Recently Italian wet shaving and grooming brand Mondial 1908 launched in the US. They sent me some of their products so I’ve been doing some Mondial “shave of the day” shaves and I wanted to share my impressions of the products I received.
A Little Background
The company behind Mondial 1908 has been around for a long time, but in the background of the industry–kind of “flying under the radar” if you get my meaning.
While they produced shaving brushes for the Italian domestic market, they were also available as an “OEM” (original equipment manufacturer) for leading European grooming brands. If you are a long-time wet shaving enthusiast, there is a good chance you’ve used a brush produced by Mondial.
The addition of razors with precious wood handles and high-end shaving sets became available on a “commission” basis in the 1970’s.
The ‘Mondial’ brand name was acquired in the year 2000 and in the 2010’s the Mondial 1908 brand range was expanded with new collections of fragrances, razors, and brushes.
You can read a lot more about the background by reading this Sharpologist article HERE.
I received a jar of Mondial’s “Mandarino E Spezie” (Mandarin And Spice) shave soap. Coincidentally I already had a jar of it in my shave den. The new jar is consistent with the older one. I find it a pleasant surprise when a shave product scent description actually comes through with my notoriously insensitive nose. Mandarino E Spezie (Mandarin And Spice) hits me with strong Mandarin orange citrus and spice notes (I get mostly pepper with just a hint of cinnamon). It’s also a persistent scent, something I can get throughout most of my shave (but not after). This is a shave soap even though the packaging says shave cream. Maybe it’s an Italian/English translation glitch.
Lathering is easy, even in my “hard” water, and I get a voluminous, thick consistency without any trouble.
As for performance, it’s excellent overall. I find the lubrication/glide of aspect Mandarino E Spezie very good; adding a good pre-shave oil brings it to a really exceptional level. Post-shave moisturization is also very good. The cushion/protection aspect for me is right up there with the very best–which can be a difficult thing to achieve.
Brushes are Mondial 1908’s Raison d’être (if you’ll pardon the language shift!) so I had high expectations for what they have to offer. I wasn’t disappointed.
Mondial has a great array of brushes–boar, four grades of badger, and synthetic fibers. There are also an impressive variety of handle options, including resin (plain or faux marble, horn, and tortoise shell), woods (including rich chocolate colored wengé wood, Italian olive wood, and ‘radica’ briar wood), and a crystal-like clear, polished resin.
I was sent a badger brush with an olive wood handle and a synthetic brush with a Wengé wood handle.
[A note about the pictures here. I’ve tried pics off the site and my own shave den pics. Honestly, computer images just don’t do them justice: the brushes I received are gorgeous-looking!]
I have a lot of brushes in my collection–cheap and premium–and these stand out. I find them heavy for their size (but well-balanced), beautifully finished, and the assembly quality excellent.
“The ‘Heritage’ collection brushes feature precious wood handles are anchored by a strong base with a narrow waist widens as it reaches a chrome tip at the neck.
Olive wood has been a staple in Italian design and construction for centuries and has captured the admiration of woodworkers the world over. This hard, dense wood has a magical grain with a rich and colorful color combination of brown lines and yellow streaks.
The brush is topped with our Super Badger (1st Quality) knot.”
Knot Size: Medium (20 mm)
As anyone who uses badger hair brushes knows, badger grading is often “in the eye of the beholder.” As there is no standard for grading, one man’s “best” grade might be another man’s “super” (or even “silvertip”). The badger brush I received (above) is listed as “super” but in my opinion it’s a higher grade than that.
I think that this particular brush doesn’t have much of a “backbone”–this brush is all about softness. If you like “scrubbiness” it may not be for you. But I find performance outstanding: it makes building lather (even in my “hard” water) a snap.
“Native of tropical climates, Wengé is strong, thick wood with a rich chocolate color and distinctive grain that requires careful selection and processing.
The knot consists of a proprietary Krex synthetic hair very similar in color to the silver badger. Its structure is very flexible and soft with a velvet effect on the top so that it is able to easily create a dense and soft shaving foam. It is suitable for all skin types.”
Knot size: 24.5mm (XL)
The truth is, I used to be a badger snob. I tried all the shave brush fiber available–boar, badger, horse, synthetic–and for me nothing beat badger for lather-building (and heat retention) performance.
Then the synthetic shave brush fiber technology started improving a couple years ago. Suddenly synthetic fibers were getting just as good as badger hair.
Now I prefer synthetic fiber shave brushes.
Mondial’s Krex synthetic fibers appear to be the latest generation of synthetic, in both material and design. And by “design” I mean that the individual fiber itself “feels” like it’s not be absolutely uniform and straight, but more like the naturally-occurring variations of animal hair.
And this is the first synthetic fiber shave brush I’ve used that I don’t have to be overly-careful about draining too much water from the brush’s “breach”–the inner-most area near the knot where the most effective mixing of water and cream/soap occur. This brush seems to retain water (and heat) much more like a natural hair badger brush does.
Again, I find performance outstanding–and this brush has more backbone than the badger brush in the prior section, in case you’re looking for a bit more “scrubbiness.”
At first glance Mondial’s razor offerings gave me kind of a “ho-hum” reaction. There’s a large aftermarket for razor handles, since the cartridge heads are standardized, and double edge heads are often sourced from China almost as an afterthought.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that while the cartridge heads are a common design type, Mondial 1908’s double edge razor heads are made in Italy!
Honestly, not much to say here. Cartridge heads are made in Mach3 and Fusion formats and the shave is entirely predictable in that way. The handle is nice and secure though.
As I mentioned earlier, Mondial 1908’s double edge razor heads are not just “another clone” but actually made in Italy. I find the manufacturing is quite good: plating and construction are solid.
I was a bit worried on my first try with this razor: there’s a fair amount of blade-feel so I assumed this would be a fairly “aggressive” razor (I prefer milder razors generally). But the end result–from the first try!–was a “baby’s butt smooth” feel with no weepers! Successive shaves were equally consistent and excellent (FYI I was using Parker blades, my go-to blade when I try a new razor). So I would consider this razor a 4-5 on a 10 point range of aggressiveness. And the razor angle “sweet spot” appears to be quite generous.
The handle fits securely in my hand, with good weight and balance.
I know I get a good shave when Mrs. Mantic59 caresses my face and gives me “goo-goo eyes.” I get the “goo-goo eyes” when I use the Mondial 1908 double edge razor.
I’ve previously said that the arrival of Mondial 1908 shaving and grooming products in the United States is an exciting development for those who are interested in high-quality, stylish men’s shaving and grooming items. After using the products for a while I can safely say the new guy in town is going to turn a few heads and make some other brands nervous.