Saunders & Long’s Ingenious 5-in-1 Grooming Solution
Nick Saunders and Jonathan Long, co-founders of the recently launched grooming line Saunders & Long, tell us about the ethos behind their brand and describe a bit of the science behind The Long Weekender—the label’s proprietary 5-in-1 formula of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, and dry grooming.
What’s the backstory to how you met and started Saunders & Long together?
Nick Saunders: With most things, timing is everything, and our timing certainly worked out well in terms of how we met: at a bar in London. Which has got a funny story to it. A slightly inebriated friend of Jon’s had probably been a little over-served, and was making a bit of a nuisance of himself with respect to my girlfriend at the time. Jonny came over to apologize and extricate his friend from the situation, and we just got chatting. I mean, if it hadn’t been for that, this whole thing never would have happened.
How very polite. And serendipitous!
Saunders: Yes. At the time, I was in the film world [in Los Angeles] and trying to work my way in as a writer, producer, and creative storyteller, but as a result of trying to keep myself alive during the writers’ strike and the financial collapse [of 2007–08], I started being called into the brand world. The way that I saw things developing didn’t really seem to be authentic. I was learning on the job and thinking, There’s got to be a better way of doing this. Meanwhile, Jonny had grown up in the hair industry, running a salon and working with lots of young, high-profile people—bands, athletes, actors on film sets and all sorts of things—realizing that there were products that didn’t do the thing that he wanted them to do. So he always wanted his own product line, and I thought brands could be done in a different way.
Jonathan Long: I’ve always seen there was a massive gap in the market. I was doing photo shoots and would literally put Vaseline into people’s hair to make it shine, gloss, and hold because the hair waxes wouldn’t stay for too long. I’ve been around and in the business for a long time, so I’ve gotten quite geeky about the products, and around the time Nick and I met, Nick had another fortuitous meeting.
Saunders: It was January in Los Angeles. I was there doing a project around the Golden Globes, and through a mutual friend, we had an introduction to [Klaus Heidegger, the former co-president of Kiehl’s]. We had a pitch deck at this point, with a dream and a vision of what we thought it could be, and he said, “Oh, you want to make guys feel like James Bond when they’re getting ready? How can I help?” We asked for his expertise and advice in our business, and he said, “I can do that, but I can also do another thing for you, which is to introduce you to our chief chemist [Stephen Musumeci].” That introduction, and putting him and Jonny in a bunker together for three and a half years, developing our product line and that chemistry that the two of them have, literally, is the foundation on which we’re building the brand.
How did you come up with the idea for The Long Weekender, or even realize it could be possible to make?
Saunders: Our brand and packaging does look quite heritage, but we try to do things that are modern. We’re trying to present a blend that asks “What does luxury mean?” and think of unique solutions that fit into people’s hectic lives at the moment. People today have less bandwidth and shorter attention spans than any other generation that’s come before us. When we came out of the gate with our 5-in-1 product, it was the first one we’d ever seen on the market. It was pretty obvious early on that everybody was responding to a product that did five things in one, and genuinely did them all very well.
Long: With The Long Weekender, it’s basically a layering process. Each product is made separately as such, but then layered on top of one another, so they are each doing a specific job, but each has a multitasking role—that all came from Stephen’s knowledge of science, and my knowledge of what I need the product to do.
It’s a grooming product formulated with men in mind, but have you found that women have also taken a liking to it?
Long: A friend of ours who’s a journalist and works in fashion got very heated, and he decided that we were the boyfriend jeans of men’s grooming because he believes every woman is going to want to nick the men’s products. For many years, this is one of the things Nick and I have always said. The hair-product industry and stores are very much set at men’s or women’s, but we hated that because nothing else is really anymore.
Speaking of weekends—they’re looking a bit different these days. What are your thoughts on how the grooming and beauty industry might change in the longer term post–Covid-19?
Long: It’s quite amazing that the whole world has shut themselves inside to protect other people; I find that quite beautiful. It’s the feeling of service, and it’s looking after your neighbors and your clients and your friends. I think our world will definitely change. But we’re not looking to do lots of physical shops. We see ourselves much more as an online family going forward. These times, they’re strange, but with every period of great adversity there is the potential for an amazing positive.