PARIS — If Nîmes can become renowned for denim, and the Champagne region for sparkling wine, can the tiny French town of Condom bring a luxury cachet to safe sex?
Prince Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme, a descendent of French kings and a dapper figure on the Paris social scene, certainly hopes so, and he’s targeting America first with his quirky and upscale concept — The Original Condom.
Sheathed in discreet and velvety black snap-front cartons that resemble makeup compacts or business card holders, the condoms retail for about $6 for a package of three on the brand’s Web site — theoriginalcondom.com — and at a range of upscale retailers.
Bourbon-Parme, 49, who has worked in the food industry, banking and business administration, said he’s in negotiations with several luxury hotel chains and is also targeting a perfumery chain, aiming to steer clear of drugstores and vending machines.
“We want to stay at the luxury level,” said Bourbon-Parme, whose business partner in the venture is Count Gil de Bizemont, an architect. For example, he envisions the three-packs discreetly tucked into hotel minibars, while packaging for six or a dozen condoms resemble boxes for jewelry, watches or fine chocolates.
Bourbon-Parme said he stumbled across Condom, in the southwest of France, while on a business trip, and spied a marketing opportunity in combining the offbeat name — meaningless in France, where the word for condom is préservatif — and France’s reputation for high-end and stylish products.
“What doesn’t exist is something luxurious in condoms,” he said, noting a portion of profits will offset the company’s carbon footprint and support nongovernment organizations that fight the spread of HIV.
Although the condoms are actually manufactured in Malaysia, where rubber trees grow, the company is headquartered in Condom, which, incidentally, is home to the Baïse River (Baïse being a vulgar term for sex), and the Musée de Préservatif. (And more condom lore: The roots of the word are attributed to Charles Marie de La Condamine, a French explorer, who in the 1700s discovered rubber in Ecuador.)
America is viewed as a test market for The Original Condom, with a rollout to follow in other English-speaking countries before the aristocrats tackle their home market.