After Frédéric Fekkai sold his namesake haircare line in 2008, the respected hairstylist teamed up with his wife Shirin von Wulffen to buy Provençal beauty and fragrance brand Côté Bastide. The couple already divided their time between New York City and Aix-en-Provence, Frédéric’s hometown and the place where the two have their very own bastide (a French country manor). Together, they reimagined and relaunched the company as Bastide, a natural beauty brand that captured the savoir faire of Provence from the packaging right down to the ingredients.
It’s easy to see why the couple wanted to share a piece of Provence with the rest of the world. Aix-en-Provence is a painting come to life – a dreamy wash of sun-bleached pastel and terracotta shades. The streets buzz with sounds from the daily markets, like vendors setting up shop and selling a motley of things, and people meandering through the stalls. It possesses a quiet energy and a joie de vivre that photos can’t sufficiently capture. Bastide is Frédéric Fekkai’s love letter to the magic of Aix-en-Provence and if you decide to visit his beloved home, here are a few of his favourite things to see and do.
“There are more fountains per square metre than any other city,” says Frédéric about Aix, listing off a few like Quatre Dauphins and la Rotonde. His favourite is a picturesque fountain located in a charming cobblestone square. “Place d’Albertas is the most beautiful square you’ll see and it’s one of the oldest in France.” It also happens to be where Frédéric grew up as a teenager and is located right near Bastide’s flagship store on Rue Espariat.
The daily markets are an essential part of Provencal life. There are all kinds of markets for different days of the week – food, antiques, clothes and flowers. Frédéric and Shirin’s home-cooked meals come from either the markets or their garden. The goal is to get the best and freshest produce, and that applies to other things, too. “We go to the best butcher, the best baker, the best grocery store,” says Frédéric. They’ve applied the same approach to creating Bastide: “We wanted to go to everyone who has a specialty.”
With its distinct red and white signage and patrons spilling out from the restaurant into the cobblestone street at all hours of the day, Chez Jo – a local and tourist favourite – is a popular hotspot. “I promise you, you’re not going to have pizza like this anywhere in the world,” swears Frédéric. Order a wood-fired oven pizza and salad and settle in for some people-watching.
Farinoman Fou and La Fabrique a Pain
Frédéric has two favourite bakeries in Aix. “One is called the Farinoman. It’s Canadian. He’s been there forever. The other one is Le Fabrique a Pain. It has the most unbelievable bread,” he says. Farinoman is located on Rue Mignet in Aix, while La Fabrique a Pain is a 20-minute walk from the center of the town, but worth the detour for a chance to feast on glorious, freshly-baked bread.
Both Frédéric and Shirin like to shop at this vintage store, which carries a carefully curated selection of luxury designers. It’s a Chanel lover’s paradise with everything from bags to brooches, but the store also stocks brands like Balenciaga and Prada.
Frédéric’s flagship boutique on Rue Espariat uses Aix as inspiration for its design. The brand hired a local architect to help bring its vision to life. The star attraction of the store is an elegant lavoir, made from limestone, where you can test out the hand creams and soaps made from local Provencal ingredients. “It was very important that we kept the heritage and story of the area so we have old beams from the 18th century and we kept the beautiful arch,” he explains. The brightly-lit store also features floating hard-carved stone shelves lined up with the rest of Bastide’s offerings like the Rose Olivier fragrance (inspired by the rose bush that grows intertwined with the olive tree) and Ambre-scented potpourri crystals.
From 1902 to his death in 1906, painter Paul Cézanne worked and lived in a bright, light-filled studio in Aix-en-Provence. The roads in Aix contain C-shaped brass medallions that let you trace the painter’s steps. You’ll see them everywhere from the houses he inhabited as a child to Café des Deux Garçons, where the painter would stop by for an apertif. The medallion even makes an appearance inside the Bastide store as a design element.