The Arctic ice downfall frees a climatic invasion of Nordic brands.

2023 . 07 . 27 | written by Laurence Arrigo Klove

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Fragrance lovers

The Arctic ice melt down is a dramatic environmental issue. This article does not remove the seriousness of this matter in any degree, shape or form. The title playfully invents an invasion from the North as it happened in history. In the past, severe droughts triggered the Barbarians to move South. Today, my imagination has fun taking the current ice melting as the source of a fragrance invasion. Instead of destruction, the migration brings a unique creative inspiration. The Northern side of Europe is for many of us an unknown world. With cold temperatures and natural landscapes quite different to our usual urban lives, we are intrigued by the Nordic deep attraction and respect for nature.

Fragrances that aim to capture the ‘beauty of the Nordic spirit.’

The beauty of the rugged landscape of Iceland, by Andrea Maack

In his famous poem from 1839, Hans Christian Andersen, the well-known Danish author wanted to capture “the beauty of the Nordic spirit.” I believe each Nordic perfume brand does have the same aim in mind in its continued quest. However, ‘Nordic’ unites the diversity of six countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The article therefore covers a selection of perfume brands representing different geographies and cultural influences: Andrea Maack from Iceland, Son Venïn from Norway, Zarko Perfume and Henrik Vibskov from Denmark, Colekt Fragrances and Neotantric from Sweden.

One may wonder how come Byredo is not on the list. The brand can indeed be considered the mother of Nordic perfumes for multiple reasons: the original one, founded back in 1996, a minimalistic beautiful design, a strong link with art - the first perfume was created for a gallery - and the unique creative talent of its founder, Ben Gorham, who took ‘by redolence’ as an inspiration for ‘Byredo’. Yet the brands’ success and recent acquisition by Puig is too visible and big to be added to the list of independent smaller niche perfume brands.

The Nordic different geographies, image copywright the Scandinavia Standard

A deeply rooted commitment to sustainable sourcing.

It will come as no surprise that Nordic perfume houses have taken the sustainability matter to heart. Their commitment is in line with their ethical respect for nature and encompasses both ingredients, and product packaging. Nordic brands are committed to sustainability in a coherent and positive manner. Andrea Maack fragrances are composed of 88% natural ingredients of which 80% are certified organic. The remaining 12% of “unnatural” ingredients has been calculated to avoid using plants that need to be sustained in nature, not picked for their perfume. Son Venïn has from the start offered a refill service in its flagship boutique in Oslo. Colekt is committed to an exclusive sourcing of vegan natural ingredients and to a responsible production of limited collections.

A bridge between the North and the South.

Deeply rooted in the North, the brands have, however, decided to go South to benefit from the highest level of fragrance expertise available in the market. They have all without exception chosen renowned perfume houses such as IFF or experienced companies based in Grasse, using top quality ingredients and master perfumers. Neotantric fragrances for example are the result of collaborations with expert perfumers like Mathilde Bijaoui, Celine Ripert and Christian Vermorel. However, they do keep a local sourcing whenever possible; as an example Andrea Maack uses a base for their fragrances made from 100% organic Icelandic alcohol and water. In terms of product packaging the brands also tend to use local suppliers and designers, in a slow sustainable approach.

Perfumes infused by the Nordic artistic creativity.

What seems to be common across the different Nordic sensibilities and geographies of perfume brands, is the strong desire of artists to venture into the art of making perfumes. For Andrea Maack, the idea of creating a perfume brand was triggered when being invited to be the opening host of a design gallery show in Reykjavík. “For me it was clear that my art installation was to be ‘Andrea Maack perfume shop’". The background of Dag Laska, the founder of Son Venïn, is identity design so he was keen for the launch of his perfume collection to showcase a collaboration with an artist. He chose the ‘mind illustration’ of ‘Moonassi’, a Korean artist whose real name is Daehyun Kim. Henrik Vibskov is a Danish fashion designer who decided to express his artistic, colourful, and sensual universe into perfumes.

The Moonassi exclusive illustration crafted for Son Venïn

The volcanic and majestic landscapes of Iceland.

The Icelandic fragrance brand Andrea Maack, bears the name of its founder, a visual artist from Iceland. The perfume house was created in 2012 and draws inspiration from the natural beauty of the Icelandic rugged highlands. Sculptural shapes like the black Obsidian Volcanic rocks of Iceland inspired the dark bottle design. I chose Dual from the six fragrances of the collection, a scent inspired by the calming water of the natural hot springs of Iceland. The fragrance gives the feeling of contrasting fresh water and the colour intensity of the lagoons. An invigorating ginger, lemon and pink pepper mingle with the woody notes of dry amber and cedar for an authentic Icelandic scent experience.

The Dual Perfume Bottle Design of Andrea Maack

Norway extreme nature inside a perfume texture

The founder Dag Laska decided to play with the French language when choosing ‘Son Venïn’ as the name of his brand. He twisted the word venin, by changing the ‘i’ into a ‘ï’ and added ‘son’, which means ‘his poison’. An enigmatic title, possibly referring to the addictive nature of his scents and/or hypothetically influenced by Paris, one of his favourite cities. Founded in 2016, the perfume collection aims to encapsulate olfactory memories of the Nordic heritage. The seven experimental perfumes give the atmosphere of a Northern urban environment surrounded by extreme nature. The ‘PostHume’ fragrance perfectly embodies the brand sensory celebration of its native environment.

Son Venïn sleek perfume bottle
The Oslo boutique of Son Venïn

A Danish perfumer, a Danish fragrance expression.

In 2014, Zarko Ahlmann Pavlov, the founder of Zarko Perfume, fulfilled his dream of capturing the spirit of Scandinavia into fragrances. Back in 2009, he had decided to embark on the long journey of studying the art of making fragrances. As the only perfumer from Denmark, Zarko creates scents inspired by Nordic aesthetics, climate, and lifestyle. The brand features two perfume collections and seven fragrances. The scent ‘Cloud Collection No.2’, ‘the cloud on ice’, draws on the inspiration of silvery-grey Danish Sea landscapes. The bottle design allows us to visualize each of the fragrance components at rest. When shaken, the molecules join together before slowly separating again. This experience mirrors both the freshness of the sea surface and the intense depth of the ocean.

Zarko Perfume, the Cloud on Ice perfume

The Danish brand at home in CPH and in NYC

Henrik Vibskov, a Danish fashion designer, opened his first boutique in Copenhagen in 2006 followed by New York City in 2011. Both shops skilfully showcase ‘the Vibskov world’ his colourful and sensual universe. As a dynamic universe, it comes to no surprise that Henrik decided to add perfumes to his world first in 2011 and then in 2016. The three perfumes from the brand, ‘Cedar Root Black’, ‘Lotus Dust Red’ and ‘Type C’ recreate unreal natural experiences. Cedar Root Black imagines the freshness of Asian pine forests while Lotus Dust Red is inspired by the harmony of the lotus fields. ‘Type C’, for Copenhagen, is a reminiscence of the air saltiness and freshwater experience outside of the city harbour. Olfactive memories brought to life from exotic imaginary places or from home waters of Denmark...

Henrik Viskov craft of colorful caps for the Cedar Root Black and Lotus Dust Red perfumes

The essence of Stockholm, an urban and serene nature

Colekt fragrances is an invitation to ‘Colekt your urban escapism,’ an experience of freedom composed of the capital effervescent life and its serene, beautiful nature. A collection of scents to be multilayered between Cologne Concentrée, candles, body care and skin care. The three scents, ‘Void’, ‘Persona’, and ‘la Chambre’ (the room) evoke immediate expressions of the calm harmony of a Stockholm Garden, of the ephemeral beauty of the Swedish summer, of the mystical power of the countryside woodlands. Colekt has invented a new routine, the ‘Colekt routine’, to be enjoyed anywhere, anytime, depending on the mood and the season. Inspired by the Nordic nature, cultural heritage and inhabited by an urban contemporary lifestyle, the brand concept is ‘clean and green’.

Colekt stylish bottle design
Colekt stylish packaging

The Nordic spirit embraces freedom of sexuality.

From Stockholm, Neotantric was founded in 2009 with the inspiration of the ancient Indian philosophy of tantric sex. In Sanskrit, ‘tantra’ means ‘woven together,’ tantric sex is hence a way to combine the physical with the spiritual within an experience of heightened intimacy and sensuality. Each Neotantric fragrance comes with an unfinished story, a picture, and a short text trigger the story to be continued by the fragrance owner. Looking at the collection of nine perfumes, there is no doubt that taboos have been removed. (I am) a Sex Goddess, ‘a fragrance of great power’, or ‘Citric Metal Kamasutra’, ‘the aroma of inspiration’ are clear illustrations of the spirit of sexual freedom.

Neotantric suggestive bottle design for (I am) a Sex Goddess

An Outburst of Feelings for Snow, Ice, Water and Woods.

Nordic people have a deep understanding of the natural elements that surround them. They learn their characteristics, admire their beauty and are cautious of their danger. Their cities, urban enclaves surrounded by a powerful nature, are rich in creative and free artistic expressions. Their fragrance brands exhibit to the world the Nordic unique olfactive heritage. The profusion of interpretations showcased by each brand is a promising sign. A precious connection with nature is a source of inspiration to an olfactive celebration. Thanks to the Nordic invasion, we are positively infused by a universal attraction to nature.

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