x Wellness Summit about how he got his start in the industry, what it was like to build and sell his namesake company, and why he says up-and-coming brands should stop ripping off Chanel. Below are excerpts from the conversation, edited for clarity.

Bringing luxury to hair care
“The hair-care industry, when I started, was quite basic. What shocked me was that my customer — someone who would always wear great, luxury brands and have great accessories, who spends $300 on face cream — would come, and I would ask what she used on her hair, and she would say the big brands that were $8.99 or $9.99. I would say, ‘What a difference, between $9.99 here and $300 here. Something is wrong.’ So that’s where the idea came to really develop a hair-care brand that would be more based in technology and really innovate this industry by creating a luxurious hair-care line.”

Ripping off Chanel is not the answer
“I was looking at all of these stores that are [carrying] startup brands, and you know what shocked me? They all want to look like Chanel. Everybody has the same packaging: black and white, that same font. It’s chic and elegant, but it’s the same. So, to me, I like to encourage people to take the plunge, take a risk, be different and do something that really means something in their gut. Making it look like Chanel means it’s beautiful, but Chanel owns that. To me, you have to push it. You have to do things that are meaningful. Whatever you do, it can’t be for a business reason.”

Born to build brands
“When you sell your brand, you feel like an empty nester — you know? You come home, and all of the sudden you realize that 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. Bastide is a brand that I was familiar with in France, and it was charming, but I realized that the woman who owned it was struggling because she was extremely talented, but not really interested in the business. So I decided to partner with them, and I quickly realized it was too much for them to handle, so I bought the company.”

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