How do your memories smell? That was the question that Swedish perfume entrepreneur Ben Gorham originally sought to answer when he created Byredo, a brand of perfumes, body care products and home fragrances that New Yorkers can now experience in a new Soho location.
The new store, which recently opened on the ground floor of 62 Wooster Street, is seven times the size of Byredo’s only other location, its original spot in Stockholm.
Gorham’s first perfumes, created by perfumers Olivia Giacobetti and Jérôme Epinette, were based on what he told the New York Times were memories of his parents: a scent called Green (sage, orange and musk) that evoked his father, and one called Encens Chembur (temple incense and lemon, ginger), named for the place in India where his mother was born.
Since these initial creations, Gorham has responded to inspirations both earthy and ethereal.
“I can tackle emotions and different notions that are abstract, like love and darkness,” he told the Times. That explains one of Byredo’s biggest sellers, Gypsy Water, which smells of juniper berry, sandalwood, vanilla and pine needle, or, in Gorham’s words, “this glamorous idea of living in nature and being free.”
In addition to perfume, the new Soho location includes a leather-goods line as well as candles and lotions. It is also supposed to double as a studio for experiments, according to Gorham, a former professional basketball player in Europe who quit the game to study fine art in Stockholm.
Other initiatives, such as creating colors for ceramics and cosmetics, are also planned at the location. And, true to the experimental ethos of Byredo, there will be a perfume based on the scent of leather.
The location of Gorham’s store has a provocative history as well.
Jeff Greene, a billionaire investor from South Florida, bought the seven-story, cast-iron 62 Wooster in 2011 for $26.27 million. He then spent around $40 million upgrading it from rentals to luxury condos — and snagging Byredo as the retail tenant. Green put the building on the market earlier this spring for a cool $125 million. (It has yet to sell.)
Roughly six decades before Green invested in the area, this part of Manhattan, including present-day Soho, was nicknamed Hell’s Hundred Acres. It was infinitely grittier then, probably the last place on earth that would host a high-end perfume shop. Gorham wanted to call his new store just that, though — Hell’s Hundred Acres.
In the end, he told the Times, the name didn’t pass the smell test: “It has to capture the idea and make people want to pick it up and try it.” —Tom Acitelli
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