I have always thought of Imperial Leather as a very British brand, with connotations of the British Empire, but after a little research I discovered it owes its origins to the Russian Imperial court and to leather.
To Russia with love
In 1768 Count Orlof a Russian nobleman from the court of Empress Catherine the Great, visited perfumers Bayleys of Bond Street and challenged them to create a perfume that would capture the essence and elegance of the Russian court.
Their inspiration was leather.
Russian leather was at that time very highly regarded and widely exported widely. It had a recognisable and distinctive aroma which came from the birch oil that was used in the tanning process.
Bayleys called their new perfume called ‘Eau de Cologne Imperiale Russe’.
The Count was delighted with his new perfume and recognising the smell, he proclaimed it “redolent of the leather worn and favoured by the Russian nobility” and on his return to his homeland presented it to the Empress.
Eau de Cologne Imperiale Russe became a firm favourite with the Russian court.
Over 150 years later, in 1921, Bayleys was acquired by Cussons Sons & Co, chaired by Alexander Tom Cussons.
However it was not until some years later that Alex Cussons used the original perfume to create a new soap and other toiletries like talcum powder.
The soap was launched in 1938 and was initially called ‘Imperiale Russian Leather’, but was soon renamed to Imperial Leather.
It is a brand that had been consistently supported with advertising, some of the earliest featuring nobles waltzing the Russian court and suggesting it was for people ‘who value distinction and look for an unusual degree of quality in their toilet accessories’
It was one of the first brands to invest in TV advertising when it was introduced into the UK in the 1950s. Those early ads were often in between episodes of popular drama series, and it was this type of investing that led to the creation of the phrase ‘Soaps’ in relation to such shows.
The theme of luxury featured in the 1970s which saw the launch of the famous “triple bath” TV ads featuring a wealthy mother, father and daughter enjoying luxury bathing sessions – each in a bath of their own. A whole campaign was produced with the family in their luxurious home, on their private jet plane and even on a train.
The bar design is distinctive with the brand name embossed into it and with an ‘ever-lasting’ metallicised stamp on the other side. Many people rest their baron this stamp as it helps reduce soap scum which might otherwise accumulate on their sink or bath.
It is a brand that rests on its laurels.