Byredo: Incense Visions

The Essence of Sweden's Premier Perfume House Unveiled in Cerebral Still Lifes

Photographic duo Brendan Baker and Daniel Evans’s series of arresting compositions take inspiration from the evocative names of Byredo’s celebrated perfumes, including Mister Marvelous, Sunday Cologne and Gypsy Water. Founded in 2006 by former pro basketball player Ben Gorham, Byredo has quickly grown from niche brand for the perfume cognoscenti to an independent fragrance powerhouse. Last year the Sweden-born, Canada-raised Gorham, who works with renowned perfumiers Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette, added the Seven Veils fragrance to his 15-strong collection of unisex perfumes. Often influenced by personal memories, such as an incense-laced trip to his mother’s hometown in India, Gorham’s smoky and spicy tones have incited collaborations with the likes of hair stylist Christiaan Houtenbos, Fantastic Man magazine and celebrated creative studio M/M. Avoiding the cultural cacophony of Paris, London and New York, Byredo’s new creative studio and lab which they are soon to move to in Stockholm embodies Gorham’s unwavering focus on ideas and craftsmanship. “I wanted to create an environment where I could isolate the creativity from the business side,” he says. “Stockholm is a neutral environment so it doesn’t influence me too much.” Here the entrepreneur tells us what’s in a name, and how he created a scent for the flower with no smell.  

How does Stockholm smell to you? 

I associate the smell of Stockholm with the first days of spring, which come with such clarity after the long, cold winter. It’s a green city and surrounded by lakes, so it’s that smell of spring greenery meeting the water.

How has the brand progressed since Byredo launched in 2006?

I’m more knowledgeable from a technical perspective, although I think the naïveté of the beginning phases had an interesting effect on the fragrances. I’ve tried to maintain that and have always felt that some of the more unique work I’ve done was with the first projects. At the same time our narrative for the brand has become clearer. It’s like getting to know yourself over time.

What comes first, name or perfume?
Most of the time the name and the narrative come first. A name becomes the symbol for the idea, for where I want to end up. But creating a perfume can take a year and a half, so it’s also an evolution that is affected by human experience and knowledge. There are times when the names change because the idea itself has changed. Because we have a generic approach to packaging—all the bottles look the same—the name is the one tool to draw people in and prompt them to create their own story with the fragrance.

Explain the thinking behind the creation of Byredo fragrance La Tulipe.
Tulips are a symbol of spring in Europe and for such a beautiful flower I felt it was a pity they did not really have a scent. The idea was to create a smell for the tulip, kind of like a gift. La Tulipe is my idea of what that flower should smell like.

What tips do you have for choosing perfume as a Valentine’s Day gift?

From a practical point of view it starts with learning about the fragrance families, because this gives you an idea of what kind of fragrance the other person might like. It’s also about finding something you like and understanding why you like it. Good fragrances have a reason for being, and part of the gift is getting people to understand that. My other suggestion is a gift certificate—let them choose for themselves.
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