Founder Ben Gorham on how the new London Byredo store is the first of its kind

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Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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Cult fragrance and bodycare brand Byredo now has a permanent residence in the UK. Stylist speaks to founder Ben Gorham on London as a muse, the intricate details of the store space, and what exactly is feeding his inspiration right now.

Byredo, famed for its intriguing and evocative blend of scents, modern aluminium tubes of hand cream, satisfying magnetic snap-on lids and brilliant fashion collaborations, now has a permanent home in London’s Soho. 

With a bright white standout exterior and innovatively designed interior that’ll make you want to shop surfaces and cowskin couches alongside a new bottle of Gypsy Water, the store feels like a serene setting to explore the brand in its entirety with zero pressure to purchase. Stylist visited founder Ben Gorham on the day of the store’s opening to learn about his vision for the space and find out more about what goes into creating such a cult brand.

Why did you choose London for your first flagship store in Europe?

The brand has always translated really well to the vibe of the UK, ever since its conception 11 years ago, so it made perfect sense to me. London’s so progressive and culturally diverse, and it reflects my vision for Byredo, and being a mix of ethnicities and cultures myself (Gorham’s heritage is Indian, Scottish and French Canadian and he grew up in Sweden and Toronto) I think we touch that cultural nerve. I think there is a curiosity and a confidence amongst people here, which allows them to try new things, that you may not see in more conservative cities.

Can you talk us through the process of building the store?

I’ve spent a few years looking for the perfect store space, and came across this building two years ago. I considered putting the flagship on one of the more luxury streets, but right here in the middle of Soho resonates more with our London following - off of the beaten path. I wanted a multi-floor, multi-spaced kind of complex where we could express the brand and all its facets under the same roof. There are two floors as shop spaces, then a gallery floor on top where we where we can do creative projects; they all weave together to create the space, even though the intimacy changes as you go upstairs. It’s taken some time to re-do the building’s structure and add the winding staircase as it’s a historical building, but now we’re finally done. 

What do you have planned for this gallery space?

It hasn’t been defined just yet… I don’t want to kick it off too early. But, we do a lot of unique collaborations and we’re working on different projects in furniture and ceramics for the future, plus it will allow our friends and families, and artists or creatives to show work there as kind of a creative home.

What are you hoping people will come in here and experience?

I’m hoping this will provide an idea and feeling of a universe. I think the thing that makes Byredo unique is we do everything in-house. We have no licences for eyewear or beauty or anything. So I think seeing all these products and how they relate to each other, there’s a sensibility in that. And it allows us the freedom to create less conventional things, since we have this kind of abode. 

byredo london flagship store

What was your first memory of scent that had an impact on you?

Mine was probably India. My mother is Indian. I’ve travelled a lot as a child, but I have very vivid memories of India and the way it smelled when I was young.

Byredo’s been around for eleven years, what sparked that initial process?

I’d just finished art school, and I met a perfumer by chance. I became fascinated with the connection between memory and smell. I put together this creative project and called it Byredo, grew obsessed, and then just decided to start a brand. Then I just really learned by doing, and it was an evolution.

What kind of struggles have you faced as a business starter?

I think entrepreneurship is largely about being pragmatic and solving problems. I’ve always had a specific goal of creating something timeless that’s almost static with nature, and has such a meticulous process of creation. One of the greatest challenges is maintaining this timelessness, especially against the pace of the fashion industry. I do think we’ve managed to find ways to communicate the difference of our process, versus may other brands, although that was a challenge that took a few years to overcome.

Byredo’s loved for its incredible collaborations like Elevator Music (created earlier this year with Off White’s Virgil Abloh). How do you go about the process of such a collab?

We did our first collaboration one year into the brand’s inception, so it’s always been a very natural part of Byredo’s identity. As an outsider in the industry, I enjoyed it because I could get friends who were also outliers to make products with me. I’ve known Virgil for nine years, so Elevator Music was easy based on our established relationship. That’s maybe what makes our collaborations different from other brands, because we do them with people we know.

Which Byredo fragrance was the most complicated to create?

That’s a good question. They all are. It’s such an emotional process. Because I work with a perfumer, I have to try and convey the emotion in the smell to another person. There is a sense of translation. I remember Bal D’Afrique being the most difficult because it was the first time that I created a brief without any tangible references. It was an emotional perfume built on fiction, and I used a lot of visual references to describe it and try and translate the emotion it created. I’m super happy with how it ended up; I remember turning that difficult corner, finishing the scent and subsequently feeling like I could really do anything after that.

Who or what is feeding your inspiration the most right now?

I think a what, more than who. I just spent a six month period of going to remote locations like Alaska and Iceland and engaging with nature and outdoor activities. So that whole off the grid thing really appealed to me over the last year. Eleventh Hour was an idea very much tied to that.

What would your alternative career be?

This is my alternative career. I was a professional basketball player. That was my life and for one reason or another it never worked out. So this became my alternative career.

Visit Byredo’s London flagship store at 40 Lexington Street, W1F 0LN.