Ben Gorham
A Creative Mind

photography by Beau Grealy
fashion by Nicolas Klam
interview by Becky Elmquist


jacket Hugo Boss; top IRO; hat Barbisio

What did fragrance originally provoke in you? “It was tied to my childhood. The way I remember my father smelling or Chembur, India, where my mother grew up. It was tied to my history, to my background. I was able to go back and relive these memories through scent and this created a completely new perspective for me.”

BE You had an unexpected start in the fragrance industry, graduating from art school then propelling into a professional basketball career. What initially drew you to fragrance?
BG I graduated from art school in Stockholm where I live, and I met Pierre Wulff by chance and found the industry extremely fascinating. I asked him to help me translate specific memories into smells. This interest grew into an obsession and I decided I wanted to do it full time. Smell is an incredibly powerful medium. Byredo was a great way for me to give it a try.

BE How do you feel this interaction with collective/subjective memory relates to the consumer?
BG Most people can relate to the association between smell and memory. Scent is closely related to memory and as for the artistic element, people are able to interpret and finish the story themselves. It’s an important aspect of what we do, even though we do this in a commercial capacity. Consumers are very much a part of this process and there is an allowance for interpretation. Most people make the product their own by interacting emotionally in their own way, as opposed to the messaging of larger brands.

BE Describe the origin of each scent created. How does your technical process begin?
BG I create a very detailed, abstract brief that includes heavily researched content and visual aspects that often include elements of poetry, music, and film. In the beginning I knew very little about raw materials. Now, 8 years have passed and I attach both natural and synthetic notes to these briefs. The briefs are all conducted in person. If the idea sticks, we start a process of modifications, which can go on for months, sometimes years. I like operating as an independent company because I am able to launch products when the time is right keeping the creative work in focus as opposed to being driven by the commercial calendar.



left: full look Prada; right: full look Cerruti


BE You opened a store in New York earlier this year, and you plan to open others. How have you transitioned your brand into a larger entity to include leather goods, cosmetics, and other accessories?
BG I’ve always been relatively singular. I’ll do one thing rather obsessively and hopefully really well. I was that way as an athlete and then became that way with fragrance. As time when on I felt i had a perspective and an ambition to add dimensions to what we do and that our process and approach to making things could be applied to different categories and products. The leather project started initially then I started playing with scale, with handbags. I don’t think it’s really been done, starting in fragrance and going on to accessories, so I don’t feel any limitations. I have great partnerships and the press has been supportive of what we do.BE A consumer’s retail experience is an important factor for you – it’s apparent through your store layout, product aesthetic, and the partnerships you initiate.
BG For the store in New York, it was important to me that it captured a certain scale. The leather goods are big and take a lot of space. I think in terms of retail there were obviously a lot of personal aesthetic preferences but I wanted to capture some level of traditional luxury. It needed to be a backdrop. The price points warranted it. I used the top grain of leather, and the most amazing craftsman in Italy. The store needed to carry traditional elements-stone, japanese and swedish woodwork, metal, and glass. The one thing that I want to come through in these retail environments is that they are created. This is a brand of personal people, made by people. Here, customers sit down and really engage in the products in a different way than a department store. It’s a much more private Shopping Experience.
BE You are known for cross-pollinating industries in collaborative partnerships. why do you feel this is important?
BG Even today it’s really been a school for me learning by doing. I think the collaborations have been like crash courses. I was able to work with talented people who are respected in their fields: designers, art directors, artists, and photographers, learning from each of their approaches. I’ve been able to absorb, learn, and access a peek into each of their worlds, adding an interesting dimension and organic process to building the brand.BE You have a fragrance coming out in september of this year – rose of no man’s land – any additional forthcoming items you would like to mention?
BG The Leather goods. The initial idea was very basic, an almost traditional framework for what the leather category would be. What is interesting now is that i’m getting into the more experimental part.I’m continuing to design bags and learning about new materials. I think i’ll give that fresh, contemporary aspect to the leather goods. For rose of no man’s land we shot Freja Beha Erichsen for the campaign – she was actually more of a muse for the project so i’m excited for people to see this collaboration between Freja, myself, M/M Paris, and Inez and Vinoodh.