A brand that has rolled through the decades, looking back on a vivid past and standing on the precipice of a brilliant future. Since its creation in 1957, Gravel Cologne has seen the trends come and go, but has always remained true to itself: Strong, elegant, unaltered. Fragrances which defy time, like the gravel in each bottle. Read the rich history of one of the oldest still existing American perfume brands its creator.
Michael B. Knudsen, the creator of Gravel Cologne started working on his first fragrance in the 1950’s. He faced many challenges to make his dream of creating a true American cologne come true. His scents reflect his extraordinary journey through life. Born in 1911, Michael Knudsen travelled Across the Ocean in the 1920’s and emigrated into the USA. A young man like so many of his generation, pursuing the American Dream in the new world. It was the golden era of Hollywood and Knudsen was seduced by the promises of the dream factory. This charismatic, good looking young man played parts in numerous productions and came under the spell of the glittering world of show business. This period deeply influenced his exquisite taste, his penchant for beauty and his extravagant lifestyle. He connected with many illustrious personalities and members of the high society; each would influence his path of life later on. Those experiences, his European roots and the resulting tension of the classics of style and elegance meeting the new modern forces of a dynamic post war society, inspired his wish to transport and preserve something from the classic and elegant era, without denying the upheaval of the late 1950’s. Impelled by his vision and supported by his close friend Hazel Guggenheim, the concept for Gravel A Man’s Cologne took shape in New York. Of course, at this point neither Knudsen nor Hazel Guggenheim realized, how big the influence of Gravel would be on the American perfume industry. Thanks to Knudsen Gravel Cologne became a legend. A legend that walks among us to this day. One could say, that thanks to Michael Knudsen, Americas whole perfume industry benefited from his pioneer spirit and his visionary genius. Every day Michael B. Knudsen lives on, through enthusiasts wearing one of his perfumes.
The First Fragrance
In the early 1950’s men didn’t use perfume; it was regarded as too feminine. But Knudsen would not be denied his dream. He had set his sights high, wanting to create a fragrance whose scent, design and name created a product so exceptional that it could overcome the prejudices towards perfumes. These high goals and dedication to quality, with an attention to detail down to every level of production, lead to a time and energy consuming development process. The outcome was a perfume of such a high quality that its production price exceeded market expectation by a long shot. Knudsen now, saw himself confronted with the problem, that the regular marketing and sales approach was unfeasible. Refusing to compromise one iota of quality for quantity, Gravel was one of the first perfumes that was to be marketed directly and sold only at the most exclusive boutiques. It is one the first niche fragrances in the USA. It’s Knudsen’s personal achievement, that Gravel Cologne has enjoyed many years of continuing popularity. He himself picked every single stone for each flacon und surveyed production personally, until his death at the age of 98! Thanks to his impressive demeanour and his eventful life, Gravel is one of the oldest still available fragrances of the USA and has given the world numerous classic fragrances.
The Early Years
Knudsen wanted to bring the first three bottles ever produced to a befriended editor at NBC, hoping to expose his brand. On the way he happened to pass by F.R. Tripler. This haberdashery, founded in 1886, was one of the finest destinations in Manhattan for men’s finery, serving across generations. He entered the shop, to offer Gravel for their perusal. The salesmen didn’t take him seriously and asked him, what nerve he had, hoping his perfume could just be included to their assortment two weeks prior to Christmas. Fortune favours the bold. As it happened, the buyer for toiletries was standing nearby and heard the brouhaha. The buyer (Mr. Borger) saw and sampled the scent and was sold, Gravel immediately became one of their best sellers. Since that day Gravel is only available at the most exclusive boutiques. The cologne quickly built up its legend, garnering numerous features in the media. Dave Garroway, then the host of NBC’s Today Show, Hermione Gingold, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson and many more entertainers introduced the product on their shows. Over the years, a group of loyal enthusiasts developed, buying numerous bottles to avoid long waiting times. Gravel’s success was often called responsible for the boom of men-scents in the 1960’s.
The New Beginning
After Knudsen‘s death, the fragrances disappeared for several years. GRAVEL perfumes thus became rare and sought-after vintage fragrances, available only in private remainders. Georg and Christian Blessing, both Gravel-enthusiasts were in the same situation. The fascination for the fragrances and the brand’s eventful history had infected father and son. So, basically the idea to remarket Gravel, is based on the wish to wear the scents again. The search for the heirs to the trademark and the subsequent persuasion to buy a piece of American perfume-history dragged on for years. At all times, the desire to transfer the Gravel Cologne back into a family owned environment that corresponded to Knudsen‘s ideals and the values of the brand was in the foreground. Finally, after years of absence, Georg and Christian Blessing succeeded in marketing Gravel Cologne again and continuing the business in the spirit of Knudsen. Today, as then, the fragrances are only available in the most exquisite establishments.