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.
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.
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.
– 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.
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
The name? Byredo is created by Shakespeares phrases ’by redolence’ and ’by reminiscence’.
Bottle designs and the visuals around the fragrances were extremely important and often flirted with contemporary life style. There was the mascerade theme… Masque Rouge, for example, was introduced in a modern bottle, and a box with a red mask. “Mascarades” by Cherigan came in a black bottle with a golden face under a rain of gold dust and gilded triangles. Baccarat were extremely popular for bottles because of their superior quality crystal.
Shalimar. A fragrance that, for me, just basically sums it all up. All of it. Shalimar was created by Jacques (I feel this name keeps reappearing in my perfume-life) Guerlain in the early 1921 but it was in 1925 that it had its breakthrough, at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris where it was an instant success. The fragrance is named after the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, built by emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, Mumtaz. (Also the woman that Taj Mahal was built for…). Shalimar means the ‘Abode of Love’ in Sanskrit. The sweet vanilla creation mesmerized its first discoverers. Oh…how I wish I could have been there. Can you imagine? Being one of the first women to put Shalimar on your skin? The 1925 bottle was designed by Raymond Guerlain and made by Baccarat.
Shalimar had a bit of a comeback in the 1980’s. It was relaunched in a new bottle in 1985 to commemorate the 60th anniversary. This was followed by the addition of Shalimar Light in 2004 which was replaced by Eau de Shalimar in 2008. Shalimar is currently made as Shalimar Extract, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and as a Fleur de Shalimar Edition. Shalimar contains bergamot (top), lemon, jasmine (heart), rose (heart), iris (heart), opopanax (heart), tonka bean (base), and vanilla (base). It is an oriental perfume, which is also according to what was fashionable at that time – an era seduced by its own interest and fascination for things exotic.
Other famous fragrances from these years are Arpège, created by Jeanne Lanvin for her daugter’s 30th birthday and of course Jean Patous Joy. Joy was created with the intent to send a message to the heavy cynical Great Depression-attitude that Patou described as dominating society. He asked Henri Almeras to create something using Bulgarian rose and jasmine from Grasse. The result that Almeras presented to Patou was sensational, but Almeras was worried that the ingredients were too expensive for the fragrance to have success on the market. Joy became the most expensive perfume in the world, and a huge success. It is also the perfume supposedly worn by Josephine Baker.
Det finns många tecken på att inte bara kajal utan även doft var en stor del av Kleopatras liv. Visst är det fascinerande att tänka sig att när Julius Caesar eller Marcus Aurelius färdats mil för att klä av sig och lägga sig i hennes bädd så vägleddes de dit av en omsorgsfullt utvald och skapad doftslöja. Att när dessa historiska män som vi känner som oförgängliga stenskuplturer tog av sig rustningen och la näsan i nacken på Nilens drottning… så omfamnades de av en doft av rosor.
Kleopatra använde gärna färska rosor. Det sägs att hon hade rosenblad i sängen och strödde dem i hela huset i väntan på sina älskare. Älskade? Älskande? Marcus Aurelius sägs ha välkomnats av Kleopatra på ett skepp med parfymerade segel och inför deras kärleksstunder badade hon i saffransvatten som skulle ge hennes hud en afrodisiakisk doft.
There is evidence that not only eyeliner, but also perfume, was an essential part of Cleopatra’s life. Isn’t it fascinating to imagine that when Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius travelled miles to lie down in her bed they were guided by a carefully delicately created fragrance veil. When these historical men who we know from stone sculptures and monuments took off their armor and put their nose in the neck of the Queen of the Nile… they were embraced by the scent of…. roses.
Cleopatra used fresh roses. It is said that she slept with rose petals in her bed and sprinkled them all over the house while waiting for her lovers. Her beloved. Marcus Aurelius is said to have been welcomed by Cleopatra on a ship with perfumed sails, and for their intimate nights she bathed in saffron water, which would give her skin an aphrodisiacal scent.