A cut above
Hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai has brushed shoulders with A-list actors and top politicians. He talks tresses with Gemma Soames
ON MY WAY to meet Frédéric Fekkai, the amber rain warning is posted. Fekkai is the most expensive hairdresser in the world and stylist to stars such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, and I look like I’ve just exited a shower.
Turns out, I needn’t have panicked. Along with being arguably the world’s most successful hair mogul, Fekkai is also the personification of French charm. A handsome chap in an immaculate suit and – of course – fabulous hair, he looks worth every cent of his famous US$750 consultation charge.
Fekkai, who launched his luxury hair-care range at Joyce earlier this year, didn’t always want to be a hairdresser. Growing up in Aix-en-Provence, a small French city bustling with cafes and artists, his goal was to become a lawyer. “I wanted to go to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but my dad refused, so I went to law school. Within two years I realised that I couldn’t do it, so I said to hell with it.” While modelling to get by, Fekkai met one of France’s premier hairstylists. “He invited me to Paris to work with him until I found a passion and all of a sudden I realised I loved the job.” Fekkai moved to New York to help establish the Bruno Dessange Salon, and then in 1989 he opened his first salon at the top of the town’s smartest department store, Bergdorf Goodman. He came up with the then unique concept of a day spa. “It was more than
just a salon. It was a beauty institute, a salon, a make-up bar and a café. Very quickly, we enjoyed great success.” Fekkai is known for creating looks unique to each client (“I am against trends”) and is known as the go-to man for a chic hairdo. “Over the years, I’ve seen that women prefer casual chic. So you can look like you’ve been to the salon, but not look done, not stuffy.” It’s for that look that women from Paltrow to Scarlett Johansson, Jolie to Salma Hayek have him on speed dial for red-carpet moments. His most famous makeover was for Hillary Clinton, who summoned him to the White House under secrecy in 1993 to transform her frumpy bob. “She wanted to keep it confidential,” he says. “I was the most expensive hairdresser in the world, which was not good for a Democrat! The New York Times ran the story, and I’m travelling through Paris airport, and I see my picture on CNN saying here’s the guy who changed Hillary’s look. That’s how I got notoriety on a big scale.”
Today, Fekkai is reaping the rewards. He launched his premium haircare brand in 1995, before selling it to Proctor & Gamble in 2008. He’s confident Hongkongers will embrace the line too. “We need to come back with all the anti-frizz product we have. We need the whole army,” he says, referring to the city’s humidity.
Fekkai has nine salons, including one in St Bart’s, “my excuse to holiday there,” he laughs. Six years ago he married fashion consultant Shirin von Wulffen with whom he has a daughter. He also has a teenage son from a previous marriage. They live in an equally glamorous Manhattan duplex, with a weekend home in upstate New York, where they escape the social whirl.