Byredo Founder Ben Gorham On His New Genderless Make-Up Collection
Ben Gorham has no idea what he’s doing—and he’s just fine with that. When the former basketball player launched his fragrance brand, Byredo, in 2006, and decided that he didn’t want to fit into the traditional parameters of the beauty industry, Gorham—and subsequently, his collection of scents—went from outsider to celebrated anomaly almost overnight.
Now, he’s venturing into a new unknown: Byredo Makeup. Gorham had entertained the idea of introducing a beauty collection five years ago, but put it on ice because he “had a hard time relating to it personally”. It was two years ago, when he met British make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench, that he knew he had found his collaborator.
Praising her “very high expectations in function and performance”, Gorham tapped Ffrench to help him bring a splash of colour to his otherwise characteristically monochromatic brand.
He says, “It’s been a learning curve but also an exploration of Byredo and colour; what a Byredo colour library looks like, and how we use colour to communicate and evoke emotion, just like we do with scent.” Byredo’s scents are tied to memories and feelings. Gorham’s first fragrance, Green, was born out of a desire to recreate his father’s scent. Encens Chembur, with notes of ginger, amber and musk, was inspired by his mother’s hometown of Chembur, just outside Mumbai, India. My personal favourite, Super Cedar, was inspired by “an exaggeration of wood”, Gorham says.
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"It’s the beauty of not knowing what you’re doing; you just roll with it,” says Gorham. “Even though we’ve become better at what we do, we try to maintain that culture. We feel the best way forward is to continue to be organic."
Gorham’s journey has been one of leaps of faith, hard work and serendipitous encounters— whether with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, with whom Gorham collaborated to produce Byredo’s most successful scent to date, Elevator Music, or Parisian designer Charlotte Chesnais, who prompted a jewellery collection.
Launched in late September, the make-up collection features lipsticks, highly pigmented colour sticks, eye compacts and an 18-colour palette, as well as an eyeliner and a mascara.
Like Byredo’s fragrances, Byredo Makeup has been touted as unisex, but Gorham says that means the collection is tailored to no one in particular and therefore, paradoxically, suitable for everyone. In his own words: “The idea is to create a curated selection of colour, objects and tools that people use to express themselves. It’s less about selling a look and more about selling endless possibilities.”
Gorham, a native of Sweden whose mother is Indian and father is Scottish and French-Canadian, credits his own struggles with identity for his open-ended approach to his brand.
“Many brands overexplain their products, but it was important for me that people make these products theirs, and that I leave space for interpretation,” he says. “Society places a lot of value on identity. We grow up believing we need to define ourselves as one thing, but people struggle with that because in reality, people are complex and layered. You can be what you want to be, and you don’t have to be one thing.”
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