I have always considered myself as a kind of storyteller. Since my childhood I was captivated by stories, and I was also in awe of the persons telling those stories. They had this wisdom and knowledge, and they were the keepers of the mysteries (because, obviously, they knew how the story was about to end). Add to that the soft-spoken voice and the bright eyes as the action was developing, and you can better understand my fascination with storytellers.
In my current life, I still like a good story, especially when it contributes to the birth of a niche perfumery brand. I have noticed that, more and more, brands are placing an enhanced attention on ethos, philosophy, and tradition. All these have, undoubtedly, a great impact on the perfume market and consumers mindset.
So, it was a beautiful summer day on the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur), in the summer of 1937, when Albert Fouquet, son of a Parisian aristocrat and a self-made perfumer, met a young American student, who went by the name of John F. Kennedy.
John was handsome and stylish, and he was driving a convertible, sprinkling his holiday with laughter and good wine. The sky was blue, and the birds were…well…you know, singing joyfully. Albert and John immediately became friends, and the special scent Albert was wearing simply fascinated John. So much so, that before leaving Europe, John persuaded Fouquet to leave him a sample.
As the story goes on, Fouquet left a small bottle of cologne at the hotel for Kennedy, with a note attached that read: “In this jar, you will find the dash of French glamour that your American personality lacks.” That was a pretty bold message, if you ask me, but bearing in mind that Kennedy was not yet the mighty President of the United States, the boldness of Fouquet was not subjected to punishment.
Upon his return to America, Kennedy was met by a wave of enthusiastic friends who quickly fell under the spell of the French perfume. Consequently, John asked Fouquet to send him an additional eight samples, “and if your production allows, another one for Bob.” The perfumer sent the fragrances, having labeled them with John's amusing request: Eight & Bob. And there you have the answer to your unspoken question about the origins of the brand name.
It bewilders me how a business can take off like that, magically becoming famous in a few months. But, in all honesty, I must admit that the “miracle” happened because the fragrance was really, really good. So, in fact, there is no magic to speak of here. It was a lucky encounter which propelled Fouquet into the stratosphere of international perfumery.
Soon, Fouquet began receiving letters from the U.S. with requests from various Hollywood directors, producers, and actors (such as Cary Grant and James Stewart). Those were the days in which people were obsessed with following the trends, in just about anything: from fashion to haircuts, sports cars, jewelry and – of course – perfumes.
That period is known as the epitome of social mirroring, and sadly, the quest for originality and uniqueness was not on the “glitterati’s” agenda. Any attempt to look and behave like certain famous people was greeted with excitement and perfumery was no exception.
We all know that when something is too good to be true….it probably is. Tragedy hit in the spring of 1939, when Fouquet died in a car accident near Biarritz, France. Just to add more to the pile of bad luck, World War II was about to begin.
It was the time of the “Mad and the Bad” and “Eight & Bob” had to be closed but not before the family butler, Philippe (Fouquet’s confidante and business partner), prepared the last shipment to the US. He was so ingenious and inventive that he hid the bottles inside books, that he carefully cut by hand to prevent the Nazis from seizing the perfume. This is a feature that the brand still keeps to this day.
But wait, the story gets even more interesting and surprising. In a dedicated effort, Philippe kept the secret of the formula and decades later, Eight & Bob made a spectacular come-back, following the original recipe and the same production process.
Now, still faithful to its creator, the formulas that Fouquet concocted more than 70 years ago with his friend Phillipe in the attic of his parent’s château, the formulas that captured the heart of the American president, are available worldwide.
Another peculiarity must be revealed. Despite his success, Fouquet continually rejected proposals to market his fragrance. His perfectionism extended not only to the fragrance but everything surrounding it. He knew the principle which I often bring up in my blog: “scarcity creates value”. In this respect – and not only – he was a talented marketer “avant la lettre”.
Now, I know what you think: how about the perfumes, what are they like, which are the ingredients, how do they fit in the modern world? Rumor says that before meeting Kennedy, Albert Fouquet traveled to Chile, in 1934, and he came back with a mysterious plant which he named “Andrea”.
This plant grows at high altitude and can only be picked in December and January. This process ends between March and April and only then is it known how many units of “EIGHT & BOB” can be bottled and how many can be allotted to each country. The extract from this plant’s sprigs “are the soul of his fragrance”, “EIGHT & BOB”.
I will end my story here, keeping more mysteries for another time, another blogpost. But if you want to try these amazing perfumes, you can do so at Suter Palace Heritage Boutique Hotel (Palatul Suter), in Bucharest, within walking distance from Carol Park. They are the only proud dealers of this exquisite, fairy tale brand, in Romania.