Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tito's Soap on the Free Market

By Ljilja Cvekic

ZRENJANIN, July 23 (Serbia Today) – Almost 30 years after Yugoslavia’s socialist ruler-for-life died, a cosmetic factory discovered an original mold and a secret recipe for a luxurious soap made exclusively for Josip Broz Tito and restarted production of the unique cleansing agent, offering it now to the wide public.
Nothing was good enough for Tito who led the multiethnic state for 35 years of peace and prosperity but who was also well known as a stylish hedonist with luxurious taste, wearing his trademark white suits paired with white gloves, eating the best quality food prepared by the most prominent cooks, smoking the best cigars in the world sent by Cuba’s Fidel Castro personally, driving the best cars and washing himself with a soap specially designed for him, mild and skin-friendly and smelling on his favorite flowers – violet, lily of the valley and lilac.
“The Marshal soap smells after old times, prosperity, honey, ethereal oils, juniper berries and camomile,” says Laslo Hanak, the only member of a team producing the soap in the 1960’s still working in the Luxol chemical industry. The old semi-automatic production line was recently repaired and Hanak is able to spend his last year in job before pension by supervising the same machine he started his work on 40 years ago.
A white 180-gram soap, with engraved English Bath Soap on one side and branches and stars marking the marshal rank on the other, wrapped in a small silk handkerchief and placed in a dark red box with the name Marshal written in gold, is now for the first time produced for the general public. Marshal was the highest rank in the former Yugoslav army and Tito was the only person who had ever got it.
“All ingredients of the soap are natural, and even the package meets the ecological standards. We have sold all that we produced in spring, and depending on the market analysis we shall decide whether to go ahead with our initial plan to make the complete cosmetic line,” Luxol Development Director Branka Mihajlovic told Serbia Today.
The enthusiastic plan, created after the old mold was accidentally found in an old part of the factory and an old yellowish notebook with recipes taken out of a safe, was to sell a single soap in a metal box and a set of three soaps in a fine wooden box and to produce also eau de toilette with same fragrance to match and under the same brand name.
As one of the oldest soap producers in the Balkans, established in 1884 as a small soap and candles workshop that bloomed in 1960’s when it signed an agreement with Chicago’s Helene Curtis cosmetics company on limitless use of its formulas for hair color, shampoo and conditioner, Luxol has got an order to create for the president a special soap of the best natural material, carefully developed and made by a team of best and most loyal workers, capable of keeping a secret and well checked by the state security and counter intelligence.
“Working for comrade Tito was an honor for each of us,” Hanak says. Every fifth of a month a special vehicle would arrive, escorted by the state security people who supervised loading and transport of soap to Marshal’s office in Belgrade. The quality was checked twice, at the factory’s lab and then again by a team of Tito’s chemists.
No one was allowed to take even a single piece of the soap out of the factory. At first Tito was the only one to use it, carrying it wherever he traveled and giving it as a present to his royal guests and heads of state. There was a story that the entire Soviet Union’s Central Committee was crazy about the soap that after a while was partly available also to some of Tito’s closest associates and generals.
“Marshal was the nick name workers have given to the soap at that time and we’ve decided to keep it. The name is protected as a brand at the Geneva institute,” said Dusan Gatarevic, head of marketing in Luxol, adding that many people are calling not only from ex-Yugoslav countries but also other parts of Europe to order bigger quantities of the soap. “We might even get the permission by Tito’s grandson Joska Broz to put his image on the box as well.”

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