There were a bunch of vendors that attended the Maggard Razors meetup in May and I was able to do video interviews with almost all of them. But I missed Shawn of Chatillon Lux! So we got together by email and chatted about his business and products.
My questions are in bold.
Who are you? Where are you from?
My name is Shawn Maher, and anyone who follows Chatillon Lux on social media or visits the website will see that I am very passionate about my city, Saint Louis. South Saint Louis City to be specific. It’s a scrappy city with a rich history, and there are many people who are working very hard to fight our way out of these Rust Belt doldrums that we’ve been experiencing for the past few decades. I know we’re not perfect, but there’s no place else I would rather live.
Give us a little background on how you started Chatillon Lux.
The story behind Chatillon Lux is a tribute to my beloved South City. South City was originally separate from Saint Louis and was named Carondelet, a trading hamlet for the French traders and trappers (the area is still called Carondelet informally). Clement Delor de Treget founded Carondelet, which was formerly known to Saint Louis residents as Vide Poche, which means empty pockets. Some posit that it was because the inhabitants were poor, while others say that it was due to the gambling prowess of the residents: Saint Louisians would leave with empty pockets. Other previous names included Catalan’s Prairie, named for those from the Catalan region of Spain, and Delor’s Village.
Delor de Treget, a French official, named the town Carondelet as a tribute to the Spanish governor general of Louisiana, Baron de Carondelet, shortly after the Spanish acquired the Louisiana territory from the French.
Delor de Treat’s granddaughter, Odile Delor Lux, eventually married renowned Saint Louis adventurer, Henri Chatillon. Chatillon was a central figure in The Oregon Trail, a memoir of how Chatillon led the author across along trail and lived peacefully with the Oglala Sioux, whose chief’s daughter, Bear Robe, Chatillon loved passionately and married. The book saw Chatillon leading expeditions of both settlers and Sioux until Bear Robe passed away unexpectedly, causing unbearable grief to Chatillon. After reading the book, Herman Mellville called Chatillon “the most gallant man as ever shot a buffalo.”
For every scent I make, I take elements from this story, as well as from the many other stories found throughout the rich history of Saint Louis, and use them as inspiration for the creative process.
What inspired or motivated you to start Chatillon Lux? How long did it take you to get into business?
My motivation began in December of 2014, when the temperatures in Saint Louis rarely reached the double digits at any point. It was frigid and I needed better protection for my face. I made what is now our post-shave salve, a thick, shea-butter based balm with other nourishing agents, to help repair my wind-chapped skin. It saved me from having to resort to a beard.
After spending a few months developing it and sharing with friends, I was encouraged to begin selling it. Around that time, I developed a theory that pre-shave products should not act as lubricant so much, as that is the job of the soap/cream, but rather to soften your face and whiskers. So I created a pre-shave butter with shea butter, glycerin, and grapeseed oil.
After those, I moved on to creating the post-shave toner, which has been called a splash for balm lovers, and our aftershave, which is an alcohol-based splash, but with several other ingredients that make it better for your face than your typical alcohol splash.
I opened my doors for business on June 15, 2015, after spending several months soliciting product testers and adjusting items based on their feedback. It began with just the post-shave salves, but then I expanded to the post-shave toners, and then the aftershaves upon receiving my alcohol permit in December 2015.
Give me a feel for your development and manufacturing process. How do you make your products?
The hardest product to make is our post-shave salves. I have to melt the shea butter and other elements down in a couple double boilers. After they get just right, I combine everything, then whip it into shape with a hand blender. Next, I pour it out and it sets up as it cools into a texture that is pretty close to hair paste. The pre-shave butter is pretty similar, although it is a two-day process due to a more complex emulsification process.
The other items are much easier: just add the ingredients and let them do their thing until it’s ready to bottle.
As far as development goes, that is my favorite part of this business. I love creating new scents and have done customs for people sometimes, including one for a wedding in Napa Valley, which required me to make a scent that was inspired by the smell of the outdoors there. Using memories, stories, or any other amount of stuff to inspire me, I can spend hours just blending scents and smelling them. I keep a Google Doc that is just full of tons of shorthand stuff that I’ve written down when something hits me, then I go play in my scent cave until I find something I like.
Where do you find your creativity?
There easiest answer for this would be that I have always been passionate about artistic pursuits. I am a copywriter at an ad agency as my day job, and for years I played guitar and trumpet in a rock band, while previously I had played trombone in school throughout junior high, high school and college. The creative energy that I used to pour into music I now harness for Chatillon Lux. I have never been able to have casual interests, so when I get into something, I really get deep into it. Wet shaving had me hooked from day one, and I’m so happy it as allowed me to have an outlet for my creativity.
On a deeper personal level, my dad inspired my love of scents, even though he was never one to wear anything other than Old Spice. He has managed a lumberyard for over three decades after majoring in forestry at Mizzou. I used to love visiting him at work and walking through the yard, saying hi to all the yard workers. My favorite thing to do was watch people saw wood. If someone had cut red cedar, my dad would always have me come over and smell the shavings with him. Also, when we used to camp, he would always point out different trees and plants and have me smell the most interesting ones.
For Father’s Day this year, I made my dad a lumberyard aftershave. It was mostly red cedarwood with some cypress, black pepper and vetiver. Finding out how much he liked the scent was one of my proudest accomplishments in this industry. It’s a scent that only he and I will ever wear, and I think that’s a really cool tribute.
What is your most popular product?
The aftershave is my most popular product year-round, but during the winter months, the post-shave salve is also really popular. Although the post-shave toner isn’t a huge seller, there are many people out there who love it and appreciate having another option for a witch hazel and aloe-based splash.
For scents, demand is very seasonally based. Gratiot League Square, which is tobacco, leather, wood and spices, is probably the most popular scent, but during these warm months Fourth & Pine, a citrus scent inspired by Farina’s original Eau de Cologne, as well as Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli, find themselves used more often since they are much lighter and weather-appropriate.
What is your favorite (Chatillon Lux) product?
My personal favorite is La Quatrième Ville, which is a very dry, cypress and vetiver scent. It was inspired by the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and is heavy on Haitian vetiver, with other vetivers, cypress, resin and incense rounding it out. I love dark, woody scents, and this is it. It goes very well with Lalique’s Encre Noir, which I absolutely love to wear.
Where are your products distributed? Can it be found on Amazon or another vendor’s site?
I sell my products through Maggard Razors, my own website at ChatillonLux.com, and to Canadians through MenEssentials. I’ve explored Amazon, but the fit just isn’t right for me at this point. Maybe once I have the entire permanent scent line-up set in October and move my focus to fun, limited edition products, I will revisit having my regular line up items on Amazon. For now, however, I’m very happy with keeping it a small, close-knit family of vendors whom I know personally and with whom I love doing business.
What’s next for Chattilon Lux? Any new products in development?
There are some exciting things on the horizon for Chatillon Lux! First of all, we have just wrapped up our first soap collaboration with L&L Grooming. Scott is a really great guy who I’ve gotten to know, and he proposed the idea of putting my Champs de Lavande scent in his bison tallow soap base. And since Henri Chatillon was described to have killed two bison with one shot in The Oregon Trail, then that seemed like too perfect of a collaboration. We have discussed possibly doing another collaboration when my new fougère scent comes out. I originally made a limited edition fougère for The Shave Market on Facebook, named TSM Fougère, aptly enough. It ended up being very popular, and many people, quite a few of whom do not use Facebook, were very upset that they missed out after others shared samples and wrote reviews.
Having observed this, the mods at The Shave Market were nice enough to give me their blessing to transition the scent into my regular line up, just like they encouraged Chris from Catie’s Bubbles to do when he made a limited edition scent, Le Marche du Rasage, for The Shave Market. That is coming out on October 3, and if the buzz is any indication, I think it’s going be be a big one for me.
I also want to do more one-off limited edition products. This summer i put out a product named Colbeck, which was a safe-for-wearing-to-work, gin-inspired scent in a special aftershave base just for summer: lighter and less moisturizing with a chilly menthol biast. I have a few ideas for this fall and winter, but nothing concrete yet. Those are fun to do, because there’s more freedom to experiment with weird ideas, like wearing gin as an aftershave like Robert Redford did in The Sting.
Finally, thank you, Mark for allowing me to do this interview. I love talking shop and always invite anyone to contact me, because it’s always a lot of fun. I’m passionate about the wet shaving community, fragrance, and Saint Louis, so this allows me to combine all of those into one.