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feature interview: thirdman's jean christophe le greves

Edited by: Cator Sparks
on May 14th, 2012
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Ever since I spent five years in P.R. hocking high end beauty, grooming and fragrance products I have been fascinated with that industry. If you think fashion people are crazy, these people are bonkers. Sheep placenta for my face? No thanks. But I did learn how to appreciate fine fragrance and discovered how most of what is on the market is total crap. It’s made to appease test markets from Beijing to Barcelona with no consideration of a truly unique scent. So meeting with Jean Christophe le Greves was a wonderful moment of discovery and excitement. His recently launched company, THIRDMAN, is bringing back that  gorgeous big old bottle of eau de cologne that all of our grandparents had stashed somewhere in their bathroom and would pour all over themselves in slaps, rubs and long caresses after the bath. 

 Fragrance is often precious and too much is the death knell of a good date (or cab ride) so the ability to pour generously is always a plus for any man. We sat down in a cozy corner of Norwood and discussed his past, the much thought out packaging and his mysterious co-founder. 

Give us a brief background on you.

After graduating in marketing studies, then art direction at The Royal College of Art in London, I embarked on a career in the beauty industry.  For over 20 years, I have worked to bring a holistic understanding of brand philosophy, creative development and their implications on fragrance positioning, and have been  involved in the launch of some internationally established fine fragrances.

I have always been attracted to all of the esthetic facets that make certain scents historical.  I have focused my career on creative olfaction & marketing in fine fragrance simultaneously, while trying to keep the necessary independence and freedom to renew and invent in the process.

Drawn to the balance between modernity and emotion, sensuality and simplicity I derive inspiration from western architects, writers, painters, artists across genres and time; I am always drawn to the timelessness in what we create in the now.

Who is the THIRDMAN?

Along with my co-founder, who has chosen to remain in the shadows despite his prominence in the media, we confidentially launched THIRDMAN in the fall of 2011. We introduced a new and different product segment in the crowded niche fine fragrance category in an exclusive US partnership with Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Aedes. Sentence was too long.

The logo represents the hidden founding member of the brand, while it pays homage to the talented perfumers who are the true ghostwriters of the fragrance industry behind most brands. We both have creative backgrounds and inspirations, and have heavily integrated the arts into the creation of THIRDMAN.

THIRDMAN believes in modernity, individuality and above all, freedom.

Tell us about your concept of bringing back  Eau de Cologne.

We are founded on a clear principle: to reintroduce the original purpose of a scent.

Inspired by the long standing European tradition and craft of the unisex natural eaux de Cologne made of exquisite botanical extracts and meant to be splashed liberally, THIRDMAN introduced the Contemporary ‘Eaux’ - to bring back a product of absolute quality; it allows the wearer to have an all-enveloping  sensorial feel-good experience. We want to create versatile scents to ‘live in’ rather than ‘wear’. 

Please tell us how to use these gorgeous big bottles. Splash lavishly?

The minimal utilitarian glass cylinder is reminiscent of the original oversized eaux de Cologne composed and bottled to allow free application and full-on pleasure;  before fine perfumery became about heavier scents worn in small quantity. 

THIRDMAN wishes to reintroduce a free gesture in high end, exquisite ingredients in qualitative compositions, again used at will and in large amounts to feel good without ever being overwhelming. 

Splash or spray. Chilled or not.

Your packaging is really beautiful. Tell us about the big blue box.

The box bares no name, only the profile of the hidden creator of the product, staying away from marketing, branding ‘techniques’ to insist on what is inside. Its ‘powdered blue’ texture is an essential part of the product experience consistent with the smoothness and comfort of the scents in wear.

What is up with the rubber coating on the bottom of the bottles? 

The original Eau de Cologne bottle from a century ago was given a contemporary treatment. Inspired by the Bauhaus esthetic and principle of ‘form follows function’, the hand-dipped rubber is a visual detail as much as a functional one. It gives the bottle a unique appearance while making it stand sturdily on any surface.  

Where do you see the fragrance industry at the moment? 

Today’s fragrance industry has become extremely fragmented, with a plethora of products, even within the niche category, making it more difficult for consumers to discern true quality and newness beyond perceivable visual attributes and brand names.

Paradoxically the olfactory compositions, what is inside the bottle, with the exception of few brands, may sometimes seem too similar. As marketing and ‘branding’ has increasingly governed the creation of perfumes, we nevertheless believe that there are still relevant unchartered territories to explore and innovate.

‘Neo Freshness’ is one of them. As perfumes have become more an expensive accessory used as a personal statement, there is a true need for scents that are defined by their feel-good character, the ultimate quality of their natural ingredients and worn for ones own sensorial pleasure. 

THIRDMAN partners exclusively with International Flavors and Fragrance Inc, for their extraordinary natural essences combined with their avant-garde perfumery, to create a different approach to modern luxury perfume.

Who did the great illustrations on your site?

Artist Sophie Toulouse worked with THIRDMAN on the visual facets of the brand. Her minimal yet sensitive style and mindset translates naturally in the logo, bottle graphics and illustrations that were developed as part of an on going collaboration and conversation.

Her background, far removed from ‘design’ and fragrance marketing, was essential in maintaining a lateral point of view.

What's next for THIRDMAN?

 We will open carefully selected points of retail in the fall 2012 and spring 2013 in a few European cities. We consider each product in the line as a true object in itself and devote the necessary time to develop our next products that can soon become someone’s ‘daily essential luxury’.



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