Diary of a Perfumed Ponce Part 6

Richard E. Grant

(Or the A–Z of how I got set up in the Scent business)

March 2013

No sooner have I Grand Canyon-panicked about the lawsuit threat from the American ‘Goliath’ about naming my perfume ‘Jack’, than Brand Guru, Stef Calcraft takes me out to lunch at the Arts Club and advises that big American companies ‘tend to bully, bluster and threaten litigation as a ‘house rule’, so don’t be intimidated’.

I try to hold onto this dandelion of defiance in the face of the American corporate giant’s tornado threat.

Ask everyone I know what they think my chances are of winning and the majority bleat positively. Except for my patent lawyer who is obliged to detail every possible legal mutation known to man and rightly says ‘nothing is certain’.


Gather my friends for a perfume ‘tester’ dinner and give them note pads, pens, tester strips and five little bottles labelled 1-5. The extraordinary thing about perfume is that the response is always instantaneous and unequivocal. Whether fuelled by alcohol or familiarity, my ‘besties’ are brutally forthright and the results range from ‘mosquito repellent, old nightclub and toilet scourer’ to ‘gorgeous, edible and sublime’. Duly notate everything, then go through the same procedure with the perfume selling team at Liberty the next day.

Their feedback precisely matched my friends and gave me clear guidance as to which direction to pursue. The problem with group tests is that it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by everyone else’s reaction. In the end, I know that it has to be my decision, however well intentioned and informed friends and experts might be.


Now to open a business account for my newly registered Swaziboy Ltd company. The radio adverts for Barclays make it sound like a doddle. That Little Britain ‘Computer says no’ sketch plays out for real when I finally meet a ‘Business manager’, who probes me about my career and business experience with a barely disguised look of disbelief when required to trot through my CV of forty feature films and various tv shows, none of which he has ever seen. After an hour’s worth of ‘business projections’ gobbledygook, he asks ‘How do you rate me out of ten for this meeting?’

‘I’ll let you know if I succeed in opening an account’. He then got insistent and said that Market Research would be calling me and it was imperative I gave him a figure.

Verbally cornered to give him a high rating, he topped off the meeting by saying that he’d run out of business cards, scribbled an 0845 number down, that I knew meant being diverted via the sub-continent and losing five hours of my life, and concluded that he was being transferred to the Croydon branch and I would be dealing with someone else. Instead of taking two weeks, the whole process stretched to two months with papers ‘lost’ between branches, forms to be re-filled and little black boxes to be signatured three times over, confirming that it would be easier to tie a ribbon on a hen’s front teeth than open a business account at Barclays after forty years of loyal custom. Suburban Kafka.

Drive down to Wellington in Somerset to Swallowfield bottling and packaging factory to meet with ‘Team J.J’ – Jane Fletcher and Jamie Bachelor who declare that normally their minimum order would be 10,000 units, so my 3000 bottles is very ‘niche’, but that they’re willing to take me on as an antidote to their big hitter clients. Tour the factory and meet all the people who work the machines that transform the drums of perfume wax into diluted liquid, bottle, label, package and cellophane wrap the final product. Suddenly it all seems real, tangible and possible after all these months of planning, sketching and talking. Having set my heart on having a Union Jack inspired box that doesn’t look like tourist tat, Sarah Wright, the in-house graphic designer shows me her ‘mock-ups’ of flag variations, but I can plainly see that she is not convinced. Whilst filming in Japan, I’d been in a lift that was entirely lacquered pillar-box red, and in a flash of desperation/inspiration suggested we ditch the flag idea and go red instead. Sarah’s relief was matched by the speed with which she instantly mocked up a glossy carton, to which I added the ‘J’ round logo, and it immediately looked like a professional ‘brand’. Deciding that the drawstring calico bag inside ‘sleeving’ the bottle would be printed to look like vintage Union Jack bunting, replete with a riveted luggage label with ‘To’ and ‘From’ for personalising the perfume once unwrapped.

Second Eureka moment that night when I got home, combining two of my favourite ‘testers’ into one bottle and asking ‘Nose’ Alienor Massenet to see if she could mix them together into the lush, sexy, lickably addictive smelling fragrance that I had always dreamt of. Struck by how ‘quick’ these crucial decisions are arrived at after months and months of trying and testing.

This euphoria tempered by the sleep-stealing threat of the ‘Jack’label lawsuit which is postponed yet again with incremental lawyer fees to keep me levitating in my bed to the tune of ‘Ker-ching’.


Alienor magically delivers the ‘final perfume edit’ and it is exactly what I’d always imagined. Now to road test it with the Liberty’s team and whether to risk doing so ‘on camera’ for Channel Four’s ‘fly on the wall’ documentary about the store. Big chief Ed Birstall declares the fragrance a triumph and my feet start dancing invisibly inside my shoes! Liberty place their first order and the reality of ‘being in business’ hits me fair and square. Topped off by the jaw dropping news that the corporate ‘Goliath’ has withdrawn his lawsuit and my Logo and label have been legally trademarked!


Every day there’s an ever lengthening list of ‘To do’s’ which include opening a Merchant bank account, buying a barcode, securing a domain name, hiring a website designer, window display meetings, finding a Fulfilment company – which sounds like a sex manual – but is in fact a warehouse to store the perfume and ensure that it is packaged up and posted to customers ordering online within 24 hours, getting perfume samples of the finished product and a press release, hand delivered to long lead magazine editors in advance of the April 2014 launch date and on and on...

I feel like one of those migrating wildebeest attempting to cross the Mara river, seething with crocs, every one of whom wants a bite, wondering whether I will make it to the other side without being chomped and/or bankrupted in the process?!

This quote below is printed on the back of the packaging –

‘I’ve been led by my nose all my life and ‘JACK’ is my ‘signature’ in scent.’

Available exclusively at Liberty and online at jackperfume.co.uk

Richard E. Grant