When we first came to know of Bastide, Aix-en-Provence, our curiosity was piqued when we saw that the names behind the quintessentially French beauty brand — formerly known as Côté Bastide — were Frédéric Fekkai and his wife, Shirin von Wulffen. After putting away his famous shears a long time ago, Frédéric and Shirin bought over the beloved 25-year-old lifestyle and beauty brand, updated the formulas and relaunched it in 2017.
This move beyond luxury haircare wasn’t all that surprising, given Frédéric’s desire to explore other avenues in the industry. As fate would have it, the couple had been filling their beautiful bastide (country house) in Aix with Côté Bastide products for decades, and had been toying with the idea of creating a line of personal care products for their family around the same time Côté Bastide’s owner was thinking of shuttering the business.
In its resurrection, everything about Bastide, Aix-en-Provence is beautifully thought out, family-friendly and true to its country roots. Apart from keeping in production a selection of Côté Bastide fan favourites, everything is made in France and none of these bad ingredients are ever used. Every product is also a sensorial experience — lush, inviting, dreamy and fresh. To boot, the brand’s local French artisans responsible for overseeing the creation and development of each item — or “beautisans” as Frédéric and Shirin like to call them — make use of their experience and expertise to craft and concoct the non-toxic creations. Featuring citrus coloured, pretty pink labels and a terracotta-coloured aesthetic, the packaging revolves around recyclable glass and paper, collaborating with l’Observatoire Francais d’Apidologie (OFA).
In short, Bastide, Aix-en-Provence’s products encourage one to practice self-care by oneself, as opposed to outsourcing it. Embodying “beauty by nature”, the natural beauty of the divine collection is bound to keep on for decades to come.
Both of you decided to buy over the brand in 2015 and relaunch it as an entirely natural and non-toxic label. Why?
Shirin: When we began thinking about how we would relaunch the brand, we wanted the products to feel personal and true to how we live. We spend every summer in Provence with our two kids, and we realised that the way of life in Aix is very close to nature. We live, eat and feel differently here. We eat what is in season, and we get our produce, cheese, breads — you name it — from people who really know the craft. Everything tastes different and we’re more mindful of how we consume.
Afterwards, we realised we felt and looked better too. This made us think about why we couldn’t do this in beauty. Especially with our kids around, we wanted to feel comfortable using products on them. Too many products have unnecessary ingredients in them that can be harmful to our bodies. Focusing on local ingredients from Provence felt like a natural extension of who we are and how we enjoy this place.
Frédéric: We work with local artisans who are category experts for each of our products. We are often working with family businesses who have generations of savoir faire. They are familiar with the region and are experts in how powerful natural ingredients from Provence can be. With this partnership in mind, launching as a natural brand was a perfect fit.
What is the way of life in Aix-en-Provence from where the brand’s direction is inspired from?
Shirin: Aix-en-Provence is a place where you go to escape. Frédéric always says the moment you arrive, your shoulders drop two inches and you’re instantly relaxed. The simple yet beautiful way of life is refreshing and everything in Provence — from the golden sunlight and the rich history — inspires Bastide.
Frédéric: When Shirin and I began renovating our home in Provence, we started noticing that our lifestyle was completely different than when we’re in New York. We ate seasonally and locally, spent more time close to nature, doing simple things and embracing the creative energy of Aix. We realised that living this way made us feel happier and healthier. Even our skin was glowing more! So we knew that the lifestyle was something special, and that we wanted to share it with the world.
“In France, ageing is not something to be feared and people embrace the elegance and beauty of laugh lines and smile lines.”
What are each of your favourite Bastide, Aix-en-Provence products, and why?
Shirin: Our Figue Amour Eau de Toilette captures the essence of summer in Provence when the kids run to pick hot, fragrant figs in the early afternoon. The Huile Seche Epatante Dry Oil Mist gives my legs and arms the perfect Provence glow, even when I can’t be there. The Corps-à-Corps Body Cream has a unique, fluffy texture and is ultra-hydrating. I also love our Crème Intense Deep Repair Hand Cream for weathered hands.
Frédéric: I love the silky texture and warm fragrance of the Ambre Maquis Natural Body Wash. The Miel de Lavande Candle reminds me of breezy, lavender-scented evenings in Provence. Our Neroli Lumìere Eau de Toilette is fresh and citrusy, perfect for both men and women.
The brand has a beautiful collection of French bar soaps. How are bar soaps better for us and the environment?
Shirin: Our artisanal Provence bar soaps are triple-milled by our master savonnier in Provence. Like all of Bastide, our soaps are 100 per cent non-toxic. The ingredients are simple: we use Provence olive oil (known as “liquid gold” in France for its moisturising properties), rosemary extract and sunflower seed oil. The best thing about these soaps is that that they build into a sumptuous lather without leaving your skin feeling stripped. We don’t use sulphates or glycol that strip your skin’s natural moisture and are difficult to dissolve over time as it flows out your bathroom, so the products are kind to our skin’s natural ecosystem, and are harmless to the environment.
Our soaps come in five different scents, including two new scents, Neroli Lumìere and Rose Olivier. The mini-size soap is perfect for travelling. We call it the 7-day soap because it’s perfect for a weeklong rendezvous. The kids also love the small size of these — we always tell them to tuck one under their sheets to give their beds a dreamy scent.
What are some beauty practices you’ll be passing on to your children?
Shirin: Something I’ve learned that is important to teach my kids is that self-care is the most important way to preserve your happiness. Whether that’s through practicing yoga, indulging in some chocolate every now and then, or taking a break from socialising, practicing self-care is what allows you to be the best, most beautiful version of yourself.
My mother also taught me to always moisturise before bed and it’s the not-so-secret secret to fresh and healthy looking skin. And always wear sunscreen!
Frédéric: I want to pass on to my children that beauty really comes from the inside. In France, ageing is not something to be feared and people embrace the elegance and beauty of laugh lines and smile lines. I also believe less is more. Throughout my career, I’ve always felt that the most beautiful people are the ones that are always authentically themselves. I want my children to always feel confident being themselves.
Shirin: Bastide is about indulging without moderation. We wanted to feel safe using our products on our kids and ourselves, so we researched every single ingredient that was going into our products to make sure the final product had a luxurious experience; while still safe to use. We make sure to use the highest quality natural ingredients.
What are some self-care practices you indulge in?
Shirin: I believe there’s nothing a glass of rosé in Provence can’t fix! But in New York, I dedicate an hour twice a week to working out. It’s my time to escape and do something good for my body. Occasionally, I’ll reserve Sunday evening for a massage. It’s the perfect way to start my week feeling balanced and revitalised.
Frédéric: Visiting Provence regularly is the best form of self-care you can imagine! Being there is instantly refreshing. When I’m there, I like to take hikes up Mount Sainte-Victoire and just enjoy life. The occasional glass of wine helps too!
Why is French beauty so powerful and pervading?
Frédéric: Throughout my career, French beauty has always had a mysterious draw. But really, the key is live your life in a beautiful way as a way to achieve true beauty. In France, there’s no such thing as overnight miracles; just continuous self-care that makes you feel good inside and out. Don’t fight your skin. Don’t try to fight time. Just take care of yourself holistically, and you will feel happier and as a result, look more beautiful.
“In France, there’s no such thing as overnight miracles; just continuous self-care that makes you feel good inside and out. Don’t fight your skin. Don’t try to fight time.”
What’s next for Bastide, Aix-en-Provence?
Shirin: We are working on a facial skincare line that we’re very excited about. It’s inspired by the self-care rituals of Provence that bring out your most authentic beauty. The collection is based on a lot of traditional rituals and gestures, and made with potent botanical ingredients that capture the energy and vibrancy of Aix-en-Provence that the brand embodies.
What does conscious living mean to you?
Shirin: To me, conscious living means living in the present and making memories out of the daily moments. Especially with the kids, I put my phone down and give them 100 per cent of my attention when I’m with them. They grow up so fast and I don’t want to miss a moment because I’m answering an e-mail.
Frédéric: For me, it means living within reason. In French, we have a concept called agriculture raisonnée, which is about sustainable farming that takes into account the long-term protection of the environment. For us personally, it is about being aware of what we’re taking into our body and how it impacts everything in the long run. That’s why we make products that are beautiful and sensorial for you to enjoy in the present, but also harmless and kind to your body and the environment in the future.
Images courtesy of Bastide, Aix-en-Provence