Picasso said that “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working,” and this is exactly what happened when Ben Gorham decided to start his olfactory company Byredo in the early 2000s.
Born in Sweden to a Canadian father and Indian mother, Gorham grew up in Toronto, and lived in New York before moving back to Europe. His love for fragrance cropped up after finishing art-school in Stockholm, when he had a chance meeting with a perfumer who revealed the power of scent as a medium. The rest as they say, is history.
His first foray into the perfume world was, self admittedly, pretty DIY—he mixed essential oils with wax at home in IKEA jars and made candles which he gave out to friends. It wasn’t until much later that—after much exploration—Byredo was formed, creating some of the most sought-after products in the world today.
The first scented candle was inspired by a trip to his mother’s hometown in India, with rich combinations of aromas and spices. Gorham explains that he finds inspiration in everything: “I would probably say life, in general. I still travel a lot so geography and culture are major influencers but literature, film, music, and fantasy all play an important role.”
Just like memories, scents could quickly be forgotten and the physical presence of a space where one can go and experience them is crucial. So, in a time when everyone is aiming to acquire digital assets, brick-and-mortar seems a risky step but, nevertheless, an essential one. Gorham feels strongly about the possibilities the nature of Byredo’s products present, focusing on quality, as well as emphasizing the physical experience, which is still very important to the customers, as they associate this experience to future memories and recollections.
“I believe digital will grow substantially but I don’t think the physical experience of buying products will disappear, and for Byredo it will become the combination of digital and physical which is something that I find really interesting.”
“Inclusiveness is what makes Byredo different”, adds Gorham. This is what makes him feel that it’s more than a conventional lifestyle brand because he “never really felt like we sold somebody a complete lifestyle, rather well-made products for their lifestyle.”
Byredo’s skyrocketing development from a concept to an established brand has been the result of careful planning. “Byredo has evolved substantially in the last 12 years since the brand’s inception but there was always an idea of creating a product as a form of expression and communication. What we realized is that our process and the emotion that goes into products is not category specific, and I am grateful our customers have this understanding of the brand”.
In addition to inclusivity, collaboration is also an essential aspect of Byredo’s nature and the brand has many projects in the works—case in point, the latest scent launch, ‘Eleventh Hour,’ created in collaboration with Virgil
What fragrance means to each one of us is what memories are—travel machines to a time and place where we somehow felt happy and if we can do this every time we spray “Bal D’Afrique” or “Gipsy Water”, then why not?
Our brains know how to transport us there but people like Gorham have the keys in the form of a candle or a fragrance that have the power to create memories and bring us back to old ones. Melancholia is a constant reminder of this alternative world of wonder where our loved ones live, and where we can always go and feel their presence.