Redefining the Shaving Experience
Here at The Holborn we are morning people (even more so since our youngest Assistant Editor Theodore arrived on the scene eight months ago!). And where Teddy’s morning routine consists of a bottle and doing laps of the house in his stroller, ours consist of a good slice of Radio 4, a significantly strong freshly ground black coffee and a methodical groom. This ritual for the male half of the team consists of a shave/and or beard trim. All vital before jumping on the bike and facing the day.
Like, Kerry Burrows of shaving brand Phoenix & Beau, we are dedicated advocates of the wet shave and in taking the time to ‘shave right’. Though if you are going to set aside that time with your double edged razor, ideally with an stimulating podcast on in the background, you should make sure what you are applying to your skin is of the same quality as you’d expect from the rest of your day. Phoenix & Beau in their mission to redefine the shaving experience, and to create shaving soaps full of skin loving ingredients, have launched a Kickstarter to introduce their new organic vegan shaving soap formula. We sat down with Kerry to find out more.
Phoenix and Beau’s Kickstarter Video
What lead you to the world of shaving? What was your turning point for embarking on the journey?
I began wet shaving circa 2014 and really it was an exercise in curiosity and seeking a better alternative to expensive cartridge razors and the ubiquitous (and woeful) shaving foams and gels. The turning point was understanding that I’d been conditioned to see these products as the only shaving method that was at my disposal. Once I understood that using a double edge safety razor was actually a very easy thing to do I became fascinated by what traditional wet shaving had to offer. I was captured by the variety and depth of options and enamoured by the quality, durability and presentation of wet shaving accessories. What was once a loathed, sore and painful chore suddenly became an every other daily experience that I relished.
You were founded in 2015 – how have the first three year of Phoenix & Beau gone? What have been the challenges and successes?
Whilst our origins reach back to early 2015 we opened Phoenix and Beau Ltd for trading on 29th February 2016. For sure, the challenges have been many in number. For example, taking a soap formula that was only ever made in tiny quantities for myself and scaling that up so that it was commercially viable threw up issues born out of never operating on that scale before. Back then, in our very early days, I hadn’t factored in how our soap cured and as a consequence a tiny percentage of customers received soaps that weren’t 100% perfect. We listened really closely to everyones feedback, stood behind our product and ironed out those early teething issues very quickly.
As for our successes, not withstanding the fact that we’ve done all of this whilst raising our 6 and 3 year old daughters whilst I work full time in my day job (and my wife balances the business against family life), they’ve been many. Generally they centre on the overall awesomeness of our shaving soap. Wet shaving aficionado’s are passionate about their grooming habits and are vociferous in their praise or criticism of a product. To have survived their scrutiny, to have been embraced by our customers and trusted by so many around the globe has been massively rewarding and the proof is in the copy; have a look at our reviews or take a moment and read through the various wet shaving forums and you’ll see that we’re considered as one of the best on the planet. We’re self taught soap makers and we’ve learned a million lessons as we’ve gone along (and continue to learn); we’re hugely proud of where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved to date and where we’re hoping to take our business.
Can you tell us more about the development of your products – how did you hone the perfect scent and texture?
Scent is such a subjective matter and has been a fascinating field to delve in to. Outside of our more adventurous and limited seasonal releases we hold a permanent core line of shaving soaps that focus on the main areas of the scent spectrum and cater for our customers wide and varied tastes, i.e. citrus, woodsy, floral, oriental, fresh, etc. These are our more conventional scents and, like all of our profiles, begin their lives in our lab. The process is one of trial and error and begins with me sitting down with a vast array of different essential oils, fragrance oils and aroma-chemicals. I mix, tinker and swirl these fragrances and run them through the very best piece of olfactory equipment I have in my possession, that being the Mark 1 nose.
Once we’ve settled on a profile that we like we allow that accord to rest in order to see how it matures. Once it passes through that process the prototype scent is then introduced in to a batch of just made (hot) soap in order to see how it holds up to the rigours of temperature and curing soap. This is a two way test and we’re also looking to see how the fragrance mix affects our soap, i.e. does adversely affect it, etc.
We like our scents to be enjoyed and obviously noticeable but we’re not advocates of overpowering sillage. As for the texture of our soap, our formula is consistent throughout our entire range. It begins as a very firm putty, something that you can put your fingerprints in to and becomes harder as it loses more water.
What makes a Phoenix & Beau soap special? How does it enhance my morning ritual?
The very special nature of our shaving soap begins with our unique formula, methodology and the twelve skin loving ingredients that go in to each batch. This is a formula I devised at home after almost a years worth of research and trial and error. We include conditioning and moisturising oils and butters that love your face. For example, the unrefined shea butter that we use is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E. It is also UV protective and can help with skin conditions such as dermatitis, dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Organic coconut milk is another touch of luxury as it bolsters our soaps ability to produce a dense and creamy lather.
Your morning (or evening) ritual is greatly enhanced because by wet shaving you’re re-connecting to a proven grooming tradition. Since the late 1950’s shaving has become mass marketed, in a big rush, and dislocated from the essence of grooming, and that’s a massive shame for many reasons let alone that there’s more to life than increasing its speed. This act, this daily ritual is one that absolutely, categorically matters. For me the act of shaving is simple and profound – it’s something that can happen every day. And that has real importance attached to it. It is part of caring for the only thing we truly own, and that’s our body. You have just the one face. Just the one body. And the experience of shaving and caring for your appearance is an experience worth taking time over.
Many moons ago we launched via Kickstarter and have since been advocates of crowd funding; why did you turn to the platform?
We’ve been inspired by Kickstarter so many times and love the platform. It felt like a natural progression that in wanting to grow, the first place we would go to would be our community and our customers. It gives us an opportunity to showcase our presentation and design skills and the hugely important opportunity to engage with new customers as well as old. In our build up to launching our project we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of emails and interest we’ve received from people around the world. It has served as a great medium to share our project with so many people and the platform has stimulated much discussion between many.
We love the concept of being able to act as an early adopter and in this instance our backers will be the first people in the world to own our newest and most exclusive products. Their pledges will enable us to grow our set-up and invest in industrial grade soap making equipment. We’re such fans of Kickstarter that, should we be successful this time, we’ve aspirations to return with our plans for an exquisitely designed and British made safety razor. For now though, we hope that people will see the worth in bucking the mass marketed shaving trends and back us by adopting a proven grooming tradition that gives an awesome experience.
We really mean it when we say “shave right, feel brilliant”.
To back Phoenix and Beau’s Kickstarter head here