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Gail Federici on Leaving John Frieda and the creation of Color Wow

This month, in honour of International Womens Day, Cohorted are championing leading #FemaleFounders in the industry. Throughout the month of March, we are bringing you exclusive content from the leading ladies themselves.


Our female founders series will discuss how brands were founded, the personal journeys of these inspirational women and sharing advice that will empower younger woman on their career paths.

Next up in our #FemaleFounders series is Color Wow founder Gail Federici, who discuses her journey in the industry as a female founder.

Don’t worry, we wouldn’t just tease you because featured in our March FemaleFounders Beauty Box is the Color Wow Raise The Root Thicken & Lift Spray, so your cure for flat hair has been answered.

1. Firstly, how did you and John Frieda meet and what were your first impressions of one another?

We met at his Aldford Street Salon briefly in 1988 to discuss John participating in a large conference for hairstylists that the company I was working for was holding in Milan.  I worked with him over 3 days in Milan and we were totally in sync when it came to aesthetics, vision and where we were in our lives. 

I worked with him over 3 days in Milan and we were totally in sync when it came to aesthetics, vision and where we were in our lives.

2. After establishing such a successful globally known and loved brand, was it difficult to leave John Freida behind and how did you feel saying goodbye to something you’d built from the ground up? 

It was extremely difficult.  We weren’t planning to sell.  I felt like I had PTSD for a good year after we sold. 


3. Do you remember there being a turning point in your career which steered you down the path that led to the creation of Color Wow?

I definitely wasn’t planning to go back into hair care.  We had a non-compete after we sold John Frieda and we went into the music business where many of the team quickly went “grey” lol.  I started thinking about why they weren’t covering their roots and found out that they didn’t really like any of the options available at that time…too messy, not natural etc.  I had the idea to try to develop a multidimensional powder, which would not be opaque, which could be applied precisely and could match the hair seamlessly because each shade could contain many pigments. Three years later Color Wow Root Cover Up was born. 

So many women have become their own boss and started amazingly successful businesses. Their contribution to the beauty industry has been vast and varied.

4. Throughout your career, how do you feel the industry and opportunities have changed for women? 

When John and I founded John Freida in the late 80’s, the beauty industry was pretty much an old boys club. Over the years, more and more women had executive positions at our accounts. In addition, with the internet, and a levelling of the playing field in many ways, so many women have become their own boss and started amazingly successful businesses. Their contribution to the beauty industry has been vast and varied. 


5. Are there any hard truths people may not realise that come along with being the CEO of a global company? 

I think that it’s all-consuming. It’s hard to find time for yourself. The hours are long and the pace can be relentless but with the right team it can also be a lot of fun and very rewarding. 


6. Talk us through a day in the life of Gail Federici…

These days it’s not very exciting because I haven’t been traveling at all. We have been working remotely since March.  Because there are so many uncertainties and complications due to the pandemic the pace has been relentless. My daughter, her husband and their two little ones (2 and 5) moved in with us last February because she has underlying health issues and had to move out of NYC.  It makes weekends a lot more fun but can be chaotic as sometimes the 5-year old decides to visit me while I’m on a zoom lol. I’m typically on “zoom” most of the day, have dinner and then attack my emails. It basically feels like ground-hog day. I try to make sure I go outside to get some air no matter what the weather is and to at least get a walk in the morning.  I also try to read or watch some Netflix series to relax. 

7. As a pioneer in problem solving haircare, with the knowledge you have, what is your holy grail piece of haircare advice? 

Your shampoo is critical. I always make a joke “if you buy a shampoo based on how it “smells” your results will “stink” lol.  Many shampoos have ingredients that don’t easily rinse off and that can not only dull and weigh down hair but can block the follicle and cause unhealthy scalp conditions and even hair loss.  Your shampoo should only do one thing…clean your hair, not thicken it, defrizz it, moisturize it.  Those benefits should be achieved through conditioners and styling products. 


8. What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learnt so far? 

Don’t ever stop learning. 


9. What is in store and on the horizon for Color Wow? 

We didn’t launch any new products last year but focused even more intently on the formulas we had in the works and managed to crack a few problems that we’d been working on for years. 


10. Who is your ultimate female inspiration and why? 

I don’t know that I have an ultimate female inspiration. There are many.  When I was younger, it was Audrey Hepburn. I was influenced by her movies, admired her grace, the fact that she left a brilliant career to bring up her kids, her commitment to helping children around the world who were suffering as Good Will Ambassador to Unicef. As I got older and learned more about Ruth Bader Ginsberg she became a real inspiration.  Her tenacity, her work ethic, the impact she’s had on women’s rights and racial equality.  She was a real “fighter” not only when it came to “justice” but also when it came to her own health. She was fearless and never gave up. 

Join us in paying tribute to our female trailblazers and head over to the Cohorted Instagram, where you can delve deep into exclusive content and conversation from our founder community.


DISCLAIMER: We always aim to credit the original source of every image we include in our content. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please get in touch at marketing@cohorted.co.uk.

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