"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty," said Coco Chanel many decades ago. "It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity." The French fashion designer was not talking about cannabis, but the sentiment still rings true for new cannabis brands emerging from the vulgar shadows of prohibition.
Beboe—a new cannabis brand started by former fashion exec Clement Kwan and famed tattoo artist Scott Campbell—is rapidly establishing itself as one of the premiere luxury brands in the cannabis market, but the founders are quick to note that advocacy remains the heart and soul of the company. Far from jumping on the bandwagon, Kwan started a grow operation as a UC-Davis student, and Campbell recalls his 85-year-old grandmother—after whom the company is named—making cannabis-infused brownies for his mother as she battled cancer. Each went on to professional success, but the duo got involved in the legal cannabis industry with a desire to help move it forward in positive new ways. Beboe launched with two products—organic, low-dose pastilles and pre-filled, single-use vaporizers—with artwork designed by Campbell, who's inked the likes of Marc Jacobs, Orlando Bloom and Helena Christensen. PRØHBTD spoke with Kwan to learn more.
Tell me about the vaporizer.
The vaporizer was built for social settings. It contains 200mg of THC and 40mg of CBD, and the base itself is AJ Sour Diesel. Scott and I spent a lot of time in New York and using Sour Diesel was a nod to the city. We worked closely with our partner Acme to build something that was good tasting, good feeling and that you can enjoy throughout the night.
You've said you associate the pen with dinner party culture. How would you describe that culture, and what characteristics of the pen excel within that context?
It's more about the act of consuming than the consumption itself. Cannabis consumption at times—generally speaking—can be two hits and you're stoned. We made something you can puff on all night and remain social… and hopefully funny. You're talking, you're laughing, you're sharing and you have a nice high that socially enhances your evening.
What design elements set the vaporizer apart from other pens?
It's rose gold. It's light. The pen is pre-filled and disposable, and it has an aesthetic quality in addition to the color and the packaging. I think it really speaks for itself.
The rose gold is beautiful. Did you always know it would be that color, or did you test different options?
We wanted a color that stood on its own two feet, and we figured the metallic color would do that. We sampled other variations, but this one really stood out.
The pen includes a DRUGS tag. Was that meant to be an ironic warning label?
It's not a warning label—it's just ironic. People use [cannabis] for a host of different reasons, and we wanted to add a touch of levity to it.
Now tell me about the candies.
The pastille contains 5mg of THC made with AJ Sour Diesel cold-water hash and another 3mg of CBD. The pastilles have a chocolate and currant flavor, it's low dose and perfect to end or start an evening.
What are the benefits of microdosing, and how do you see it evolving over the next few years?
Anything in moderation—starting with lower dosage—is always a good thing. I lived in Europe for about seven years and everything there is done in moderation and in a measured fashion. It’s the subtlety, the act of doing something in a considerate nature that adds to a “luxury” experience and product.
In branding and marketing Beboe, what steps did you take to overcome whatever lingering stigma still exists for cannabis?
We created this product to fill a need in the market, but we hope this brand will be our soapbox for advocacy. We want this product to send a message that says it is okay to consume cannabis in a legal state and that it is okay to have a career in the cannabis industry and that the cannabis industry can be more sophisticated, and will be, if we can attract a different demographic. It's not solely about selling product, it's about moving the industry forward, and that's what we ultimately want to accomplish by crafting these beautiful products.
You formerly worked at top fashion brands like Theory, Diesel and Dolce & Gabbana. What did you learn from the fashion industry that you applied to the aesthetics of the cannabis industry?
It's not necessarily the aesthetic, it's applying the idea that the customer needs to be served in a proper way. It's about the user experience. It's about the romance. It's about the story. That's what makes for great, luxury brands. When you get to a certain level, they are instinctual consumers—they're emotional purchasers—and we apply that emotional resonance to the cannabis industry. It’s about creating a beautiful product, crafting the narrative and putting it into context, which is important in the cannabis industry. That's what we ultimately apply to cannabis from our past lives.
Speaking broadly, what does the cannabis industry often get wrong about servicing the customer?
It’s not wrong per se, it’s about evolution as is needed in every industry. I hope that Scott and I can help lead this by utilizing our respective skill sets, working with industry veterans to attract a new consumer and move things forward.
What motivated you to leave fashion and join the cannabis industry?
It was more instinctual. I grew [cannabis] when I was in school studying corporate finance, and I had to stop after four years to become an investment banker. I kept it inside of me for a good 14 years. At a certain point, I was ashamed of the fact that I grew marijuana, but then instinctually I felt I needed to get out of the fashion world and to follow this passion.
Several designers now include cannabis imagery in their collections. When you worked in fashion, did you see the trend coming?
There is a trend, but it's more that designers are more comfortable showing the world that they are cannabis consumers or pro-cannabis. It's going from the runway to the real world, and a lot of the designers are interested in advocacy, and getting their support would be amazing.
Based on your fashion background, have you considered making cannabis-based beauty products?
No, because our thing is about being social and having fun, and going into the skincare category is not really within our wheelhouse. The New York Times called us the "Hermès of Marijuana," but our ultimate evolution, we hope, is to build a platform where we become a vertically integrated, "luxury" cannabis company housing more than just Beboe: brands that reach certain demographics, serve different purposes, but all within the context of "social and luxury."
Anything you want to add?
I hope that, by being in the industry, we can set a good example and help lead change.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Images from Beboe Instagram and website.