Byredo is a fragrance line beloved by the men and women who worship on the altar of great design. The bottles are coveted and expensive, found only within the enclaves of the world's finest department stores. Sitting down with him in Atlanta, Byredo founder and perfumer Ben Gorham is the walking embodiment of his own brand, just as strong, understated and intent as his scents. A retired professional athlete, he is of course tall and broad -- but also perfectly disheveled, suited in gray and bone-chillingly handsome.
Gorham doesn't consider himself a perfumer in the traditional sense; he is more nostalgic translator than scent-slinger. "Each [fragrance] has a reason for being. I take a specific memory and translate that." He says. "I make them first as smells, and then they become perfumes."
The smell of Gorham's father - grassy, masculine, with hints of tobacco - became his first Byredo product, called "Green". From there, he continued to explore the possibilities of his olfactory desires and their ties to emotion and memory. "Gypsy Water", which Gorham cites as his best-selling fragrance, was derived from childhood memories of nearby gypsies who existed close to nature.
"Seven Veils", a recent addition to the line, is named for a biblical reference he remembers from Catholic school; Salome's "Dance of the Seven Veils" is an elaboration on the story of the execution of John the Baptist. It is a tale of sex and seduction, an idea Gorham put into practice with whiffs of spicy vanilla. "Perfume is a veil, it gives you the feeling that you have covered yourself in something." He continues.
In a radically different vein than his contemporaries, Gorham does not keep a specific clientele in mind. "The idea that floral is feminine and musk is masculine is completely manufactured by marketing." He says. "I'm not interested in assigning scents a gender or age, and so my customers are 18 to 85, men and women of every walk of life."