Frédérique Harrel, also known as Freddie, began building an online following as a blogger writing about fashion and mental health. But her followers always asked for her signature lace-front Afro wigs, which led her to open a side shop called Big Hair No Care and sell the extensions she always wore. More recently, the French-Cameroonian entrepreneur has expanded the idea into a company called RadSwan, which aims to innovate and create a community around hair and identity in the synthetically structured hair market.
For someone who exudes a glowing sense of trust, it may come as a surprise to hear that Harrel didn’t always know how to approach her hair. “When I grew up I don’t think I owned my hair completely,” she says on the phone from London, where she lives with her husband and son. She would do it every week, usually in pigtails. “In retrospect, I think it’s really great that this was the first lesson I had to express my own identity,” she says of her different hair looks. “Just having this multi-faceted ability, you know? And even if we didn’t have the money for fashion or anything like that, we’d make it work for our hair. I remember going to school and kids commenting on the fact that I had changed my hair so much and I replied with something like, “Yeah, I used a magic shampoo to get this style,” she adds to a laugh.
At the age of 13 she remembers “how the girls wanted to look in the perm boxes” and she got her first relaxer. She later also experimented with clip-ins. Harrel went natural at age 21 but then got a job in banking. “I felt like I had to wear a fabric and cover it,” she says. Eventually, she left the financial world to become a stylist at ASOS and started experimenting with her hair again. “What I’ve really always loved is all the culture around our hair and what it brings,” she says.
Harrel, who counts Grace Jones, Diana Ross and Solange as her greatest hair inspirations, cares for the health of her hair with products from the British brand Afro Skin & Hair; She especially loves her Flourish Butter and Bloom Oil. “The ingredients come from ethical and natural sources, and there is so much research going on,” she says. “I also really love Taraji’s products.”
While London maintains its lockdown, Harrel is focused on RadSwan’s growth. “We’re starting our recycling program in the spring and will drop a few more models in the meantime,” she says. “We also have our content platform Blacklikeme.com, which should really focus on our customers as individuals. I want to do so much more with it. “Through all of this, Harrel hopes to spread a positive message. “I want people to look at their hair like a card and not just dismiss it for this one thing. It’s an entry into a more meditative or holistic lifestyle, ”she says. “If you take care of it and learn from it, you can use your intuition. I think that’s how we should look at it first, and not just the superficial aspect. Blacks have always been very expressive when it comes to our hair. So don’t forget to be creative with it. It can connect you with your people. And for you. “