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byredo

Trying ouds, reading about ouds, thinking about ouds. I have three, two from Byredo and the Kilian. I will be back with reflections. In the meantime have a look at THIS. Juliette has a gun. I have a crush on this brand right now. To be continued.

In the meantime, watch your sillage.

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Scents affect us in many ways. One is that they give us pleasure. (Or the opposite if we are unlucky). Another is that they connect directly with our memory and imagination. Who would we be without our memory and imagination?

This post will be without pictures, deliberately. You will get your own pictures in your head when reading it and it is important that it is just like that.

When I moved to Amsterdam to study communication I had the fortune to make many Italian friends in the student house where I stayed. After I had introduced myself to one of them he started to recite a poem. (If you are Italian, or from a Latin culture or maybe just from anywhere south of the Baltic Sea this might sound normal to you. To me, raised in Sweden, this was magic). The poem was ’A Silvia’ by Giacomo Leopardi. Naturally I became Leopardi’s biggest fan that very second and bought a book with his poems within a week. For years I had an inner image of this poet as a tall charismatic sensual passionate Man of Art & Words. And then one day I started researching and found out that this ardent heart belonged to a man who had a very short, very isolated and very non-carnal life due to illness. He was not attractive, and in lifelong physical and emotional pain. He was also alone. Much of the time physically, most of the time emotionally it seems. Not only in a romantic sense, also in his family and in an existential sense.

Yet this man created the most tender, sublime, dynamic and powerful poems that you can imagine. About life and what being human is about, yes. But also about women, desire, the dance of heart and the reflection of one soul in another. What is reality? The inside or the outside?

In an earlier post I wrote about Polge comparing poetry and perfume, that perfume is like a kind of language. It is something that communicates. Naturally, the creation of perfume is much like the creation of poetry. But I would like to highlight one particular power that they share – poetry and perfume both have this almost undefinable ability to create The Other. The feeling, experience, world or phenomenon that does not yet exist or that is not here. A creation for the senses that they do not yet know about, or cannot anticipate. I think what I am trying to say, put in a very simple way – the power of sensual experience to take us on journeys… somewhere. And this somewhere can be back, future or away. The somewhere can be known or unknown until we get there. Art can do this, also music. Take you somewhere.

Proust referred to involuntary memory. That does not mean necessarily “unwanted” but rather that it is not deliberately created by your intellect. The term is described here, but you will probably experience it the best if you read Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ where you will find the episode with the madeleines. You can find an excerpt with this part of the book if you google, for example here.

We should not undermine the power of scents. Not only as an aesthetic, as an attribute, but as something that affects our brain. Scents have a fascinating capacity to activate memories and feelings and can be used in therapy to activate the brain. Scents can give you real physical pain when you find a sweater that still bears the smell of a lost person. Scents can create collision between the past and the present. Scents can awaken desire to have something or someone that is not at all in that zone of your life yet. Scents can make you feel more comfortable in one country than in another. Scents help us choose our partners and teach our children that we are theirs and they ours. (Speaking of which, I have been reading about pheromones lately and there is so much that I want to tell you that I just do not know where to start.)

Try to activate the scents of your life and relationships. The lilies at your wedding. The summer clothes drying in the sun. The first snow. Swimming in the sea at night. Hair damp from summer rain. Freshly baked bread. Airports. A new piece of writing on a sheet warm from the printer. Your favorite ingredient. Your friends home. Coffee. The way your city smells when you take your first step outside in the morning. Think about what smells there are in different places and situations that are significant to you. See if there is some way for you to make them concrete and possible to re-create. Add olfactory memories to your relationship – maybe there is a particular fragranced candle or flower or spice that you can return to on anniversarys and important days just to evoke that special feeling. Give your child fragrance memories because he or she will remember them forever. Buy spices on your travels or find the plants that grow in the destination your fantasies like to return to. Also it is not unusual that perfume houses have fragrances inspired by specific places, just look at Byredo and Chanel. But it is of course not sure that their memories are the same as yours.

The attentive returning reader of this blog might now be thinking that I am contradicting myself. Because I have said many times that we should search for the fragrances that reflect who we are and avoid trying to create something else with superimposed olfactory characteristics. True. But I am not saying that you should wear a fragrance that smells of Buenos Aires, Cape Town or Tokyo but not of you. You want a scent of a geographical place that probably reminded you of a place in yourself. This  is precious, and personal. Your memories are parts of your inner you. Some memories, and some parts of ourselves, we prefer to let rest un-activated, but some we want closer. Scents can help you with that.

One of the things that fascinate me about the world of perfume is the mix of conservatism and avant-garde. In many of the most successful creations there is a balance of the two. The future and the past keep making love to each other in new ways, some conventional, some unpredictable.

But something that surprises me in a less positive way is the still dominating obsession with pour home or pour femme. Not so much from the new brands. They are creating a world of fragrances liberated from lazy descriptions of soft women and strong men. But the big global perfume brands of the cosmetic industry, the celebrity scents and the fashion houses… You all surprise me with your boxes. Also bore me a little bit. If you really want to make a fragrance for men or a fragrance for women, by all means… But the illusion that this is the way it h-a-s to be, are we not past that? It feels a bit like a system adapted for sales, shelves, photo shoots, logistics, excel sheets, easy life.

During the course of last week I thought about this on several occasions. One was in a dialogue with Clayton who has created the superb blog What Men Should Smell Like. I read his eloquent thoughts on Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone, which happens to be a fragrance that I also own. Clayton’s perspective on the fragrance was based on regarding it as a masculine fragrance whereas I thought it was unisex when I bought it – but then when I researched I found the description “This sophisticated scent was inspired by a red silk dress” on Jo Malones web. This surprised me but also sort of disappointed me because it made me hesitate when I thought of recommending or lending it to male friends.

Then I was reading interviews with Byredo’s Ben Gorham. In his opinion both fragrances and ingredients are unnecessarily labeled as male or female. As an example he mentions roses, which are associated with feminine fragrances in some cultures but with masculine in others. There are a lot of interesting thoughts on this in interviews with Ben. You’ll experience them if you try this.

If you read my post from my adventure in the perfume lab you might remember that I had this impression that I was creating a male fragrance. After that moment I altered a few details but the base was the same. I am sure the result could be great on a man’s skin.

The point I want to make is this. I believe that the gender label is often an obstacle for people to find their right fragrance and it’s just unnecessarily limiting. I know several women who prefer so-called male fragrances and they all describe often being met with suspicion when shopping for perfume. If you go to the major perfume review sites you will also generally find the fragrances divided into feminine and masculine. Perfume has the potential of being a so much more complex, creative and exciting adventure than this.

I could go on about this the entire evening and then some. It is not unlikely that I will return to this topic. Tonight however I end with the obvious Google search giving this topic: “men who wear Chanel no 5”. It led me to this great thread  (where the title of this post also comes from).

Thank you Chanel-expert Lars for the photo.

One of the things that fascinate me about the world of perfume is the mix of conservatism and avant-garde. In many of the most successful creations there is a balance of the two. The future and the past keep making love to each other in new ways, some conventional, some unpredictable.

But something that surprises me in a less positive way is the still dominating obsession with pour home or pour femme. Not so much from the new brands. They are creating a world of fragrances liberated from lazy descriptions of soft women and strong men. But the big global perfume brands of the cosmetic industry, the celebrity scents and the fashion houses… You all surprise me with your boxes. Also bore me a little bit. If you really want to make a fragrance for men or a fragrance for women, by all means… But the illusion that this is the way it h-a-s to be, are we not past that? It feels a bit like a system adapted for sales, shelves, photo shoots, logistics, excel sheets, easy life.

During the course of last week I thought about this on several occasions. One was in a dialogue with Clayton who has created the superb blog What Men Should Smell Like. I read his eloquent thoughts on Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone, which happens to be a fragrance that I also own. Clayton’s perspective on the fragrance was based on regarding it as a masculine fragrance whereas I thought it was unisex when I bought it – but then when I researched I found the description “This sophisticated scent was inspired by a red silk dress” on Jo Malones web. This surprised me but also sort of disappointed me because it made me hesitate when I thought of recommending or lending it to male friends.

Then I was reading interviews with Byredo’s Ben Gorham. In his opinion both fragrances and ingredients are unnecessarily labeled as male or female. As an example he mentions roses, which are associated with feminine fragrances in some cultures but with masculine in others. There are a lot of interesting thoughts on this in interviews with Ben. You’ll experience them if you try this.

If you read my post from my adventure in the perfume lab you might remember that I had this impression that I was creating a male fragrance. After that moment I altered a few details but the base was the same. I am sure the result could be great on a man’s skin.

The point I want to make is this. I believe that the gender label is often an obstacle for people to find their right fragrance and it’s just unnecessarily limiting. I know several women who prefer so-called male fragrances and they all describe often being met with suspicion when shopping for perfume. If you go to the major perfume review sites you will also generally find the fragrances divided into feminine and masculine. Perfume has the potential of being a so much more complex, creative and exciting adventure than this.

I could go on about this the entire evening and then some. It is not unlikely that I will return to this topic. Tonight however I end with the obvious Google search giving this topic: “men who wear Chanel no 5”. It led me to this great thread  (where the title of this post also comes from).

Thank you Chanel-expert Lars for the photo.

Anyone interested in perfume or fashion trends for that matter has heard about Byredo or/and founder Ben Gorham. Anyone who has been in Stockholm during the last five years has probably at some point been embraced by a soft Byredo-hue as the brand’s fragranced candles and bathroom products are loved by hotels and restaurants here. I love that. Not just because a lot of places now smell great, but because it is a nice sort of token of local appreciation. Byredo has become the signature scent of the Swedish capital.

However, as you might have noticed, not only Swedes love Byredo. Sweden is in fact not even one of the larger markets, both the US and France are stronger markets. This is probably unfortunately partly due to the fact that Sweden does not really have a tradition of fine perfumery. People are super-clean, yes, Swedes smell like freshly washed laundry. We have great teeth and saunas everywhere. Perfumes sell, but there is no luxury perfume culture to talk about. Now, in post-Gorham Sweden perhaps, in some places. But generally, no. There are some of us who would gladly spend our lives changing that though. (Thus this blog for example). 
So. What’s so cool about Byredo? 
One thing is definitely the ability to combine the traditions and heritage of fine perfumery with a very contemporary twist. Not to forget that everything about Byredo is extremely aesthetic, with a graphic profile that has been carefully created to communicate elegance but not steal the fragrance’s voice. The company works with storytelling around the fragrances, ingredients and around Ben Gorham. This is something that could be done even more I think. It is very refreshing to see perfume rhetorics that are not just empty clichés. 
There is also something about the brand and communication, and the business that is dynamic and interesting. In the first couple of years most of what you heard about Byredo had to do with collaborations, for example with Acne (also Swedish) and hotels. The collaboration-theme has continued with Fantastic Man being one of the best examples. One of the first places to sell Byredo was Colette in Paris, a result of Ben contacting them to ask if they wanted to have a coffee and see his products. 

From the beginning Byredo’s founder Ben Gorham has been a big part of the Byredo story in media. No wonder, his background, style and character seem to made for it. Brought up in Stockholm, Toronto and New York but with roots in India. He had a career as a pro in basketball, studied architecture. Covered n tattoos, famous for his humble and kind appearance.

You sort of know this is a person who can offer some truly great conversation.

I have never met Ben but I do hope that I will have the occasion someday to talk with him about fragrances and the stories around them. Continue reading for some interesting facts about Ben and the history of Byredo, as well as some beautiful quotes gathered from various interviews.
Ben’s interest for perfume was awoken during his years at art school in Stockholm. At that time he experimented with fragranced candles in his kitchen. He was 27 and met renowned Swedish perfumer Pierre Wulff at a dinner. “I thought about it for quite some time after our meeting; then I contacted him and we talked about the creative process.” Ben was particularly intrigued by the connection between scent and memory. “I remembered the fragrance my father wore when I was a child,” he says. “I told Pierre that it smelled like the essence of green beans, and he was able to tell me what the fragrance was.” Pierre Wulff offered Ben to help him realize his ideas. Ben wanted to re-create fragrance memories. This was the birth of Byredo. The memories that were to become new fragrances were moments of Ben’s life. Soon after meeting Wulff, Ben traveled to Chembur, his mother’s hometown in India. “The trip brought back all kinds of memory, largely through the smell,” he recalls. “That was the spark for me. I wanted to create a fragrance that evoked the feeling there. The beginning of the project was very self-indulgent. I wasn’t thinking commercially, but I enjoyed it so much I felt the need to create a business structure so I could keep on doing it.” 
Byredo’s first fragrance was Green, a memory of Ben’s father’s perfume two decades earlier. It was created after Wulff introduced Ben to noses Jerome Epinette, in New York, and Olivia Jiacobetti, in Paris. 
The Swedish influence Ben says, shows itself for example in the minimalistic approach to ingredients – Byredos fragrances have a lot of character but few ingredients compared to others. 
When my interest in perfumes had been awakened I discovered that all perfumes smelled almost the same. I spoke to perfumers who explained that the big perfume houses often used up to 60 ingredients in each fragrance. I chose to create fragrances with as few ingredients as possible to give them a different kind of definition. I would rather that a client hates or loves our fragrances than stands there indifferent, says Ben.


Byredo fragrances are unisex with a clear intention. Ben has explained in interviews that he sees the gender division of perfumes as something of a marketing tool and commands men in France and England who proudly put on a flowery fragrance.

Ben:
– In the west, the rose is considered to be feminine. In the east however it is masculine. In Rose Noir I thought of a black rose that could be for both, a rose that you pull up with the roots from moist soil and that gives you a dark, earthy rose perfume.

Byredo is currently present in about 20 countries all over the world. Which fragrance sells best, differ. Gypsy Water is the best-seller in the US, Bal d’Afrique in Europa. Swedes like Blanche, a fragrance that Ben created for his girlfriend Natasa.

There are many things that are cool about Byredo. But I think there is one in particular.

It is the fact that there IS a Mr Byredo. Just like in the old times when the perfumer was the face of the perfume house and the name of the house was the name of the nose…and each scent, each note meant something to this person. In a time of cold fashion labels, huge teams and even worse…an arbitrary well-selling celebrities name on a bottle – it is not insignificant that there is a person who fronts a company created out of a deeply personal vision, who takes responsibility for the products and who generously shares hos thoughts on fragrances, company building, life, the world. This kind of openness and generosity is never unsignificant. It makes every single bottle of perfume special. Made with an intention. And that does make it feel better – and more – wearing it on your skin.

I have a profound aversion when it comes to the copywriting in the perfume industry. Also for this reason I appreciate Byredo’s effort to actually tell a real story. So here are a couple of examples of perfume like Byredo tells it. One is the description of Seven Veils, the latest perfume, and the other is one of my favorites Bal d’Afrique.

Seven Veils is a spicy oriental composition built around the warmth of vanilla flower and Indian sandalwood. It is based on the biblical tale of Salome’s dance of the Seven Veils, a story of many layers. Tainted and bejeweled, Salome turns to the art of shameless seduction. Barefooted, sanguine and black eyed, she demands a man’s head on a plate in exchange for one single dance… “On that first morning the moon sinks late and you feel the pull, as if it were night, magnetic in a way the sun could never be. Three memories pervade the air. The way you hold it; the way through fingers you let it slip; and the way the woven silk floats across the winds. So now floats a perfect fifth, in a minor chord, from an ancient bow, resonating in our ears louder and louder. And louder still until it grows stronger than even our beating hearts. You rise up, upon your feet, and even higher. With seven veils you dance, swirling swirling swirling.” 

Top: Carrot, Pimento Berries
Heart: Tahitian Vanilla Flower, Laurier Rose, Glycine, Tiger Orchid
Base: Sandalwood, Vanilla Bean


A warm and romantic vetiver inspired by Paris in the late 20’s and its infatuation with African culture, art, music and dance. A mix of the Parisian avantgardism and African culture shaped a unique and vibrant expression. The intense life, the excess and euphoria is illustrated by Bal d’Afrique’s neroli, African marigold and Moroccan cedar wood.

Top: Bergamot, lemon, neroli, african marigold, bucchu


Heart: Violet, jasmin petals, cyclamen

Base: Black amber, musk, vetiver, moroccan cedarwood

The name? Byredo is created by Shakespeares phrases ’by redolence’ and ’by reminiscence’.

There is no limit to my love for Skins in Runstraat (11) in Amsterdam. The combination of my most beloved city, this street AND this store is almost more than I can handle. Everyone in the store is charming, professional, skillful and assist you on your perfume quest with total knowledge and understanding. Last time I was there I bought a limited edition by Kilian and got so lost in fragrance conversations I almost (really…) missed my flight home. I have run across Schiphol many times, but never so happy and great smelling.

The selection of brands and products in the store is exquisite. You find your favorites, limited editions, suprises and new unique discoveries. I love love love Skins in Runstraat. Go there if you can. And if you can’t – enjoy their excellent web shop. Also love that they have Swedish Byredo which makes my nose proud of being from Sweden.

Att hitta “sin doft” är en hel vetenskap värd minst en hel bok. Men innan vi hittat den och läst den… här kommer några ganska basic tips som kan vara till hjälp för dig som vill hitta en ny parfym men inte komma hem med en kompromiss, en chansning, ett misstag eller ett spontanköp. Bra parfymer är dyra och behållarnas storlek gör att man ju har dem ett tag. (Meddelande till parfymindustrin: mindre flaskor någon?) Så gör så här tycker jag.

1. Förberedelse
Gå inte till en parfymbutik helt oförberedd. Du kommer att få superengagerad hjälp med drunkna i godtyckliga rekommendationer och doftmoln. Sätt dig ner en kvart och gör en lista på det här:

  • När ska du använda parfymen? Jobbet, fritid, dag, natt, kväll, date?
  • Vad vill du att parfymen ska säga om dig? Lugn, dynamisk, sexig, mystisk, charmig, sportig…etc?
  • Hur vill du att parfymen ska kännas för dig? Lätt, varm, inspirerande, uppiggande?

De här ledtrådarna gör det mycket enklare för expediten att leta på rätt ställe. Men du ska göra en sak till. Kolla vad du har hemma. Kanske har du 3-4 parfymer som du gillar, men ingen av dem känns perfekt. De har dock alla något som du gillar… Googla dem. Sannolikheten är stor att de faktiskt har minst ett par ingredienser gemensamt. Anteckna vilka dessa ingredienser är för det är förmodligen de som är det du gillar. Om alla parfymer är HELT olika…ja då är det kanske läge att börja om från ruta ett istället.

2. Ta med dig dina anteckningar i fickan och gå till ett bra ställe
Nu har vi ju alla olika definitioner på ett bra ställe och jag känner definitivt inte till alla de riktigt bra parfymexperter som jobbar i svenska butiker. Så jag ger dig ett par säkra kort. NK i Stockholm har en rådgivare just på parfymavdelningen. Fråga efter henne. De har dessutom ett riktigt bra utbud. Inte långt därifrån ligger COW Parfymeri på Mäster Samuelsgatan. De har också en mycket fin parfymsamling med märken som är hög kvalitet och inte så mainstream. På samma gata ligger svenska märket Byredos affär – där kan du få kunnig hjälp om du känner att detta märke attraherar dig men vill ha hjälp att välja. Om du som läser den här bloggen har andra bra ställen eller personer att tipsa om så hör av dig är du snäll så hjälps vi åt att tipsa om dem! Och så har vi då typ det vanligaste inköpsstället av alla…flygplatser. Och jag känner – grymt om du vet vad du vill ha. Men inte så bra ställe att starta ett mer ambitiöst sökande på. För mycket dofter som sprutas överallt samtidigt, för mycket kräng, för mycket av allt möjligt. Och så himla ofräscht att gå på ett litet plan och lukta som en kakafoni.

3. Stressa inte
Det är inte bra att stressa fram parfymköp. Då sitter du där sen hundratals kronor fattigare med en flaska som aldrig känns riktigt rätt. Du bär den lite missnöjd eller låter den stå och damma. Ta din tid. Testa inte tio olika dofter på handlederna för då blir det bara doftkaos i din hjärna. Använd pappersremsorna för bruttogallringen och testa sen de verkliga favoriterna på huden. Optimalt är om du kan få doftprover så du kan testa din eventuella framtida doft ett par dagar. Om du vill göra en snabbare affär så plocka med dig pappersremsorna, gå ut i friska luften en stund, ta en kaffe, dofta lite då och då. Fråga också i butiken vad de vet om basnoterna så du får en bra känsla för hela parfymens väsen. Sen bestämmer du dig. Men stressa inte. Parfym är njutning.

Det här är en superbasal rekommendation. Men den kan öka chanserna till en fullträff lite iallafall. Återkommer till ämnet längre fram med lite mer detaljerade tips.

PS: Om du råkar ut för att det står kaffebönor i parfymbutiken eller expediten erbjuder dig att lukta på en skål sådana så är det ett bra ställe. Kaffebönorna hjälper luktsinnet att ställa om mellan olika dofter. Bra grej. (Dricka en kopp har inte samma effekt).