I first met Shirin years back when I was the fashion features editor at Harper’s Bazaar and she was head of p.r. for Yves Saint Laurent under Tom Ford. Fast forward, we recently reconnected when she and her husband, Frédéric Fekkai, relaunched Bastide, 25-year-old heritage brand from Aix-en-Provence of artisanaly-made non-toxic beauty products. (If you have another five minutes, read the post I wrote on the line, just for Shirin’s story of the olive and rose trees.)
Shirin has spent her career working with some of the groundbreaking pioneers in fashion and beauty, which I think is proof that Shirin, who is so warm and real (zero fashion airs, just impeccable style), has a highly attuned aesthetic sense and business savvy that have drawn these industry leaders to want her on their team. Shirin and Frédéric just opened their first Bastide store in Aix-en-Provence close to their summer home. The company might be small now, but I can only imagine where this power duo will take the brand. Here, Shirin shares how she manages having her husband as a business partner, the iconic clothes she’ll never clean out of her closet, and ever-growing four-legged menagerie that’s part of her household.
Talk a bit about your career path and how you started in fashion and ended up in beauty: After college in the US, I moved to Hamburg to work for a PR agency called Schoeller & von Rehlingen. After 2 years, I started my own agency with Gucci as my first client. Three years later I joined a German magazine, Amica, as fashion director where I stayed for three years. Then spent six months in Milan taking cooking classes before moving to NYC to become the Director of Communications for Saint Laurent North America. In 2006 I joined Tom Ford when he launched his eponymous collection of menswear. Since 2009 I have been working as a brand consultant until we launched Bastide early this year.
What did you learn from working the fashion world that applies to what your doing now? I worked with, and for, some of the greatest talents in the industry including Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati. Probably the most important thing I have learned is to pay attention to detail. Whether it is creating a collection or an event, or casting models, the smallest details always make the difference. The details are the fairy dust that brings it all together.
Why did you decide to (re)launch Bastide? What drew you to the company and product? Living in Provence we love the healthy, seasonal way of eating. Provence is incredibly blessed with a Mediterranean climate and powerful natural ingredients so we wanted to create products for the skin, bath and body that were as good as the food we were eating. The collection is completely non-toxic and 100% made in Provence and we work with category experts/artisans for each type of product that we make.
You just launched the first boutique in Provence. What do you want the customer to experience when they come into the store? Launching a store is real process (not easy!) and you have to let it evolve somewhat organically. We were lucky enough to work with a young, very talented Corsican female architect, Amelia Tavella, who is based in Aix-en-Provence. The idea was to create a Mediterranean version of a Bastide, or French country house. We found local artisan to hand-carve a beautiful lavoir, or sink, which is centered in the space. The shelves and stone stone floors are also made by artisans and the resulting space feels like a peaceful relaxing backdrop for our Bastide products. Now we are working on the next level of layering softer more personal elements to create a home-like feeling. That takes time. Every day we try new things until we figure out what feels just right, much like when you are decorating a home.
You work with your husband—how do make working together a successful partnership? How do you balance each other at work? You have to remember that every day is a new day and not to take things personally. It’s a wonderful experience to see how Frédéric works and especially his enthusiasm and perseverance. Of course we disagree but thankfully the disagreements often help us to come up with more creative and better solutions. I also have to say that we work with an incredibly talented, fun team of people so that takes off a lot of the pressure.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: Being a woman.
Best career advice you received: Only work with people that you would enjoy having dinner with.
Your advice to a new entrepreneur or someone starting out in your field: Work with smart people you really like and don’t let your ego get in the way.
What motivates you? Beauty in all forms.
Three words that describe Bastide: Authentic, beautiful and Provençal.
Three words that describe you: Stubborn, stubborn and stubborn.
How hard would you say you work? How do you keep focused? When you work for yourself it does not really feel like work, it becomes part of the way you live. I do have trouble staying focused especially in the summer when the kids are out of school and I need to make time at my desk to regroup.
What’s next for Bastide? We are creating a skincare collection inspired by the way Mediterranean women take care of their skin. It’s fun to learn about ancient rituals and how women have historically used the natural ingredients of Provence to protect and nourish their skin.
Life goals: Living in the present.
Daily goals: Living in the present.
Daily rituals: Mariage Frères Marco Polo breakfast tea in the morning, exercise.
How do you unplug: Reading.
Hidden talent/hobby: Photography.
Favorite charity: New Yorkers for Children.
Do you collect anything? Frédéric and I both love animals so we have unintentionally started collecting them, both real and decorative ones. We have five dogs, two cats, a rabbit, turtles, a horse and a donkey. We also have many sculptures and paintings of animals throughout the house that we accumulated over the years. This was not at all intentional, it just happened!
Biggest splurge you don’t regret: My Canon camera.
Favorite small indulgence: Chocolate.
Album currently on repeat: Starboy by The Weeknd.
Scent that brings back memories: Chanel Nº 5.
Lucky charm: A crystal pendant given to me by the late Kazuko.
Favorite hour of the day: Sunset.
I never feel dressed without….My wedding band.
Items in your closet to keep forever: The wedding dress that Stefano Pilati made for me, and a Tom Ford leopard jumpsuit from his African YSL collection.
Summer style means….Color and cotton.
Writer/book that opened up a new world for me….Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth”.
Perfect evening is….Family dinner outside with a glass of rosé.
A table is never set without: Wild flowers from the garden.
Favorite flower: Anemones and daisies.
Hand written notes or email: I prefer writing by hand on Benetton Graveur stationery from Paris but admittedly, the email solution is more common.
Favorite artists: Pierre Alechinsky, Jacqueline Humphries.
Five things that make a perfect room: Stone floors, a velvet sofa, sunlight, a fireplace and a dog.
Always on my bedside table: Water, herbal tea and my Kindle. Never my iPhone.
You can tell a lot about a woman by: Her smile.
Follow Bastide: Instagram.
Follow Shirin: Instagram.
I enjoyed your story about Shirin and how she and her husband have brought back this brand. The design of the labels, presentation and the store are striking and simple, the result of paying great taste and paying attention to the details. Brenda Coffee
Emily Crawford says
Such beautiful, beautiful packaging!
Mona Maine de Biran says
I enjoyed reading your article. I can say, as a friend, that Shirin is all this and more. One of the most magical, beautiful souls I know. She deserves all the success in the world with their launch.
Shirin von Wulffen says