In Beauty Roots, Bustle chats with diverse creators in the beauty industry about how their heritage has influenced their businesses and routines. Here, Fable & Mane founders Akash and Nikita Mehta, share how their family inspired their haircare journeys and led them into the beauty business.
The beauty industry wasn’t exactly Akash and Nikita Mehta’s first calling, having completed degrees in engineering and computer science management respectively. And yet, it was in their roots – quite literally. Inspired in part by their hard-working father, who built his own international fragrance empire from scratch, their haircare brand Fable & Mane also pays tribute to their late grandmother.
“We always looked forward to our grandmother visiting from India,” shares Akash, “because it meant enjoying the stillness of the bonding moments she created; nourishing our hair and imaginations.” He’s referring to the traditional Indian beauty ritual of hair oiling. Their grandmother would while away whole evenings, massaging Ayurvedic oil into the crown of their heads, alleviating stress, moisturising strands, and stimulating their scalp. While she massaged, she shared fantastic fables, or panchatantra, Nikita tells me. These stories share moral lessons, often through stories featuring talking animals.
“We knew we wanted to work on something together and that it had to be clean, cultural, and conscious,” she says of their vision for Fable & Mane, “and unlike anything else out there.” So together they turned to traditional Indian rituals and, crucially, ingredients, as a way to not only restore hair health, but pay homage to their family, the past, and forge a new future.
As the award-winning brand heads into it’s third year, the founders talk to Bustle about how family bonds inspired everything from Fable & Mane’s formulas, to its deeper message of self-acceptance.
What inspired you to put the wheels in motion and start Fable & Mane?
Akash: Fable & Mane was borne from curiosity, childhood memories, and our need for products which represented the traditional oiling rituals and natural ingredients at the basis of haircare within Indian culture. Ayurveda is 4,000-year-old science, based on healing, plants, and nature.
Nikita: We knew we needed to adapt the textures and fragrances to suit a western audience. No matter how brilliant the benefits, who has time to spend hours washing gloopy formulas out of their hair?
Akash: Those pungent aroma, too. Bullies in my school days never let me forget…
Nikita: Which is why we worked with Christian Dior perfumer François Demachy to create Fable & Mane’s signature scent.
How has your own relationship with beauty influenced your brand?
Nikita: When I went through a difficult time, I experienced hair loss which was devastating not only to see clumps of hair falling out, but also not know what was going on. Ultimately it was going back to my grandmother’s oiling techniques and handmade blends which restored it. I learnt to make peace with my hair and focused my energies on making it as healthy as possible. Yes, Fable & Mane is about haircare, but we’re also in the business of empowering women and giving them tools and expertise to enjoy healthy hair, regardless of length or texture.
Akash: For me, it’s about instigating change. When I was younger, fair skinned models and actors dominated media. That combined with products like Fair and Lovely, and warnings from well-meaning aunties and uncles about not spending too much time in the sun made it clear to me that my melanated complexion was seen as a disadvantage. It was soul-destroying and led me to attempt lightening my skin tone. It’s important to us that Fable & Mane puts a spotlight on South Asian beauty, celebrating the diversity of our culture. Our next campaign features six models of Indian heritage with a variety of skin tones, hair textures and shades, ranging from blonde to black.
How did you come up with Fable & Mane’s identity?
Nikita: We wanted to celebrate our grandmother’s storytelling with the name, so fable speaks to her panchatantra. Mane is a play on what we do – hair – but also links to tigers, which are the national symbol of India and which our Fable Fund, launched in 2019, works to support by helping restore the habitat of wild tigers. Symbolism and storytelling at the heart of everything we do.
Beyond using great products, what’s the best haircare advice you’ve been given?
Akash: Definitely oiling! The word shampoo comes from the Sanskrit chāmpo, which means massaging your hair with plant oils. In India oiling is a part of daily life and involves warming oil with the palm of your hands, breathing it in deeply, then massaging into your dry scalp, and working it down to any dry ends. It should be left on for a minimum of five minutes, but ideally overnight for the best results, followed with rinsing and shampooing. Not only does it support hair growth, it soothes tension and stress which makes for a good nights sleep.
Nikita: Our grandfather, who was a healer, believed the secret to hair growth was harmony between the body, mind, and spirit. His advise to me was to cultivate this deep within me, through good thoughts and free movement, sealed with a cup of chai in silence. Its amazing how centred and confident this practice always leaves me. And it’s been integral to my healthy hair journey.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.