Freddie Harrel’s untold hair journey

Influencer and businesswoman Freddie Harrel reveals how hair has played a part in her community, career and self-expression.

We all have a hair story to tell. Some might be successful while others may be filled with disasters and setbacks. Either way, they’re all worth sharing. Freddie Harrel, founder of Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don’t Care), has a journey steeped in twists and turns – much like the coils on her newly relaunched naturalinspired wig range. In a candid conversation, she reveals where it all began for her burgeoning hair empire…

Freddie Harrel

“I wish I was more patient and conciliant. But I struggle, be it with my hair, career, shoes or houses – you can’t tell me I can’t get what I want and expect me to run with it. There’s always a way…

“If my life depended on me styling my hair, I’d be in big trouble. I’ve managed to get the most basic skills down, but I’ve had some major run-ins over the years. Especially that one time during a semester in Shanghai when I saved for months to get a $500 lace wig only to have glue dripping down my forehead.

Freddie Harrel

“But that’s what makes the journey interesting. Hair is a playground where all the Freddies in me feel they can go all out safely. Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mother’s or auntie’s legs; it’s your cousin or newlymade friend combing lovingly through your hair while you detangle your life out loud. Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self-expression. I’m a shape shifter. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles and tell all my stories to a world that often feels constrained and biased.

“When it comes to shopping for self-expression, in particular hair, my experiences have been jarring. As a consumer, I want to know that the brand I’m buying from is a brand that actually cares about me and not just about the money they’re making. So, in 2014, I decided to design my own wigs and clip-ins with a contact in China that I found on a hair forum. Big Hair No Care launched in 2017, but we quickly had to pause it.

Freddie Harrel

“After doing pop-ups in London, Paris and NYC, spending years building an online community around my musings as a misfit and hosting confidence workshops for the similarly anxietyridden and not-good-enough women around me, I had created way more than a hair brand – it was a movement. But it needed back-up, so we raised $2m from an all-female group of kickass investors. Hair is always going to sell, so to me it’s almost indecent to just leave it as that.

“Black hair is culture; it’s always been the safest and boldest form of self-expression we’ve resorted to. It’s sisterhood, it’s therapy and it’s community.”

Fun Freddie facts

  1. French Cameroonian Freddie has lived in London for nearly a decade.
  2. She started her career as a digital strategist working for ASOS, Vestiaire Collective and Topshop.
  3. Her YouTube interview Before I Am Woman, Before I Am Black, I Am Freddie Harrel has received over 222k views.
  4. Her favourite fragrance is Parisienne by YSL.
  5. Freddie’s hair company Big Hair No Care has recently rebranded as RadSwan.

Follow Freddie on Instagram here.

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Spell Magazine 03 Autumn 03 – out now

“I’ve never been married to my hair”

Yomi Adegoke 

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