It’s getting harder and harder to describe Byredo for what it is. Once easily characterized as a fragrance brand with a sleek aesthetic and singular, unfussy scents, the company has, in recent years, picked up momentum in categories well outside the beauty sphere. Led by creative director and founder Ben Gorham, who now calls Stockholm home (he was brought up in Sweden, New York City, and Toronto), Gorham has joined forces with a potpourri of collaborators since launching Byredo in 2006—from Frame Denim to Oliver Peoples to Venetian glassmaker Salviati (on a fantastical glass-and-light installation for this year’s Salone del Mobile design and furniture fair)—inching his brand further into the nebulous category of “lifestyle” with each new venture.
“Two or three years ago I felt like I had finally built a solid enough business that I could get into the projects I had imagined,” says the heavily tattooed aesthete, who is well over six feet tall. “Byredo for me was always just a vehicle to express ideas. It was beauty for a while because I needed to build a foundation, but I always imagined there would be other mediums.”
His latest: a collection of handbags and small leather goods he launched at Paris Fashion Week in September. Called Accelerated Culture, the collection of 26 designs was inspired by photographer Craig McDean’s 1999 book I Love Fast Cars, a viscerally arresting group of images that capture drag-racing culture in the Bible Belt. Gorham came up with the idea for the collection after visiting McDean—a longtime friend and frequent campaign collaborator—at his home on Long Island, where the photographer keeps his own collection of muscle cars. “He said, ‘I want you to give me some your car pictures, and I am going to make handbags straight from them,’” McDean says. “When Ben decides what he wants to do, he just makes it happen. And, of course, he nailed it.”