Skandinavisk – scents of freedom, bottled. Founder, Shaun Russell, explains how it began…

From a love story to a fragrance house capturing scented snapshots of one of the most richly abundant areas on Earth, Skandinavisk’s journey has been anything but average. We caught up with founder, Shaun Russell, to discover their fascinating, fragrant story.

Seeking to re-connect us with nature, evoking wide-open spaces and uplifting, mood-enhancing scents; including a sample of a Skandinavisk fragrance in the Eau So Fresh Discovery Box was obviously a must-have. Freedom to Roam has proved especially resonant during the pandemic (and its inherent lockdowns and travel restrictions). ‘Of course, that wasn’t planned,’ explains Shaun when we chatted, ‘but yes that fragrance and its name, the spirit of freedom it stands for, has been more relevant than ever.’ With its aromatic composition of heather, wild thyme, tart berries and resinous sap, this oh-so-Scandi scent bottles that landscape perfectly, giving a strikingly visceral sensation of walking through that remote wilderness.

But how did it all begin, we wondered? Senior Writer, Suzy Nightingale found out…

 

 

Suzy: Did you realise what you were getting in to when starting a fragrance brand?

Shaun Russell: ‘God no, I didn’t! I mean if you take the backstory… British guy meets blonde, Scandinavian girl, when I was living in Australia. I followed her for love, [to Copenhagen, Denmark, then Stockholm, Sweden] not with a business in mind, then…’

So, how did Skandinavisk happen?

‘I travelled around the region in multinational roles, as I was the handy, neutral English man. The business language here tends to be English across borders anyway, as the Swedes don’t really understand the Danes. It’s a bit like the differences between cultures in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. In Scandinavia you get this rivalry we don’t understand from outside.

I realised what the Nordic countries do share is a common approach to life, which has translated into one of the most successful, progressive, responsible societies on Earth. I was in this weird position where I’d probably experienced more of Scandinavia than most Scandinavians. The thing that unites them – this mentality and way they live, with a dominance of nature surrounding them – was the gold they overlooked. I found a way to wrap up the rich, diverse story in a way that celebrates that and helps people from outside to find a way in. We’ve needed that more than ever with climate change, trying to balance our lives, build communities based on values and ethics. I wanted Skandinavisk to be the mouthpiece for all of that. I wondered what the vehicle was to share this story, and it seemed obvious…’

 

What was the first fragranced item you created?

‘The candles – they represent such a symbol of everyday, simplistic life. They burn more candles in Scandinavia than any other nation on earth! I used to question my wife when, in the summer at breakfast time, she’d light a candle. And it’s so bright outside! I’d say “You can’t see the flame, darling. Why are you lighting it when there’s no functional benefit to it?” But for her, it was an unconscious action all Scandinavians do. They light candles at any time, to soften the moment and create this harmony that brings people together.’

 

 

How are the fragrances inspired?

‘I needed to get into fragrance to create the candles and tell this Scandinavian story. What we learned afterwards was the fact that different fragrances allow us to tell that story in multiple ways – we can take them to the forest, the Norwegian fjords, the archipelagos. So, we made fragrances that define those moments for people to explore in their own homes. When you get to try more of them, you build a bigger picture. That’s why internally we began referring to each fragrance as a ‘chapter’ or ‘Kapitel’. Going into the eau de toilettes was another big step for us. Some of the scents are seasonal or time limited.

 

Take Kapitel 17 – it was specifically inspired by a trip me and our perfumer took to the fjords in order to get direct inspiration. The fragrance industry has never looked at Scandinavia. A French perfumer once said to me at a trade show, “Isn’t it all just pine and snow…?” That quote’s imprinted on my brain. It’s a terrible loss, given the size and wealth of nature, the diversity of flora Scandinavia has. When you think of what the region has offered the world food-wise, with that whole Nordic Food Manifesto and the huge successes, like Noma, which came from that. Those guys reinvented a new approach to sourcing and presenting local food which has transformed the global food industry in the last decade. Given they were able to achieve that, I thought: why don’t we try to do the same thing with fragrance?’

How did you find a perfumer who understood such unique inspirations?

‘I found, at a very early stage, a French guy who’s an experienced ‘nose’, been in the industry a long time, but got tired of working with brands and retailers who were always trying to look for something that was cheaper or smelled a bit like something that was already on the market. He felt the magic of perfumery had gone. Then I turned up with this idea, and I said to him, let’s just go and discover stuff!

 

 

My wife is the third member of the fragrance development team who made this happen. She’s Danish, a doctor by profession but a passionate organic gardener who grew up in Sweden, had her summers in Norway and a plot of garden since she could walk. She helped me understand the arboreal forests, rose gardening, temperate flora, in a way neither I nor even the perfumer had experience of. Putting those two together was fascinating, to see how they talked about scent, season, regions… We all work together by travelling to the places the fragrances are about, experiencing them for ourselves and saying “Okay, what IS the scent of Copenhagen” for example?’

What’s it like, having such freedom to the way you work?

‘It’s a blessing. There’s no conference room, no PowerPoint slide presentations. The perfumer has this incredible scent memory where he records places through his nose and comes back with ideas which interpret that through a mixture of natural ingredients or synthetics where you cannot capture that scent in nature. He can now do things like create the scent of orchards in blossom in fjordland – very specific scent memories. We physically go these places, we stay there, we walk around, we take pictures. I mean at that level, it’s that basic. He says he doesn’t know any other perfumers who get to do that. But it feels so right, this way we work, and the process means we end up making fragrances the world hasn’t smelled before. And that’s very exciting…!’

Try Skandinavisk Kapitel 12, Freedom to Roam for yourself in the Eau So Fresh Discovery Box – one of 14 incredible scents for you to explore and take your nose on a journey with. We also urge you to check out the brilliant Skandinavisk Voices Journal, which apart from featuring more of this stunning photography to look at, gives a really personal insight into the inspiration of each fragrance…

By Suzy Nightingale

Moresque – get your questions in for our Instagram Live event with founder, Cindy Guillemant!

We’re so thrilled to be hosting an Instagram Live event with Cindy Guillemant from the fabulous niche fragrance house of Moresque.

Get the date in your diaries now!

July 14th 2021 5pm (U.K. time) on The Perfume Society Instagram channel

We’ll be discussing the launch of TWO new Moresque fragrances on the Instagram Live event, but meanwhile, here’s a little bit more about this wonderful house…

Moresque Parfum was born from a sheer love of the intricacy of Moorish art and the passion for elegant but opulent perfumes by founder, Cindy Guillemant.

Right from the start, she says, her work has been driven by this desire to bring together Italian taste and Arabic charm. ‘I completed my MBA in International Business in Florida and built my career between Monte Carlo, Paris, Miami and Milan. I always used perfumes, but my grandmother instilled in me a real love for fragrances and provided me with knowledge that motivated me to delve into this industry.’

 

 

That familial connection resounds still in Cindy’s work, and she finds that ‘I still rediscover my grandmother’s knowledge even today with all the scents I collect from around the world through their volatile notes, essences and the most mysterious and profound flavours.’

So, what questions would YOU like to ask Cindy – about Moresque Parfum, the stunning bottles, their inspiration, her favourite ingredients…?

We so look forward to you joining us on Instagram at 5pm on Wednesday July 14th at 5pm U.K. time for this exciting event. Until then, we’ll be spritzing the scents and dreaming we could travel to all the places they’re inspired by…

Kierin NYC Interview with Founder Mona Maine de Biran

As I walk towards the location to interview Mona Maine de Biran – founder of new niche fragrance house Kierin NYC – brightly coloured electronic adverts radiate from various London bus stops en-route, showing their perfume bottles with labels individually designed by fragrance fans.

‘Something about Kierin NYC is really resonating with people it seems,’ says Mona, absolutely beaming at the pop-up launch where people could design their own bottle labels, print them out and create their own bespoke flacon to keep forever. This innovative and inclusive approach defines the ethos that Mona made sure Kierin remains true to, along with their decision to be completely cruelty free, vegan friendly and to support social groups who mean a lot to them.

‘Diversity and inclusion are core to the brand and not just presented as an afterthought. Kierin NYC is a brand for young people of all ages, colors and nationalities,’ they state proudly on the website. Inclusive of everyone then, but aimed particularly at a younger market who are searching for something extra, other than just a nice smell in a bottle that means nothing about who they are. For Mona, this means inviting people ‘…to be inspired, not defined or confined, by fragrance.’

Following a successful international modelling career – which allowed Mona to traverse the globe and visit remote, exotic locations – returning to New York, Mona turned her experience into an insightful lifestyle blog, ‘Manhattan Minds’, also becoming the champion of the successful TV talent show ‘Star Search’. Her husband and co-founder, Didier, worked for over twenty years with with the prestige houses of Chanel, Prada, Bvlgari and Carolina Herrera among the many names on his extensive CV. With Mona’s passion for fragrance and story-telling, ‘he helped me see that this was an opportunity to create our own fragrances to tell those real stories of the city, rather than those stylised celebrity-driven tales you might see in Sex and the City.

We wanted to delve deeper in to what makes Mona tick – why it was so imporant to her to keep Kierin NYC real, and close to her heart…

What makes Kierin NYC different, do you think?

Mona: ‘There are so many brands that are ostensibly for young people, and yet the images they project are so stereotypical, still – they haven’t moved on with the audience who are, they hope, wearing them. You have the perfect woman on a beach, someone up a mountain or in the fields in France. And while I love the fields of France, this doesn’t really tell my story of living in New York. I wanted to actualise my “now” as an urbanite – and I think so many people want to do that, to be more present, to have their own reality reflected in the brands they choose.’

What is it about fragrance that’s so important to you, and what power do you think it gives the wearer?

‘Perfumes are something that universally, viscerally connect with people, You know, they can move your mood. I’ve always wanted to have a voice and wanted to empower people, and with Kierin NYC we can share a voice, to power people olfactorily. And fragrance tells other people your story anyway, unconsciously, we’re radiating these messages all the time!’

You’ve worked with brilliant young perfumer Mathieu Nardin for the initial four fragrances – why did you choose him?

‘We wanted to work with someone who was an up-and-coming talent – we had the opportunity to work with any of the Robertet perfumers, and we loved the way they worked, with such quality and sustainable ingredients – but because Mathieu is so understanding of what we do, and the way we do it, it just works.

We didn’t want to present him with a list of notes to include, we wanted to give him a space to use his creativity to the full. So we started with pictures, mood boards, and he immediately knew what he wanted to use to shape that in to reality. He begins with about twenty different versions, and we then work with him to edit those, so we see ourselves as co-creators in that sense.’

Will Mathieu be the perfumer for future fragrances?

‘Well we didn’t want to be a brand that just had one identity, and one signature – it’s all about diversity, right? So with these four I think his signature is a woody accord you can notice throughout. For the next two we’ll be working with a different perfumer, to give another voice, another view, and that’s the way we want to grow…’

 

The bottles and imagery are very distinctive, can you tell us how they reflect Kierin NYC’s personality?

‘These four are very Pop-Art inspired, but we’re also working with another artist for the next three fragrances – two new fragrances and a limited edition – and they’ll be more graffiti in style. We’ll be sticking with the rainbow palette though, because again that rainbow’s all about “we are one” and that’s imporant to us. The graffiti artist is an imigrant and so for the limited edition we’ll be working with him to include notes from his own culture, working as a team with the perfumer to include his voice within the fragrance.

What does “niche” mean to you, now?

‘I just don’t think you can call yourself “niche” if you have twenty fragrances coming out every year which are no sooner on the shelves than they’re discounted, discontnued and in a bargain bin somewhere, or completely unavailable. How can people connect with them? They don’t have time!

I don’t want to be one of those brands that comes out with a new fragrance every fortnight, I think that’s exhausting for consumers too. So we want to make sure the stories we’re telling focus on authenticity and integrity for everyone involved. We also wanted to make sure we’re accessibly priced, so everyone can get an opportunity to try fine, niche fragrance. I understand the imporantance of those ultra luxury brands, but that’s not who we are.’

Finally, we always like asking – because it’s so revealing! – what are your five favourite smells in the whole world…?

Cambodian incense – I’ve travelled a lot, so the things I love are often smells I strongly associate with places. The smell of this, which the monks burn in the temples, just opens my mind and takes me straight back there.’

A Californian cliff edge – I lived in California as a little girl, and there’s nothing better than sitting on the edge of a cliff and looking out to sea. In Santa Cruz there’s a very specific sea salt scent, the waves crashing on the shore and the spray mixing with the breeze.’

Frédéric Malle fragrances – In Barney’s there’s refrigerated rooms you can go in to smell the scents, and that was my awakening, in the year 2000, of what niche fragrance could be, and I felt more fragrantically “woke” I suppose! I hadn’t yet met my husband, but going there and smelling these incredible fragrances really showed me what niche can do. And they were like nothing else, so unique.’

My children as babies – I know a lot of people say that, but oh that smell, it’s definitely one of the most important for me. It’s about our connections with people we love, isnt it?’

New York – When I think of where I live now, I genuinely connect it with my own fragrances, I feel like I’m there when I wear them, it’s a connection with home, so that has to be a success, right?!’

So which KIERIN NYC story will you choose to wear and tell? Feeling sluggish and in need of uplifting? 10 a.m. Flirt is a juicy, green take on fig that feels clean, a go-anywhere scent filled with waxy gardenia and cashmere-soft wood to perk up the soul on grey days and revel in happiness year-round. Another cheering pick-me-up is found in Sunday Brunch – luminous bergamot and sparkling lemon atop a soothing brew of Earl Grey tea and soft, sunshine-y jasmine.

Santal Sky, meanwhile, swathes you in a comfort blanket of cardamom-flecked, creamy sandalwood, a wearable serenity for stressed commuters and desk-bound office workers with decadent saffron-speckled vetiver to delight you ‘til dawn, and far beyond. (All of these fragrances are impressively long-lasting.) Perhaps the most impactful, though, is Nitro Noir – a powerhouse contemporary Chypre/floral that positively swings its hips, with ripe pink berries swirled through rich patchouli and dusted with powdery orris for a hypnotic, individualistic hurrah.

Whichever story through scent you choose, we’re sure you’ll want to explore the whole Kierin NYC range for different moods, and to suit whoever you are that day…

Kierin NYC fragrances £65 for 50ml eau de parfum

Try them at The Perfume Shop

By Suzy Nightingale

Etienne de Swardt – État Libre d’Orange's maverick founder reveals his five (somewhat saucy…) favourite smells

Renowned for their controversial names and inspirations, Etat Libre d’Orange actually encompass all manner of fragrant tastes – yes there’s the off-the-wall uber niche scents, but we find the majority are utterly wearable, perfectly beautiful fragrances that definitely deserve to be sniffed, worn and adored…
The latest to join the scented throng came about due to a collaboration with scent expert and critic, Chandler Burr – no stranger to controversy himself, it seems a happy match – but, we wondered, how did the relationship between Etat Libre d’Orange and Chandler Burr begin? Meeting with self-proclaimed ‘trouble-maker’ and founder of ELDO, Etienne de Swardt, is a rare opportunity, so we were thrilled to get up close and personal with him as he revealed You or Someone Like You to the British press; and began by asking him just this question…
‘Chandler has been a friend of ELDO for something like eight/nine years – he was very involved in the perfume we did with Tilda Swinton, Like This. We were impressed with his involvement in the perfume industry – his technical and journalistic experience, and I was a true fan of the name, You or Someone Like You. So I said, Chandler, one day we have to do a perfume when you stop being a perfume critic and move on to the other side of the mirror of the perfume industry! I said he could be the creative director and appoint any perfumer he wanted to create it. So he did this perfume as his vision of Los Angeles – for a woman who does not exist.’
Part of the mischievousness so beloved by fans of ELDO involves never playing by the rules or doing the expected. As such, the exact notes of the latest fragrance are kept under wraps. But why was this? Etienne takes a deep breath – presumably having been expecting this question: ‘We decided, mostly because of Chandler and his beliefs, not to disclose the ingredients. We say – perhaps somewhat arrogantly – that if you want to know what’s inside You or Someone Like You, it’s probably not for you… This is something like a piece of art that’s far beyond subjectivity.’
(Pssst! You can try You or Someone Like You in our next Discovery Box, keep an eye on the website for details of when it launches!)
So what does it smell of? Well, one spritz and we’re in the mood for Mojitos, the zest of fresh lime, mint and ice cubes clinking. The scent of freshly cut grass, wild roses rambling in shady nooks, patches of sunlight glinting from dewdrops of a just-watered herbaceous border… we catch wafts of clean washing hanging in the balmy breeze, ice-cream sodas and fluffy cashmere throws. Soaringly fresh, it somehow fills your head with light…
So now, what else but to ask this fragrance maverick his five favourite smells? We’re always fascinated to discover how psychologically revealing this can be, and certainly weren’t disappointed with Etienne’s answers. Having been asked the question and taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, Etienne took a sip of his drink, leaned back in his velvet chair and held court, his first choice – It had to be! – completely unexpected. And other choices… well, of course controversy came a-knocking…
1. Food in planes: ‘I have to start with a smell I don’t like, because when I was a kid I was living in New Caledonia, and the flight to visit Europe was twenty five hours long – just awful – so it’s like a Proustian moment but with negative thoughts. Whatever you eat it all smells the same, as soon as you open the aluminium, so to me it’s the strongest smell memory because it reminds me when I was lost in the air for so many hours… It’s such a strong memory, though, and I am always taken right back there.’
2. Dogs: ‘I especially love the smell behind their ears, as well as the coat. I was born the Year of the Dog in 1970, so I’m a true dog lover. It cools me down, calms me, when I can smell a dog and it just grounds me. And we all need that, you know? We rush around so full of anguish, and we need something to just smell and feel grounded again.’
3. Oakmoss: ‘I love this smell – I reboot myself in the forest with my wife and family, I like to jog there and when it rains I love to stand near an oak tree and pick up the oak moss and smell it and feel that connection to nature.’
4. Guerlain Jicky: ‘I truly believe in past lives and this smell connects me to my grandmother. I believe we are nurtured by the dead people and by the force of other spirits. Fir this reason, it is my samsara – not Samsara the fragrance, but MY samsara…’ [the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound, according to Sanskrit belief].
5. Sea notes/Semen: ‘This is a little bit naughty and pornographic…’ Etienne grins, his eyes flashing with mischief, ‘but I love the border in between attraction and repulsion. That notion of Secretions Magnifique [ELDO’s infamous fragrance evoking semen, sweat and blood] is very much me. Deep-rooted. You know the French poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud were talking about sexuality and La Mer which could be La Mère – the sea or the mother, the place we all are born, where we all come from. So for me sea notes, from an oyster to human secretions, it’s that bridge between attraction and repulsion…’
Étienne interviewed by Suzy Nightingale