Category Archives: Interview

Interview with Dino Caracciolo of Crown Shaving Co

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For a few years now, I’ve watched the men’s grooming category explode. We have more options than ever before and have the internet to thank, in part, for that. Unfortunately retail is still a bit stale but it’s getting there. Social media, however, has helped this fresh crop of brands get their message out there and attract customers. One of those brands is Crown Shaving Company.

One day while jumping around Instagram, I stumbled upon this company and have been a fan ever since. I remember the first time I tried the product, my first reaction was, Canada isn’t so bad. Seriously though, I experienced a silky smooth shave with no irritation and it’s been all good ever since. I try a lot of products but this has stood out and become a brand of choice for me in the morning. Everything from the lather it builds to the easy glide of the razor to the way it coats and protects my face has sold me on the shaving cream. But it doesn’t stop there. They also have an after shave that’s equally impressive and if you require a preshave oil, they have one of the best.

Below is an interview I recently conducted with it’s head honcho, Dino Caracciolo. Give it a read and get familiar. If you haven’t heard of them yet, well, keep your eyes on them.

The men’s grooming category has received a lot of attention in the past few years. So much so I heard someone compare it to what’s happening with microbreweries. It’s clear to see from following you on instagram, however, your roots run deeper than this trend. Please explain how you got started?

There has definitely been a revival of sorts with barbershops popping up everywhere the last several years and what may have seemed a trend is only picking up more steam with old school shops opening all over the globe. I was fortunate to grow up on both sides of the business, beauty salons as well as barbershops. My dad was a barber/hair stylist while my mom was a hair stylist and also provided manicures. I decided at an early age I wanted to be in that biz and by age 18 I completed my 10 months of beauty/barber school and went on to work full time in the family business.

What made you realize the category needed another brand?

After years behind the chair I suddenly began to develop adverse reactions to many of the products found in the shop. This became so bad that I eventually had to stop working behind the chair and I took on a management roll. In the mid 2000 I began having reactions to the shave creams and lotions I was using. Unable to find a brand that had ingredients I wasn’t allergic to and all the while being packaged for a man, proved to be quite a task so I set out to work with a formulator and develop something I could use. There were plenty of brands out there but I knew that a lot of guys wanted a better product without the frilly unisex packaging. I also knew that my barbering experience would come in handy and would also be a good selling point. After a few years of research and formulation testing Crown Shaving Co. was introduced in 2010. At this point I was back behind the chair, I would use these products on my customers and the feedback was very positive.

One of the things that drew me to Crown Shaving Co. was its imagery and overt masculinity. Your tag line is “For Vagabonds, Gentlemen and Ruffians.” Explain why you felt this was the right direction?

I believe all men can relate to our tag-line. Each man has within them a little vagabond, gentleman and ruffian. I wanted this brand to appeal to all men and I think we nailed that. I recently received an email from a gent in his late 60’s. He wanted to tell me how much he loved the products and how at different points in his life, he has been each of those, a vagabond, a gentleman and a ruffian.

What would you say is the biggest myth about men and their relationship to grooming?

The biggest myth about men in regards to grooming seems to be that its only the metro-sexual male that enjoys it. I don’t know where that term came from or why but I can tell you that every man out there enjoys good pampering. They only have to try it once, sit in a classic barber chair, get a good haircut, some good conversation and maybe even a manicure and it will become something you make time for and look forward to.

What’s next for Crown Shaving Co.?

Crown will continue to grow slowly. I have had the opportunity for distribution as well as several partnership opportunities but I feel it is still in the early stages of a growing category in the men’s grooming market and I prefer to be hands on for the time being working closely with my network of retail partners. As far as new products, we will be launching our roll on cologne as well as a body powder in 2015.

For a list of where to find Crown Shaving Co, log onto their site to see where they can be found online and stores near you.

A Fragrant Moment at Min New York

Top L to R: Chad Murawczyk, Harry Sheff, sipping Macallan 12 and talking scents, Amouage’s Attar, Tribute

Life has a way of getting in the way at times and the last few months have been intense. In addition to moving, I was deeply involved in completing a research paper for my Masters degree. Needless to say, there wasn’t enough hours in the day to get to blogging…but I’m back!  Continue reading

Meet Maria McElroy

As the page from summer to fall turns and we inevitably begin reminiscing about the fun times of the foregone season, one of the highlights for me was my meeting Maria McElroy, other wise known as Aroma M. Continue reading

Meet Garrett Pike

When I received my first straight shave at Martial Vivot Salon I met Garrett Pike. While he attended to me, we had a pleasant chat where I learned he was a fragrance enthusiast. We exchanged thoughts on different scents and he even turned me on to a few I hadn’t yet sampled. What struck me about GP was he quiet confidence. He knows his craft and his attention to detail makes you feel you’re in good hands. When I met him recently for a chat, he dropped a bomb on me but more on that when he’s ready. Continue reading

A Chat With Ineke Ruhland

In my review of Field Notes From Paris, I mentioned that I met its perfumer, Ineke Ruhland at the Elements Showcase. During our conversation, her passion for her craft was evident. Her recollection of studying to become a perfumer, the fact that she grows her own flowers and the attention paid to the collection’s packaging gave me the feeling I’ve been missing; the joy of discovery. I was also blown away by her genuine desire to entertain my curiosity in her work. With that I knew I had to continue our conversation. I told the classically trained perfumer based in San Francisco I wanted to interview her and she obliged. Continue reading

Meet Voon Chew

My favorite cigar spot here in NYC is OK Cigars. The energy there is unlike any cigar shop I’ve ever been to. All of the fellas have their own style, we discuss everything from politics to women and the best part, there is no pretentiousness.

On this particular day, I was sitting outside enjoying a smoke when Voon Chew passed by. I immediately liked his ensemble. I noticed his perfectly weathered Bucks because I was considering getting a pair this summer but chickened out. Next thing you know, he disappeared into the crowd on West Broadway only to reappear asking to take the picture of my smoking buddy Dexter Wimberly and myself. I was flattered because I left the house that day feel eh. We’re now experiencing that in between weather, which always poses a problem wardrobe wise, and my only pair of jeans had me feeling like a sausage after a recent wash. That said I had to pull something together that I wasn’t too happy about.

Mr. Chew pulls out his iPhone to grab a quick snapshot but he just wasn’t getting the shot he wanted. I happened to be walking with my Canon Rebel XTI to grab a snap of a gent to profile here and decided to offer it to him. An impromptu photo shoot ensued and after 15 minutes of shooting I decided to turn the camera on him as I was certain a man with this taste surely appreciated fragrances.

What are your feelings about fragrance?
Fragrance is as much a crucial element as any accessory or clothing item in personalizing your appearance and style. It is quite complex, like trying to pair a good wine with a dish that complements not contradicts. So much love and experimenting is poured into the creating of a fragrance – what makes for the most intoxicating combination? And then you still have to throw you own body chemistry into the mix to see if it makes for a good marriage. I’ve learned that just because a cologne is lovely on its own doesn’t mean it is the right one for you.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?
When I was a kid my mum would take me to the Buddhist temples and they would be burning incense. The scent permeated through the entire place and the smoke created this fog of calmness. It was so intense that it was hard not to remember that. And of course like any kid, I used to open up my mum’s perfume bottles sitting on the vanity table to sniff them.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?
Gucci Pour Homme II, YSL L’Homme and Clinique Happy.

How often do you go out looking for something new?
Once in a while I would walk into Sephora, as I love the setup there. And it is not as overwhelming as walking into the fragrance section of a departmental store where wafts of different perfumes take over, and make you want to get away from that as soon as possible.

What specifically do you look for?
I love ingredients like cedar, cardamom, bergamot that evoke a little bit of muskiness and some citrus to keep it fresh and vibrant. Recently I was intrigued by Gucci Flora for women. It contains mandarin and peony, which are very Asian-inspired and grounded by sandalwood. I always recommend that to my lady friends.

Would you ever consider wearing it?
I tested it on my skin to see how it would react with my body chemistry and even though it has a tinge of unisex appeal, its floral notes monopolized the scent to me, especially the rose which is very distinctive. However, I have to applaud Gucci for coming up with such a lovely flowery fragrance without evoking overly powdery undertones or god forbid a packet of English Garden potpourri!

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
Gucci Pour Homme II. It has been very well received. When people want to get up close to sniff your neck, even casual acquaintances, you know you have a winner on your hands.

How would you finish this statement? “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
My most memorable fragrant moment would be when I met this person in Chicago whom I swear oozes natural pheromones that should have been bottled as a fragrance. This is very reminiscent of a scene in the movie Michael (where John Travolta’s character makes all the women swoon as he smelled like cookies). This person did not smell like cookies of course. That was the one and only time I met someone who actually smelled heavenly au naturale.

Just another day on West Broadway. Thanks Voon.

Meet Anne McClain – MCMC Fragrances

“I’m painting a story with smells.”

 

I first became aware of Anne McClain because of her workshops, which take place the first Monday of every month at Le Labo. Subsequently after that, I would receive e-mails periodically about her brand MCMC Fragrances. One particular e-mail mentioned she was launching a new fragrance called Maui and that she would be at the Brooklyn Flea. Maui was the place I got married, so it holds special meaning to me. I’ve heard a lot about the Brooklyn Flea but never been. These two facts posed an opportunity to meet Ann and I’m glad I seized the moment. On this hot summer day, after looking around for her booth, I finally stumbled upon it and it was an oasis in the middle of stuff. There she was, a Brooklynite that produced and sold her products in Brooklyn. I was brimming with pride when I met her. As a born and raised Brooklynite myself, stories like hers makes you puff out your chest just a tad bit more. As we began talking, she told me a story about being in fragrance school in Grasse and how her classmates looked at her oddly when she mentioned she wanted to take what she learned back to Brooklyn and start a business. It recalled a line from the rap song Crooklyn Dodgers that seems so apropos, “Straight from crooklyn better known as Brooklyn never taking shorts cause Brooklyn’s the borough.”

Where did you learn the art of creating fragrances?

I originally began by studying on my own. I took evening and weekend workshops on any topic related to perfumery (which in New York City actually tended to be aromatherapy classes), read lots of books, and even did a correspondence course with natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. At a certain point, I felt that I had exhausted all the learning I could do in America and I applied to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in southern France.

I spent one year in Grasse in an intensive training program with just twelve students. It was very hands on and classes ranged from raw materials to chemistry to genealogy and creation. We also visited farms and production facilities. In the small village of Grasse, there were really no distractions for me (I didn’t have a phone, TV, or even internet in my apartment!) so I was really able to focus on my studies, and concepting for my line, MCMC Fragrances.

Share the story about people frowning in Grasse when you mentioned wanting to create your own line in Brooklyn.

The one thing that was difficult about studying in rural, southern France (as opposed to New York City) is that no one could really relate to me wanting to start my own line. Independent perfumery is not very common (although I see more and more niche lines all the time) and it’s still a male-dominated and family-owned trade. For a newbie like me to come from Brooklyn and say I wanted to start my own line right away was very shocking to my classmates and teachers. But like so many other creative people, I just wanted to do my thing and had no fear!

What is the concept behind MCMC Fragrances?

Before studying perfumery, I was a photographer. I love to travel and the feeling of those fleeting, ethereal moments that we are so lucky to have in life. My photographs were an attempt to flatten these experiences and preserve them. However, after my very first perfume class, I realized that this was the medium for me to work in.

So all of the fragrances from MCMC Fragrances are based on an actual experience from my life. Maine is based on a day in Maine falling in love; Noble is about four months I spent living in Nepal with a Tibetan family and the jasmine and incense that permeated the house, and Hunter is about an old friend who lived in the woods and harvested maple syrup. I’m painting a story with smells.

What sparked your desire to create your own collection?

I have so many stories I want to tell in scent, and so much inspiration, that I knew I had to create my own collection. Working for a corporate perfume house as a perfumer, you are receiving briefs from clients to create their dreams, and their visions. I just couldn’t wait to put my own creations out into the world.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?

Well, I know that the first perfume I ever wanted was Angel by Thierry Mugler. My sister gave it to me when I was 15 for Christmas. This baffles me now because it’s so strong and I’m surprised my 15-year old self was attracted to that, but I’ve always loved woody, oriental scents.

As for my first meaningful recollection of fragrance, while I was in Nepal (I was 21), I bought a jasmine candle at a place called Mike’s Breakfast. At the time I didn’t know that the scent was jasmine – I didn’t know the name of any scents then, really – but I was so in love with this candle. To the point where even after it had burned, I brought home the little wax stump and kept it in my closet for months. To this day, jasmine absolute is one of my favorite ingredients.

How would you finish this statement. “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?

…smelling a beach plum rose on the coast of Maine while falling in love, mingling with the scents of cool air and dried seaweed.

Thanks Anne.

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