A Conversation With Danielle Malka, Founder of eShave

eShave

I recently had an opportunity to talk about eShave with the company’s founder, Danielle Malka.  It was an interesting discussion and with her permission I’ve distilled our conversation into post here.  My questions are in bold and her answers are in italics.

Your background is marketing and fashion. How did you learn about shaving creams?

Fashion and marketing was just part of my past. Before that I had been a painter, a journalist, and hosted a TV show, among other things. One goes through phases in their life, and I like reinventing myself. I became interested in men’s grooming because it was a way to utilize several of my past career experiences, learn from them, and apply them to the circumstances I found myself in. I had created a line of natural body care products in the early 1990’s that failed. Soon after that an opportunity came my way to become the US distributor for Trumper’s fragrance products. I was invited to London to discuss the project and during the visit I met some of Trumper’s amazing barbers. Their shaves would often give customers such dramatic results–a close, comfortable shave without irritation–that it occurred to me that if we could translate those skills into easy to follow directions with great products that the home shaver could use, then we would have a winner and a great market opportunity. The first step was to kill the myth of the straight razor being the secret–it’s really about hot water, well-prepared skin, and using brush and cream. Very similar to a woman getting a facial. That was 16 years ago and it’s been quite an evolution.

How’s business?

Danielle Malka

Now it’s very good–2009 was a challenge but we’ve rebounded very well. We’re a niche brand by design and our primary market has been the US but we have slowly started to expand into other countries. Our first international markets were the UK and France but we now have a presence in 19 countries around the world. What is different today is for the first time we are looking at opening a freestanding store outside the US–in Moscow! We hope to open it before the end of June. It’s very exciting!

What differentiates eShave from others in the industry?

We use the other brands in the industry, such as Trumpers, Taylor’s, Truefitt, etc. as inspiration. We want to look at those “traditional” products and give them an updated look for modern men–a modern vision of those traditional brands. We find that many younger men do not relate well to the old-line, traditional brands so we market to the modern man. In addition we’re concerned about ingredients and use “light green” concepts. We’re not “die hard organic” but we do continually re-work our formulations and processes. We use vegetable-based instead of animal-based ingredients, do not use ingredients like parabens, and avoid using boxes for products–they just get thrown out immediately after opening.

How has the business and the industry changed since you started in 1996?

Early on many men thought I was advocating a utopian concept: a shave with no burn, nick, or shadow. I was a women so I didn’t know what I was talking about. But there was a major shift in customer perception when Gillette introduced the Fusion. People said “enough already!” and started looking for an alternative. Today people are ready to listen.

What are your most popular products and why?

Our call to fame are our shave cream and our brushes. They’re popular for two different reasons. For our brushes, it’s the look. Many brands offer similar products, but not the look. For shaving creams our White Tea scent is far and away our best seller. It seems to be universal: it has a very broad appeal in all markets. On the other hand our cucumber-scented cream does well in the US–particularly in Florida and California–but in France we can’t give it away. Our almond-scented cream sells strongly in France, I think partly because the scent evokes childhood memories in many people there.

It seems to me that you create products that are attractive to women as well as men, particularly with shaving brushes. How have women responded?

We are not specifically targeting women as customers but we want the products to appeal to them. Women are total despots and if they don’t like the look of a product it just will not get counter space in the bathroom! So we’re looking for providing a product that will satisfy both the shaver and their partner.

Why haven’t you embraced safety razors vs. multi-blade cartridges?

A great question. We initially looked at DE razors, doing surveys and research among our customers, and found demand was not high enough to justify the cost of tooling and manufacturing. However since the Fusion was introduced interest in DE razors has skyrocketed. We’re currently investigating the different styles of razor heads and handles and we hope to have a DE razor out before the end of the year!

eShave brushes have only three specifications (handle size, handle color, and hair type). What’s been the most popular combination?

Black is by far our most popular handle color. The popularity of other colors seem to be dependent on the region of the country, though the transparent handle seems to be the weakest seller. Our Fine badger hair far outsells the other grades.

Making Shaving Brushes

By the way, we design and manufacturer all of our brushes in-house. Every day at 3:30pm our artisans start assembling whatever has been ordered that day. After the glue of the hair knot has been set into the handle for 24 hours we ship. Then we replenish our inventory and start again. Its almost like a “made to order” process.

Proctor and Gamble recently acquired the Art of Shaving brand. How do you think it will effect the industry?

Art of Shaving made the initial decision to have more of a broad appeal while eShave made the the decision to be more niche. But I think P&G’s acquisition of AoS is a good thing for the industry as a whole. Traditional wetshaving has been a marginal business for the last 15 years but it’s growing and I think P&G will help bring it to the forefront of people’s minds. I hope people will soon view shaving brushes as just as necessary and ubiquitous as tootbrushes!

 

mantic59 mantic59 (544 Posts)

also known as "Mantic59." Shave tutor and sharpologist.


Sign up for the Sharpologist email newsletter and get tips, discounts, news, and our FREE 46 page ebook on how to enjoy your shave!

Comments

  1. I enjoy eshave products quite alot.

    I use the Verbena Lime aftershave soother a few times a week and its excellent.. I find that I use it more than the Floid and Proraso ( which i still love of course!1) simply because it makes my face feel great .

    The shaving cream is also very good- and in an equal rotation with Proraso and Trumper- a very good shaving cream

    My wife bought me a green handled badger brush from Eshave and the long handle makes it perfect for bowl whipping creams. It’s an excellent brush on par with my Muhle, Vulfix and Simpson. For creams its a 10/10 and on soaps it also scores high.

    Great products- without the rich history of the British/Itlaian/German companies- however they are on the way of becoming classics

  2. I run ItalianBarber.com and RazoRock and I believe the Art of Shaving has helped a lot in growing my business. Many people are introduced to traditional wet-shaving from seeing an AOS store or Ad and then go home, use google and then find me.

    AOS has some good products but the price-point are just way too high for the average working man (or woman). People do the research and then realize that equivalent or better products are available at half or one-third the price. AOS has definitely sent a lot of customers my way.

    I agree with Dr. K about cold water shaving… hot water isn’t necessary, in fact, in the summer months I usually shave with cold water and my results are usually the same or better.

    As a vendor, I feel somewhat responsible in educating my customers… I think it’s very important that customers know the benefits of use a single-blade razor (especially on reducing irritation); I’m a believer in DE razors, but if they are fearful and want to continue using a cartridge there are a few single-blade cartridge razors that will do the trick and not break the bank.

    -Joseph, ItalianBarber.com

  3. My local men’s salon carries eShave products, and I really enjoy them. I moved from a travel kit sampler to their full fledged offerings. I plan on getting one of their brushes eventually, because they actually seem to be lower cost for the quality compare to other brands, and they are aesthetically appealing as well.

    Even with the sub-par brush I currently have (different brand), their cream gets a good lather. I love their pre-shave oil, and I use their unscented aftershave soother lotion with great results. I even skip the alum. The aftershave cream that was in the travel kit was even better, but was out of stock at my store when I needed to replenish.

    It helps that I can get $5 off with rewards points at my salon, but I definitely like their products and plan to continue using them.

  4. What nonsense. Is she the sister of Eric Malka of “Art of shaving”? Both advocate the use of the expensive, Gillette cartridge systems steer one away from the joys of DE shaving and sell pricey, pseudo-statusy foo-foo, products. For a fraction of the cost of one her over price products one could enjoy experimenting with a number of wonderful traditional products from around the world. Forget about this Gillette Fusion groupie.

    • Yes, she is his sister. So take what you will from that. I can’t imagine she would say anything bad about AoS or P&G given the relationship. eShave smells a little more corporate (or aspiringly corporate) than some of the more artisanal or traditional labels, but that’s just my first impression. I’d like to see profiles of some of the labels that perhaps have a better feel for and understanding of traditional wetshaving.

    • mantic59 mantic59 says:

      I think you didn’t read the whole article. She quite clearly said they were actively investigating a DE razor once it became economically viable. Interestingly it was the introduction of the Fusion that made the economics!

      • scott schmitz says:

        Mantic,
        Have you given their soap a try? So far I’m a big fan of their creams and aftershave product

        • mantic59 mantic59 says:

          No, I haven’t tried anything except the shave creams so far. But some of their other products are on my “to try” list! :)

  5. buddy wiggles says:

    I dont think its supposed to be so literal Dr K. For example, I think the hot vs cold is deeper than just how it feels on your face. Most shaving creams lather better with hot water, same with soaps.

    Everyone (on shaving forums and such) knows P&G diluted and/or cheapened the formula. Thats obviously the negative side of the acquisition, but your right I think its for the awareness aspect of it. Because people will eventually compare the AOS product with other brands and thats how the true brands like eshave (and the other smaller brands) will benefit from customers educating themselves at P&Gs expense.

    Anyway, I think it was a pretty cool insight to companies like that. I rather hear from them than P&G.

    Any other company interviews coming up? Maybe you should contact AOS and see whats up over there

  6. Robert Smith says:

    I bought 2 eshave brushes from Marshall’s discount store in Durham, North Carolina earlier in the year. They shed hair in large bunches and became unuseable. I called eshave customer and noted the problem.

    Daniele denied they could be eshave products until I emailed her photos of the boxes, brushes and receipts, instructions, etc. She still claimed her brushes were superior to other suppliers and told me to ask for refund from Marshalls. I like the handles. They are ergnomic for me, but had the knot restored. The glue in the original eshave knot for both brushes had not set properly.

    I did tell her then she should make a DE razor. She said if she did, she’d send me one. I’m waiting.

  7. None of this has inspired me to try any of these products. First of all, the name “eShave” doesn’t exactly evoke any traditional sentiment for what are supposedly traditional shaving products.

    The fact that it’s taken 16 years for eShave to finally decide that DE razors might be part of the formula to a better shave doesn’t speak to expertise, whatever the sign on the building says. Choosing a DE razor over a cartridge razor has a much more profound effect on the shave than choosing a black brush handle over a clear one.

    The founder’s assertion that hot water is the first secret to a good shave also suggests an incomplete understanding of wet shaving. As has been described here and elsewhere, cold water shaving can produce equally effective if not more effective results, all else being equal. I personally have switched to cold water from hot, and have found my shaving to be improved and skin irritation decreased. This is consonant with my years of experience in dermatology seeing the deleterious effects of excessive use of hot water on the skin.

    Finally, the founder’s statement that their shaving brushes are popular for their look speaks to an emphasis of style over function. Similarly, the fact that knot size, loft height are not among variable specifications for those brushes, but color is… which is more important to a a quality shave?

    I also am not sure that P&G’s acquisition of AoS is good for the traditional shaving industry. It might create awareness, but if successful, it would more likely swallow smaller companies with niche products and expertise. I think P&G is more interested in dominating the market and generating profits than improving anyone’s actual shaving experience. The verdict is still out on this one.

    So to me, this isn’t a flattering portrayal. Many times I’ll read a review and be motivated to try the product. This did just the opposite. Good interview though! You actually did me a favor, because now I’ll think twice before spending any money on eShave products whereas before reading this, I might have been more likely to give them a try. I do approve of their avoiding extraneous packaging and trying to provide a more “sustainable” product.

  8. bsmyn0708 says:

    “P&G’s acquisition of AoS is a good thing for the industry as a whole.”

    How did she come to that conclusion? Is she not aware of the reformulation of all their products?

  9. Cool article, I’d enjoy more of this type. I’ve tried the sandalwood orange eShave cream. It’s a very nice cream and lathers well; I wish the scent was bolder. Shaving as a hobby, I appreciate product packaging, but it makes economic sense to forego it; eShave’s branding design is simple but nice.

Speak Your Mind

*