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The Innovators: AGONIST Parfums

Posted in Beauty
by Make it last on 25 September, 2014

It's fair to say that AGONIST Parfume is way more than scents – Niclas and Christine Lydeen's quest is to challenge both the ancient art of perfume making and the traditional craft of glass blowing. Making art of the way we smell.

The journey of arty AGONIST Parfums begun in Gothenburg 10 years ago, when a graphic designer doing his Master’s on questions of luxury and sustainability, and a home-comer from the fashion world of Paris started talking about creating a brand filled with “magic, loyalty and exclusivity – and at the same sustainability”.

It’s fair to say that AGONIST Parfume is way more than scents – Niclas and Christine Lydeen’s quest is to challenge both the ancient art of perfume making and the traditional craft of glass blowing. Making art of the way we smell.

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– We decided that we wanted to work with this invisible product with layers. It started very conceptually, we worked our way to a scent by loading it with value; history, concept, name, communication.

– We wanted to use art and handicraft to create exclusivity and sustainability. So we turned to the Swedish kind of sleepy, but fantastic glass-blowing tradition.

Each of your fragrances are presented in glassflacons made in collaboration with glass artist Åsa Jungnelius.

– The first sculpture was made in an edition of 20, all signed. It was exhibited in a conceptual way at Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, but also in a commercial environment at the department store Nordiska Kompaniet. Our sculptures will always be in our DNA but we also see them taking another form in the future, acting more as an artistic outlet for our overall vision and conceptual way of working with Agonist.   

And now, every sculpture comes with a refill.

– We want to create something that you wouldn’t want to throw away.

You talk about exclusivity in relation to sustainability, which is nice. But the word is filled with a lot of other associations, isn’t it?

– Exclusivity has been seen as something excluding, it used to be seen as only a matter of price. For me, it’s a lot about raw materials being more pricy, and taking longer to process.

– The challenge is to talk about quality instead of quantity consumption. When it comes to fashion and other identity bearing products, people will always want what’s considered fashionable right now. But at the same time, more interesting phenomena are spreading. New techniques, new textiles, and a view of “eco” as something less boring.

What have been the responses to AGONIST since you started in 2008?

– Well, for example we get a lot of attention at international fairs exhibiting Swedish design, people think it’s interesting and something new with the combination of glass art and perfume. There’s been a lot of feedback generally. From Russian boutiques to perfume and design bloggers. Attention that lead up to our launch of Agonist spray line in 2012, now available on 28 markets around the world, as well in our shop online.

You’re releasing your tenth scent in November. Tell us about it.

– We are so excited to introduce White Oud, a scent that gives a certain depth to our spray collection not only by being number #10 but in a way sums up what Agonist is all about, both conceptually and visionary. The fact that the name and the actual ingredients shown on the front of the spray bottle don’t match is just one of those things that hopefully can inspire people to think differently about what a scent can be. 

– The perfume tradition isn’t very strong in Sweden. It makes it fun to talk about scents with Swedes, since there’s no common language about it, compared to say in Italy or France. Yet, everyone has opinions about scents, it’s something deeply connected to your being. The way you talk about a scent is very different.

– In the Middle East, there’s a whole other tradition of communicating scent. Our tenth scent is called White Oud. Oud is a scent sprung from a decayed tree called agarwood. The ingredient is popular in the Middle East, it’s heavy and a bit woody, and very strong in its concentrated form. It’s gaining ground in the Western world; Tom Ford made a scent and we did to. But now we’re doing a version of oud based on a conceptual idea of oud that doesn’t exist: we’re doing an oud that is experienced as light instead of heavy. In the Middle East, they’re experimenting with the ligther, Western scents. It’s a interesting match. We launched it in Florence and the guests from the middle east seemed impressed.

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