Luis Pereira has always liked a good barber shop. ‘They just have such a great atmosphere,’ he says. ‘They’re very masculine spaces, a place to meet friends and have a beer, a place whose spirit I love. And that idea of the barber as this local figure who knows everything about the neighbourhood – and about his customers.’ And, Pereira contends, he is not alone in this regard. ‘Talk to men and they still like to get a wet shave, a classic shave – it’s a Portuguese tradition they want to maintain.’ Time in the barber shop, he says, is ‘time for themselves, an opportunity to relax and not to be rushed.’
Pereira has a background in fragrance marketing, working for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and the Cartier group. After 20 years, it was perhaps no surprise that his own commercial agency, 100ml, got around to launching its own men’s shaving line – Antiga Barbearia de Bairros, which translates into English as ‘old neighbourhood barber shop’. ‘It’s a niche, artisanal line in the neo-classical style,’ Pereira explains. ‘It’s not vintage, pretending to be old, but the way the products are made and packaged respects the kind of qualities you often find in old things. I hope it feels like an old company that’s been reborn.’
It is also very Portuguese. Each of its products has been made with small, local companies. Its shaving mugs, for example, are handmade by Porcelanas Armindo e Gaspar Rocha in Ílhavo. Ivo Cutelarias makes its elegant cut-throat razors; Semogue is the specialist brush-maker which produces its lacquered wood and badger-effect bristle shaving brushes; Castelbel of northern Portugal makes its soaps.
‘We get better quality working with these smaller companies,’ Pereira explains. ‘Take our shaving soap, for example. It’s a new formula and we had to work a long time with the manufacturer to get it right – the texture and the way it foams. They were happy to take the time. That works now – people are more careful now about what they buy. They want a brand with a story, with craft in its products.’
The company’s packaging graphics take their inspiration from the regional architecture. The soap’s packaging, for instance, takes its lines from the structure of Porto’s Dom Luís bridge and the balconies of the town’s narrow houses, while the patterning on its soap dish comes from the traditional ceramic tiles of Lisbon’s hip Principe Real district. ‘And of course,’ Pereira adds, ‘the colours, the yellow and ochre, belong to most of the houses, the roofs, the light of the sunsets on the vineyards.’ Speaking of wine, the wooden crates in which Porto wine is transported are reflected in the design of Antiga Barbearia de Bairro’s wooden boxes.
Antiga Barbearia de Bairro was launched five years ago and this autumn launches a limited-edition black and gold shaving set to celebrate its anniversary. It also offers two scents inspired by Lisbon and the Ribeira district of Porto, both developed with Portuguese lab I-Sensis. The latter’s mix of Italian bergamot, bitter orange, cedar wood and labdanum, a regional rock-rose, evokes the fragrance of port wine aging in old cellars. This itself is perhaps a nod to the past – from the 1920s to the 1940s Portugal had a vibrant fragrance industry, producing for brands such as Rochas, Worth and Nina Ricci.
‘Why such a Portuguese flavour? Well, I’m Portuguese and I like the idea of Portuguese brands,’ explains Pereira. ‘There aren’t many well-known brands from Portugal out there in the world. I don’t want this to become the kind of brand you get everywhere. One thing I learned working in the fragrance industry is that you must have patience to develop a real authenticity for a new brand. It has to be part of the local world it came from. And of course you can’t work with the likes of Gaultier without learning about creativity.’
One day, naturally enough, Pereira would like to open his own Antiga Barbearia de Bairro barber shop. After all, the appeal of these male sanctuaries runs deep in him: like the designer of Antiga Barbearia de Bairro, he was born above a barber shop.