Bamford Grooming Department
Watches, bicycles and now male grooming products… George Bamford's Midas touch
By Thomas Helm
Few figures in the luxury-goods world embody Mr Selfridge’s maxim ‘The customer is always right’ as genuinely as George Bamford. The founder of the Bamford Watch Department and the Bamford Cycle Department has now turned his attention to re-energising male cosmetics. Indeed, Bamford Grooming Department’s creator presents the range almost as a historically determined protest against the lazy assumption that male grooming is an issue solved by the few ‘unisex’ products on the market. Unsatisfied, Bamford implemented the formula behind his success with both the Watch and Cycle Departments: that is, that personal dissatisfaction can offer great inspiration.
The strong influence of personal taste in the design process does not, however, limit the appeal of the brand. Part of Bamford’s philosophy is that the shortcomings he notices are anything but individual; they give him insight into where dissatisfied customers would value improvement. And the end result? A range of cosmetics with an identity: masculine not just in its aesthetics, but in its very raison d’être.
CS: Tell us about the Bamford Grooming Department. Was it prompted because you found another gap in the market you thought needed filling?
GB: Much of my inspiration for the cosmetics stemmed from an aesthetic standpoint. I love creating my own space and I’m a bit OCD on how things should be. So-called ‘male’ brands in my bathroom struck me as dressed-up unisex products and I wondered if I could introduce something for the modern man. I’m massively impatient, so I’m not prepared to faff around with pre-wash nonsense. I saw one moisturiser that needs three steps to prepare the bloody thing. I haven’t got five hours to moisturise!
CS: So, another aspect of the market you didn’t feel content with. This approach seems to be a bit of a winner.
GB: More so given that my mother has a women’s bath and body range: Bamford Bath & Body. I voiced my concerns and potential solution without knowing that her team were looking at something very similar anyway. Then we thought about how we collaborate - my vision combined with their know-how.
CS: What can you tell us about the products themselves?
GB: Vetiver - a staple inspiration for many of the scents - is my father’s smell. We know scent has an uncanny ability to invoke past memories, and vetiver, for me, does that. It reminds me of my father’s bathroom and wanting to be like him. I wanted my line to have that intimate effect. I looked at every vetiver on the market and not one had the warmth or the sexy feel to it - the provocative power that, were you French, would make you want to see your mistress tout de suite. We used agar wood to introduce a warm, encapsulating element. It’s one of the oldest scents. The combination of the two creates a wonderful lingering aroma.
CS: And does the vetiver run throughout the range?
GB: Series One is vetiver with agar-wood shampoo, body wash and shave oil. I don’t shave every day - in fact, it’s more like once a month - and I find shave oil helps. I use it a few days before shaving. It has this wonderful moisturising effect - otherwise, a beard can become a bit bristly towards the end.
CS: But it can’t have been simple creating a totally new line?
GB: My mother’s guys just understood it. They knew it couldn’t feel greasy. This is a cream for someone who has a simple approach to anti-ageing and skincare. The travel-appropriate aspect is there, too. I hate it when I put cream on and it feels tacky, especially in hot or cold climates. We used the South African resurrection plant as an ingredient - it dries up to keep itself cool at the hottest parts of the day, then, during the night, it becomes warmer. It has the ‘technology’ to adapt and when I travel, I need a moisturiser that does the same thing.
CS: Can you give me an example of any other products?
GB: Our exfoliator uses charcoal, quartz, ginger and black rice, and is one of the best and quickest I’ve used. When I tested others, I’d always find micro-beads on my skin next morning. Yes, my wife nicks it, but, when I see it in our shower, I know it’s not unisex, but very definitely mine.
CS: And how is the Bamford Grooming Department doing?
GB: We launched it to Mr Porter, Colette and Dover Street Market, and I’m ecstatic that we already have those three. We’ve never had a relationship with Mr Porter until now and that’s all thanks to the cosmetics. It started when I asked a friend of mine who’s with Mr Porter for advice - he knows about men’s products. I simply wanted to ask him if he thought it would sell. I got my answer when he told me he loved it and wanted to buy it. I think I even asked him if he was sure because everything was still in glass tubes! That led to Mr Porter exploring the Bamford Watch Department. It was quite a boost to have three dealers in the space of the year – and, crucially, dealers that only choose products they believe in.