Hairstylist Federic Fekkai's customers can get personal.
"There are women who like to shock me by saying, 'Oh, I thought about you this morning … in my shower,'" he says. But he can laugh because he knows they are referring to his namesake shampoo and conditioner. "We want people to be responding emotionally," he adds. "The way I created this product is for it to be a great experience."
Make that an A-list experience. For more than 20 years, Fekkai -- in town last week to visit his West Coast flagship salon -- has worked on some of the world's most famous heads, names including Scarlett Johansson and Uma Thurman, Claudia Schiffer and Catherine Deneuve. While stars come and go, Fekkai notes Cate Blanchett, Salma Hayek, Heidi Klum, Jessica Lange and Sigourney Weaver as being particularly faithful to his brand.
Realizing his Chanel-clad clients had no hair care equivalent to their $300 facial creams, the Paris-trained Fekkai debuted his first luxury hair product line in 1995, six years after opening his first salon at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. In 2008, after Procter & Gamble purchased Frédéric Fekkai & Co., the line was rebranded as two collections, Classic (for a mass market) and Advanced (for the more upscale prestige sector). In January, the product line evolved again, going back into one 27-piece collection based on the Advanced formulations but with slightly lower pricing and distributed to both markets. Fekkai is also busy extending the product line's reach into Europe and Asia.
So has the man who made his name by transforming hair care into a luxury pimped out his brand by finding shelf space at retailers such as Walgreen's and Costco?
"Just the opposite," he says. "What we're seeing is that more and more people want to indulge themselves and use luxury product; this is why we are selling our shampoo at 20-plus dollars to our lady, whether she is in St. Louis, Mo., or Mobile, Ala. I find that, today, luxury products can be more approachable, more accessible… I don't mean to brag about [my line], but the consistency, the scent, the touch, the packaging, is something to be proud of. I created this line this way because I thought that hair care looked so much like a commodity product, and I made a product that [looks] fresh and modern and elegant."
Fekkai has earned his bragging rights. In September he was recognized as 2013 Hairstylist of the Year at the 10th annual Style Awards, an event honoring top talent in the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries. And in 2010, Fekkai was knighted by the French government.
Fekkai is also partnering with Oxygen Media this year for the second season of reality television modeling competition, "The Face," which is set to begin airing March 5. Fekkai appears in three episodes, and the winning model will star as ambassador for his brand's 2014 national ad campaign.
"It was interesting to see how unpredictable it is and how emotional it is for the contestants," says Fekkai. "You think, at the beginning, that one girl will win and then you realize that it's another one. It was fascinating to see how even we got surprised by the outcome."
Luckily, Fekkai seems pleasantly surprised — given that the winner's face (and hair) will be showcased in his advertising.
"It is a woman who fulfills the Fekkai vibe and attitude," he says. "She's confident; she's elegant; she's a little bit daring; she's independent; she's casual chic, yet has a lot of allure…and she's a brunette."
So do recent moves to democratize the Fekkai brand indicate any hope of obtaining the 55-year-old stylist's signature hair cutting services for less than the current $750 price tag?
"You know, it's a very good question," he says. "I'm always debating that, and it's something that I'm taking into [serious] consideration. Nothing is planned yet … but why not?"
Fekkai hair products, $14.99-$49.99 at Frédéric Fekkai Salon in West Hollywood, (323) 655-7800, www.fekkai.com and select retailers.
[For the record, 3 p.m. March 4: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the new season of "The Face" would begin airing March 4. It begins airing March 5.]