Very few brands embody a lifestyle quite like Bastide does. Founded by Shirin von Wulffen, with her husband, Frédéric Fekkai, the beauty and lifestyle collection was founded on a commitment to clean, toxin-free living. Bastide embodies a deep connection to Provence, formulated with herbs, flowers, oils and honey from the region’s lush terroir. Shirin curates unique gems from Provence that she loves most, each product is made in a local workshop by artisans, and then they’re brought to American audiences — lucky us! We’re chatting with Shirin to learn more about the collection and look inside Bastide’s flagship store in Aix en Provence:
What inspired you to launch Bastide? How did the company begin?
My husband Frederic Fekkai has known this brand (originally Côté Bastide) and the original founder since its earliest days. He even partnered with them in the mid-90s for Fekkai when they created a lifestyle collection. Frederic and I have loved this brand as consumers and have supported it throughout the years, and an opportunity came up to take over the business in 2015, so we jumped at the chance. We see Bastide as a way to partner with local artisans and build something authentic, beautiful, and close to the nature of Provence and to our hearts, that we can share with friends.
What does the name Bastide mean?
Bastide is a traditional manor house in the south of France – they are usually heritage estates, built centuries ago. The walls are usually terra cotta colored, and the shades change throughout the day as the sun moves and the light hits it at different angles. This was the inspiration behind the colors of our packaging – all shades and gradients of terracotta. We found an old “bastide” 6 years ago in Aix, and we spent two years restoring it, respecting the traditional elements but also adding our modern touches. At the end of the day, a bastide is a home, and it is our home – where good memories are made, good foods are shared, and good times are had. We love that Bastide gives the brand such a defined sense of place, and it inspires us when we think about product innovations.
How do you bring the spirit of Provence to the products?
Provence for us is simple – le beau, le bon, et le bien – the beautiful, the good, and the good-for-you (wellness). Our products are made by Provence in the sense that we harvest potent ingredients from the terroir of the land, which is so rich because the water running through Provence is high in trace minerals and provide for lush vegetation. They’re also made by the artisans – we call them our Beautisans – the beauty artisans of Provence with generations of savoir-faire, with really deep knowledge of the local ingredients and how to get the most potency from them. They are also highly specialized – our soap-maker only makes soap, and our candlemaker only makes candles – there is no big turn-key lab like in the US. Every product is made by an expert of that category. We want Bastide to make daily routines into beautiful rituals, as moments of self-care when you awaken your senses and feel fully present, whether that’s savoring the moment when you moisturize with our Figue d’Ete Hand and Body Lotion, made with Provence honey and olive oil, or winding down in the evening by lighting the Hand Blown Ambre Soir Candle.
Do you have any favorite products in the line?
My favorite product is the Huile Seche Epatante Dry Oil Mist. I love how nourishing it is for dry winter skin, and that it is completely transitional for summer on the beaches too. The formula is really light, blending lush Provence oils (grapeseed, sunflower, almond) with antioxidants for supple skin. It is also in one of my favorite Bastide signature scents – orange blossom! It always livens me up on a gray winter day! We made it for the body, but we also made sure it was safe and good for facial skin care. It’s also great for smoothing out the ends of your hair – really a “do-it-all” when you’re traveling!
The flagship store is beautiful! Tell us a bit about the design.
Our boutique was thoughtfully designed and constructed by local artisans to evoke the warm, inviting ambiance of a quintessential bastide, like our home. We worked closely with the talented Amelia Tavella, a local architect from Aix-en-Provence who won the 2016 Best Female Architect of France. Using both traditional know-how and modern architecture, Amelia captures the soul of Bastide’s products and brand personality. As our first store and flagship in our hometown, we knew the store must stay true to our brand values: loving and respecting natural materials and working with local artisans. The design of the store pays homage to Provence in many ways – from our lavoir (sink), which is hand-carved out of one piece of stone and is a nod to the traditional, communal washing place in town centers where villagers would gather to socialize, to the iconic Rue-de-Cézanne markers anchoring the corners of our store – the same ones you find throughout the city of Aix, which marks the path to Cézanne’s atelier, where he worked and lived. The walls are lime-washed and we have arches made of sand-stone – all elements that nod to Provence architecture, which is unique even in France because it is heavily influenced by the Romans, who first settled the city.
We’d love to know a bit about the customer experience. What can guests expect when visiting the flagship?
We want people to feel at home when they visit, so we always offer a tea or a tisane (herbal tea), and in the winter, sometimes vin chaud (mulled wine) or even rosé (why not!). The space is very open – just our prominent lavoir, surrounded by some floating shelves also made of stone. Our team love to tell people about our story and to answer any questions, but other than that, we give everyone space to browse, try, smell, and relax. They’ll find our complete assortment of eaux de toilette, soaps, creams, bath salts, candles in the main room, and on the second room, a few steps above, we have a home-styled layout where guests are invited to just sit and relax. Life on Provence time is slower and sweeter, so we want people to be able to pause and to just take in the good life.