Georges Schweder and his business partner Ferdinand Claus could hardly have imagined that Claus Porto, the little soap and fragrance business they set up in 1887 in Porto, would, five generations later, still be tempting an appreciative clientele. What’s not to love? The packaging of angular patterns and Gatsby-esque lettering – said to have been inspired by Portugal’s Belle Epoque ceramics and Azulejo tiles – opens up with scents of pine, eucalyptus, juniper and patchouli, as seductive today as they were when the German founders first concocted them 130 years ago.
And now, following his work on the brand’s first Lisbon store, architect João Mendes Ribeiro has, in something of a full circle moment, converted a three-storey 19th-century townhouse in Porto into, literally, a fragrant set-piece.
The dramatic space is anchored by a staircase of riga timber and a vertical garden. Small vitrines, like jewellery boxes really, hold the house’s signature colognes, while a marble basin is particularly handy for lathering up test soap bars. On Saturdays, the store offers hot towel shaves featuring, of course, products from the Claus Porto male grooming range.
For history buffs, the second floor will be of great interest, featuring not just original factory furniture, but also archival material and specimens, including the evolving typography and patterns; whilst the top floor holds an interactive scent lab, and mini soap factory.