Baxter of California, Q&A with Jean-Pierre Mastey

Hopefully by now you will have gotten over your NYE hangover/comedown/boring night in and will have taken January 2011 firmly by the horns. Either that or you’ll be suffering from post-traumatic stress type symptoms, considering garrotting your boss on an hourly basis and thinking of how you can stow away on the next flight to somewhere, anywhere less cold and miserable than here.

My advice is to get a bit of legendary Californian grooming into your life each morning, via the rather tasteful Baxter of California products.  I guarantee that using their ace bodywashes, shampoos, shaving cream and moisturisers will definitely improve your daily outlook not to mention your complexion and appearance. Add a bit of granola and some nice herbal tea into your routine and you’ll soon be dancing out of the door like Fred Astaire on a super-dove. In fact, so impressed was I by these great products and being the nosey get that I am, I asked main man Jean-Pierre Mastey to answer of few of my questions about this legendary LA brand….

Proper Mag: JP, can you tell us about the history behind Baxter of California? From what I’ve read it sounds like it started off as the kind of product that the Mad Men and Hugh Hefner would have used…

Jean-Pierre Mastey: Baxter Finley, born and raised in Alabama. Worked in NYC as an advertising executive in the early 60’s. Upon arriving to his new home (Southern California), he noticed that his skin required a moisturizer. The lack of products made for men gave his the idea to create Baxter of California, a line of skincare and grooming products designed exclusively for men. Being based in Beverly Hills, and being a social butterfly, his products were quickly sought after by the Hollywood in crowd.

Baxter sounds like something of a legend, what was it like growing up next to him?

As a child, I saw Baxter Finley as this regal figure. Always dapper, very much a Southern gentleman, and the guy drove around Beverly Hills is a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce.  Since I was very young (6 or 7 years old) when I first met the man, his dog (which was the same breed as toto in the wizard of oz) got most of my attention. Later in life as a young man, I looked at Mr. Finley as a classy man with a great business mind and vision. Mr. Finley has since passed as we like to pay homage to him whenever possible – i.e. The Baxter Finley barber shop we opened earlier this year.

What was it that made you decide to get involved with Baxter?

Going back to around the year 2000, I was trying to transition from what I was doing (sourcing men’s fashion for Japan) into something that was more secure and something more tangible. Owning and operating a brand of my own was my priority. I knew that men’s grooming and skincare had great growth potential, and I knew that Baxter of California was a great brand with such a rich history and unique perspective. The opportunity was a great one, and luckily it sort of fell into my lap.

Who was the bigger playboy, you or him?

Finley!

Which celebrities have been known to use Baxter to get themselves screen-worthy?

Back in the 60’s – Finley sold his products to many celebrities from the golden era of Hollywood. Since then the products are still used in Hollywood. We don’t use names for several reasons, but if you are resourceful you might find names in the Japanese press.

Though I’m a regular user of several products, the body wash gets the most usage in my bathroom, which are your favourite products?

It’s like choosing a favorite child. I developed most of our products for a guy like myself, so I love them all. But if I could only take a few with me on a trip, it would be the face wash, the oil free moisturizer and pomade.

Baxter Finley also has quite possibly the best looking barber-shop I have ever seen. Can you tell us a bit about the set-up and how much a shave costs?

Thank you. We built a very traditional looking shop in heart of L.A. Something that L.A previously did not have. Super authentic in the build out, and the service menu. We offer cuts for $40, and shaves for $40, or both for $75. We have a strong emphasis on quality and strive be the best shop in L.A., not the biggest.

You’ve been involved in sourcing trends and fashion items for the Japanese market, what’s the key to making it over there? What do the Japanese love and hate?

Japan is very different from America and Europe. The culture dictates much of how the business world operates. Consumers are very much into authenticity, and love heritage brands from America and Europe. They are actually better versed in the product than we are.  Honor and reliability are still crucial for success in Japan. Keeping your word and execution are the “keys” to making it in Japan.

Style-wise California has always been incredibly cool yet very laid-back. What do you see being big there in 2011? Any new labels/scenes we should know about?

L.A is different from NYC, Paris, Tokyo. Perhaps it’s our weather, or lack of it. We dress more casual because of it. We don’t see true seasons and this (IMO) is why L.A. is not as fashionable as the other mentioned cities. L.A is now big on quality everything – food, clothing, cars, etc… waste and excess is something to be avoided (as this is most likely a trend not unique to my city) and the city is evolving nicely because of it. The boutique business is back and consumers have an appreciation again for the small authentic shops that know what they are doing and do it well.

If Baxter of California was a film, what would be the soundtrack?

Not sure, but it certainly would not include auto tune.


Find out more about Baxter here: Baxter

Buy the products here: Kafka

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