“As a young girl (with little pink bow adorning her petit goatee), the Madame loved to press her face against the cool glass tank of the Fiji Mermaid, mesmerized by the strange undulating movements and eerie glow. She can still close her eyes and recall the smell of a salty breeze and fresh rain mingling with jasmine, pine and musky oak moss.”
No, this isn’t an excerpt from a Robert Lewis Stevenson pirate novel, a raunchy grocery store paperback, or anything like that. It’s a description of “Fiji Mermaid: The Briny Deep” a perfume from of one of the funkiest shops on Etsy. The shop is called Madame Scodioli (sko-dee-oh-lee), based out of Salinas Kansas, and it sells “Hand-Made Soaps, Perfumes, Whisker Wax & Lovely Curiosities for One And All.”
The creative branding behind Madame Scodioli is reminiscent the traveling circus of the 19th century dust bowls. The name Scodioli itself is as mysterious as it is nonsensical. According to founder Riley Fouts, Scodioli is a made up word originating from the drunken misinterpretation of a song lyric, but she won’t divulge more than that. She wants to keep it cryptic. She tells us, “Scodioli has been a mystery to nearly everyone until now, and I feel that it should probably remain that way.” Like a circus magician who won’t reveal her secrets, Riley seems to have successfully created an aura of secrecy around her brand. The whimsical black and white logo on each package depicts a bearded lady -- the Madame. The packaging is adorned with antique lettering and a kind of circus gypsy style design. This aesthetic is exactly why Riley thinks Madame Scodioli is so successful. “[M]y branding is absolutely key. It's set me apart from the beginning.”
With over 100 product choices on the site, it would seem as if a whole circus troupe were working hard to churn out the bizarre Madame Scodioli products. But the truth is, Riley is going it alone. “Right now I'm keeping things small so that I can manage it all on my own. I'm the perfumer, soaper, photographer, shipper, designer... I'm a one-woman show.”
Bohemian grooming products attract a bohemian customer. According to Riley, her customers “…do their own thing, they aren't influenced by trends. They have so many options for bath/beauty/grooming products, but they want something unique, so they choose me and my little beard! …They're a really creative group, and I adore that: musicians, jewelry makers, poets, fine artists.”
The creativity that is Madame Scodioli ironically stemmed from monotony. Riley got the idea for the company when she was working her first graphic design job. “Sitting in a little row of cubicles, I quickly realized that working for someone else severely limited my creativity and imagination. I decided to find a hobby that would satisfy those needs. Instead, I found myself a new career as a bearded lady. And I couldn't be happier! It was all a test, at first, to see if anyone would want to buy soap from a bearded lady. They certainly do!”
Riley describes herself as a “workhorse” who is happiest when she is accomplishing something, but she still finds time during the day to daydream, which she thinks is the core Madame Scodioli. “I think up ideas while packing orders, while driving, while painting the house. All the time. I can't shut it off.”
It’s a good thing Riley can’t shut it off, otherwise the world would be deprived of the whimsical, daydream fueled, bearded lady inspired products of Madame Scodioli. You can find the full line of Madame Scodioli product on Etsy, as well as an after-shave and face mask in Urban Outfitters.