In 2002, Gail Federici wasn’t really planning on selling John Frieda Hair Care, a trailblazing brand that she had been strategically building for over 12 years with hairstylist John Frieda. “KAO was interested, so we named a high price without expecting it to really happen. When it did, we were shocked,” she said of the $450 million sale. “It was a deal we couldn’t refuse, but it was also like the rug was pulled out. I didn’t know what to do next.”
Gail did what many parents would do in that situation—focus on their kids.
“Alex and Brit always wanted to sing and they had already gained some popularity because they were in the John Frieda Sheer Blonde ads,” she said of her twin daughters, who are now 27 years old. Gail, along with her husband, James Smith, a guitarist, wound up working in the music business for about six years, seeking out songwriters, managers and publishers for her daughters, as well as scouting and supporting new talent. “It was insane and fun because it was new and I learned so much. But it was a rollercoaster. We didn’t know what we were doing,” she said.
Exhibit A: They fell in love with and signed Tao Cruz, but stopped working with him right before his first big hit, Dynamite. Exhibit B: Scooter Braun wanted to manage Alex and Brit. Gail said he was great, but needed more experience. Braun’s next client? Justin Bieber. “We recognized talent, then let it slip through our fingers!” she said.
Gail’s music industry rollercoaster ride wasn’t all downfalls. There were some high notes, too. First, her daughters successfully signed with Interscope, which set them on their paths. Second, Gail serendipitously spotted a huge skincare opportunity with John Frieda’s ex-wife, Lulu, a popular Scottish singer and T.V. personality in Britain.
“My husband plays in her band and she was always panicking about getting old in the business. When she released her album “Back on Track” [in 2004], everyone started talking about how great she looked. She was in her mid-50’s and everyone thought she looked like she was in her 30’s. Lulu found this really annoying because it overshadowed her music, but I told her there’s an opportunity staring at us in face,” Gail said.
She dialed up cosmetic chemist Dr. Joe Cincotta, the creator of many John Frieda top-sellers, to get to work. “Joe actually has a background in skin care and worked closely with Lulu on perfecting all the formulas,” said Gail. Together, in 2007, they introduced Time Bomb, an anti-aging skincare line, on British QVC. It was the fastest anti-aging line QVC has ever launched in England.
Now, Gail has fully returned to her comfort zone of shaking up the beauty business. “I love solving real problems and thinking of the messaging and imaging to the consumer,” she said. Her newest innovation: Color Wow, a collection of hair care products specifically created to solve color-treated hair problems. The hero product, Root Cover Up, is a water-resistant, colored powder compound that instantly hides grays, and can even camouflage dark regrowth on blondes. And yes, it’s formulated by Dr. Cincotta. “It took us three years to develop and the launch feels a lot like when Frizz Ease came out. Retailers are now calling us. We say the Root Cover Up is the next hand held device to change your life. It’s truly revolutionary technology,” she said. Root Cover Up comes in six shades. The rest of the Color Wow lineup includes Color Security Shampoo, Color Security Conditioner (fine/normal and normal/thick), One-Minute Transformation Styling Cream, Brass Banned Mousse (in two shades, light and dark), Pop & Lock Crystallite Shellac. Prices range from $18 to $34.50.
Color Wow launched exclusively with Ulta and is now also available on QVC. “Color Wow was Ulta’s biggest professional launch in five years,” Gail said. Would we expect anything less?