Topper Schroeder is today a respected fragrance marketer whose own elite lines of scents and body care products include Gendarme, Grabazzi and GendarmeV (for men) and Carrière (for women). But in 1983, Topper Schroeder was just a consumer on a quest to find cologne he could wear with pride -- but without irritating skin or asthmatic reactions.
After searching department store and men's counters everywhere without success, Topper decided to develop that dream cologne for his own use. Guided by his sole friend in the business, personal ideas of what a cologne should project, and no professional fragrance background whatsoever, he proved to be a quick study. While his mentor opened closed doors for him, the doorkeepers at first saw Topper as someone going to a lot of trouble to satisfy a self-defined market of one.
What Topper developed was born with an ID number, but without a commercial home or name. Eventually christened by long time partner Bob Adels, who translated Topper's desire for a macho French moniker into Gendarme (a French policeman), "the arresting new scent for men," this unique cologne gradually grew its own corporation.
After home-testing his ability to enjoy Gendarme without allergic irritation, Topper began to wear it everywhere and evolved from an inadvertent walking billboard to the first fragrance marketer from the music business --a personable maverick in an industry dominated by multi-national corporations.
His creation's unanticipated retail introduction resulted from Topper giving Gendarme as Christmas presents to business associates across the country. As they began wearing Topper's once private fragrance to their own favorite men's stores, shop owners and buyers demanded to know where they could order this unexpected discovery. A successful launch at the trend-setting Fred Segal in Hollywood led to national department store interest. Growing industry demand for Gendarme, the fragrance, eventually led Topper to leave his music biz career to launch Gendarme, the company.
Within a few years, Gendarme was not only a cologne but a full line of personal grooming products - today including after shave/skin care balm, skin conditioner, bath bar, shaving cream and body shampoo. Retail word-of mouth built a huge celebrity clientele, a national network of over 1,000 upscale sales "doors" and of course gendarme.com. In 1995, Topper launched Grabazzi in select specialty shops, and like Gendarme it quickly grew its own devoted customer base. Carriere, Gendarme's feminine counterpart, debuted in 1996, after being worn by impatient perfume counter managers years before its release. Gendarme V, the latest from Gendarme is just out in limited distribution.
The one common note in all of Topper's lines is the fanatical consumer loyalty they engender -- leading to an unprecedented percentage of repeat and multiple sales, and challenging the "What's new?" and "which should I switch to?" habits of consumers.
Over the years Gendarme has changed the way people think about fragrance. Many imitations have entered the market but no one has matched the complex elegance that formulas that come to life as the simply fresh scents of Gendarme. Still the amiable maverick, Topper eschews the image of the distant mogul in favor of the hands-on approach, never too busy to shake hands and chat with a loyal customer or counter clerk.
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