Robert Stock, a cofounder of the Robert Graham men’s brand, has toyed with the idea of launching a fragrance for decades. Now he has done it.
“This is a great, great category,” Stock said. “It’s going to open up a lot of additional doors for the business.”
After teaming up with Butterfly Beauty, Stock has fashioned an entire collection that resonates with his philosophy of design with its surprising juxtapositions and visual mash-ups.
The result is three Robert Graham men’s scents bearing the names Courage, Valour and Fortitude. The scents were formulated by three top perfumers from Firmenich and the packaging was designed to dramatize the personalities of the fragrances.
Stock and packaging designer Chad Lavigne rummaged through the apparel designer’s desk full of curios and odd keepsakes, looking for design ideas. There are two sizes of bottles for each scent, the more accessible 100 ml. (3.3 oz.) priced $125 and a collector’s size of 250 ml. (8.3 oz.) at $295. The larger bottles sport figurines perched on top of the cap. Robert Graham Courage, for instance, centers on speed and auto racing — one of Graham’s calling cards.
On top of the cap is a replica of a race car driver that was a hood ornament from the Twenties. A leather stitched base was inspired by the construction of one of Stock’s steering wheels.
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Robert Graham Valour is decorated with a miniature English bulldog, wearing a hand-painted purple bow tie, and stands on what looks like a piece of petrified wood.
The Fortitude bottle sports a ram’s head with eyes of green Swarovski crystals. A steampunk montage of gears decorate the base of the cap, another allusion to auto racing. The label designs were pulled from classic shirts.
“It’s a brand that is eclectic; it’s supersophisticated but also has a sense of humor,” said Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman and cofounder of Batallure Beauty and Butterfly Beauty. Noting too many men’s fragrances are too serious in their positioning, she added that the Graham collection is whimsical. “It taps into all that emotion,” Burns-McNeill said. She drew a parallel with the spirits industry, where the overall approach has been upscaled and a new vocabulary created (mixologist has replaced bartender). “What is aspirational is something that is higher quality, more artisanal, more interesting and has more of a story,” she said.
In line with that thinking, the 250-ml. bottles look more like faceted whiskey bottles than fragrance flacons. The three fragrances are called “blended essences” rather the standard jargon of eau de parfum, eau de toilette or cologne and they differ in olfactive family and even color.
In order to sharpen the effect of the formulas, the three fragrances have different percentages of concentrations, ranging from 16 percent to 22 percent, above the traditional 15 percent concentration for a typical eau de parfum.
The customer target ranges everywhere from Millennials through Baby Boomers, Stock has a built in advantage — a devoted following of customers that he calls “collectors,” a list of 5,000 avid buyers who stuff closets with his shirts that sell in his stores for an average of $200 each.
The brand will be launched March 1 with an exclusive at Bloomingdale’s plus Graham shops and their Web sites, then move through a very tight exclusive distribution aimed at the specialty market plus e-commerce. In addition to 34 Bloomingdale’s doors, there will be 20 Robert Graham doors and nine Holt Renfrew units. While the company declined to project sales, industry sources calculate that the initial target could hit $15 million in retail sales for the first year.