In February, BeautyMatter returned to Perfumarie’s sensorial SoHo space in which workshops, international perfume flights, exhibits, tastings, and pop-ups transpire weekly. This installation honored a 266-year-old American brand known for its classic and time-tested product concoctions that have garnered a-list clientele such as George Washington, JFK, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger, and Debbie Harry. This heritage brand is Caswell-Massey and its newest president is Nick Arauz, who, just 14 months ago, acquired the company and spearheaded the effort to relaunch and reinvent the beloved company—an ambitious undertaking and one he views as the ultimate assignment.
In the chic studio the Caswell-Massey display represented a timeline, paying homage to the brand’s past, present, and future. Fresh floral bouquets adorned a large wooden table where both legacy and modern scents with embossed packaging, crests, and foil stamping stood; fragrant soaps were neatly stacked in small timber boxes; original product catalogs pulled from the archives dating back to 1914 were fanned out; and essential oil vials were housed in a showcase. Curious to know how Nick Arauz plans to add to Caswell-Massey’s rich history, we approached the man of the hour and unfurled golden nuggets of wisdom:
“Storytelling is a huge part of what we have done and continue to do,” stated Nick. Two new fragrances coming Fall 2018—Marem and Beatrix—honor strong-minded and intelligent women who were contemporaries, but perfect strangers. Beatrix Jones Farrand was one of the most accomplished landscape architects of her time. A trailblazer of a gal, she designed the Rose Garden at the NY Botanical Garden, the Gardens of the White House, and various college campuses, and now her legacy lives on in the form of the scent of a heritage rose. “We were originally going to name it after Peggy Rockefeller for her contributions to the NY Botanical Rose Garden, but instead decided to tell Beatrix’s story,” said Nick. Marem Leventon emigrated to New York and went on to become an iconic silent film actress and pioneer of feminine independence, using proceeds from her acting to create daring independent films. She was also one of the earliest female filmmakers. Bringing women like Beatrix and Marem—whose powerful narratives would have otherwise been lost in history—to the forefront is what makes Caswell-Massey’s storytelling roots captivating and authentic. A heritage brand with a feminist streak is one BeautyMatter can get behind.
Have a sense of humor
“When I took over, we decided that for the next 18 months Caswell-Massey was going to be serious. We erased everything on Instagram. Our website is still being revamped. We wanted to start over and be serious so that people took the brand seriously. No jokes, but of course we laughed about this behind the scenes,” said Nick. “And now that we’ve done this for a year, had the discipline, unified the presentation of the brand across the line, did all the work, we have been able to bring the sense of humor back, which is important to us.” Nick divulged that it is challenging for a heritage brand to be funny, therefore all the more reason to crack a joke and try.
A perfect example of this is the description of their new men’s fragrance LX48: “A cologne for anyone with confidence and ambition … [And, smells of] Leather, Tobacco, Cedarwood, and Oakmoss bearing a carnal overtone.” Nick shared that a customer issued a complaint about the word “carnal” being on the packaging, so Caswell-Massey informed buyers that the company could no longer offer a product description and future wearers would just have to experience the scent and decide for themselves!
“This was also a nod to the people who only want us to create old stuff and we say no! We are going to create scents like this too. Caswell-Massey is going to explore.”
A new mark on the timeline
When Nick Arauz took over as President he laid down a few ground rules. #1 was that no employee could speak about the company in the past tense. “The aim is to be around for another 10 generations, and a lot of the time heritage brands view themselves as a dot at the end of a long timeline. We view ourselves as the beginning of the timeline as well,” shared Nick. Caswell-Massey is not here to be a historian of fragrance, but to make the brand relevant in today’s marketplace via quality signature scents. They remain loyal to the original recipes, but seek to bring new and exciting formulations forward, and the brand’s modern mark—a dash—exemplifies this. It is a connector between Caswell & Massey, but also pulls in other people who were, still are, or want to be involved with the brand. The dash is both a connector and a continuation.
“We are not trying to bring anyone back in time or be ye old with a curly mustache,” Nick said with a laugh. “We’ve loved where we have been but we have to think of where we are now and what will we do going forward. What will fragrance look like for Caswell-Massey in the future?”
Photos: via Caswell-Massey