The beauty industry is constantly welcoming newcomers to its space but it’s rare to come across one that truly stands out. Until we landed on Fable & Mane, that is. A modern haircare brand filled with ancient secrets, Fable & Mane is the brainchild of brother-sister duo Nikita and Akash Mehta who have created a brand to pay homage to cultural traditions and their late grandparents.
Although the beauty industry wasn’t exactly their first calling – having completed degrees in engineering and computer science management respectively – it was always in their roots. Whilst growing up, the siblings experienced Indian traditional haircare rituals as their grandmother would massage a blend of oils into their scalps to stimulate hair growth. Eventually, this led to the dynamic duo launching Fable & Mane where all of the products are clean, natural, vegan, and silicone-free formulas that have been developed, promising the world beautiful, strong, and healthy hair.
We spoke to Akash to discuss the launch of Fable & Mane in the Middle East, how their bringing their Indian beauty secrets to haircare, identifies as an Ayurvedic label with inspiration from deep cultural roots and sensorial rituals, and beauty misconceptions…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in London my whole life. I went to university where I studied engineering, so for four years it was all electrical engineering, but I wasn’t the best engineer (laughs). I’m grateful I did a degree and I jumped straight into like another vertical because I went into the beauty industry because my father was in it for 40 years. I kind of knew about beauty from him from growing up. I thought, okay, let’s try that. I think from there, I kind of was like, yearning for some form of a clean, conscious brand to work on or build myself. We’ve been surrounded by beauty talk since we were children. I worked for Burberry and then Estée Lauder Companies, and then I went to Dior in Paris where I was a global digital manager working with influencers.
Is that how ‘Fable and Mane’ was born?
Yes. We wanted to make sure we created a brand that empowers people and one that appeals to Sephora and big retailers. There hasn’t been an Indian hair care brand and we thought, okay, let’s create one. But at the same time, we knew it had to be really formulated with the best labs because these Ayurvedic ingredients, don’t discriminate. So why should they be only for South Asians or a certain type of market? We can make them for all hair types.
How did it begin?
Our initial goal was that less is more. We spent a lot of time formulating the oils but right now, we’re still in the brand-building mode where we’re listening to the community and we’re building it. But we’re still doing something quite new and creating things that they don’t know they need, and they haven’t tried. The name Fable & Mane comes from the rituals my grandma used to do to our hair while reading us incredible fables. Unfortunately, our grandparents passed away, and we started looking at our roots and traditions. My sister and I realized the market didn’t have any Ayurveda haircare brands, so we wanted to create products we could still enjoy with our busy schedules while celebrating our childhood memories.
Throughout this process of launching the brand, having your products filled with such Indian heritage, did you receive any backlash?
Yes. We definitely did at the beginning from India because we weren’t launched there. It was like we took the ingredients and ancient remedies, made it in the US and “westernised” it. From day one, we wanted to be in India, but it was all about registration, timing and launching in the right way with the right pricing for everyone.
While you were growing up and experiencing these moments with your grandmother, do you remember how you were feeling then?
I remember the smell. I hated it because it was so potent and I used to kind of rush through it. Many South Asian households will have this exact memory: we’d have a train with my grandma doing a head massage on my mom and my mom doing a head massage on my sister. While she was massaging these oils she used to tell us stories, so story time, rituals, and hair care go hand in hand for us growing up. But I remember the massage being the best. I used to always come to sleep, and you always don’t want it to end but it’s perfect for night-time rituals. That’s what I remember growing up, it was such a bonding moment in our lives.
There are several misconceptions on how often you should wash your hair. What would you recommend?
You should wash your hair – obviously shower every day – but wash your hair once or twice a week, especially where you’re in Dubai for example, the water is so harsh. It also depends on what your routine is. You produce these natural essential oils and don’t want them to strip. It’s also important to understand your hair type and the condition of your scalp. Once you have your foundation, next comes figuring out what oils your hair and scalp need because there are different types.
How has ‘Fable and Mane’ been received since launching in the Middle East?
Amazingly! I think the Middle East consumer loves India and loves Indian tradition. They love hair growth. They have long luscious hair as well. We knew this market would be the most logical step for an Ayurvedic hair brand. It’s so wonderful to see the perception that people are so excited about a new haircare brand. They love animals and love the story, and I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can do now in the region. There’s a lot of education that still needs to be done around Ayurveda too, but we saw an opportunity to teach people about this really cool tradition and help them fall in love with it — I mean, shampoo was invented in India from the Champa flower.
If you could say something to your grandparents now, what would it be?
I would say thank you for basically without them this would never happen. Obviously, it would be amazing if they were here, but like it’s amazing just to see that it’s them – their DNA is in this. I think she would have been to be super proud. I think she might have been like “do this, do that” but I think that’s a traditional, generational thing (laughs).
Do you feel like you’ve found your calling?
I found my calling, but I’ll be honest, my calling is this, but it’s defined. It’s why I’m building it because that is where my path is. I’m going to do this for as long as I can. I love it and my passion comes from giving back and really making an impact. Of course, I can do that with my haircare brand as people can love the products. But I’m destined to be with animals and help them. That is my legacy. My long-term goal is that I want to continue locally making an impact raising funds, and making a difference to other animals.
Tell us about the “Fable Fund?”
We’re really committed to helping the wild with our ‘Fable Fund’ which goes towards helping big cats like tigers, leopards, and cheetahs in India and Africa. Our mission is to help them thrive because where there were once a hundred thousand tigers in the wild, there are less than 4,000 now. There’s a lot that needs to be done to educate local villagers about how to live in harmony with these big cats and not poach them.
Fable & Mane is available at all Sephora boutiques in Dubai Mall and on sephora.ae.