Living in the city, it is somehow difficult to connect with nature. We immerse ourselves in our daily routines and forget about the world beyond the concrete, brick and glass walls that constantly surround us. But what happens in nature once you’re there? Exactly: instant connection. That’s exactly the feeling that Ben Gorham wanted to create with Possessions of My Soul, the Spring/Summer 2020 collection he’s designed for Peak Performance.
Aiming to encourage people – especially those living in urban environments – to enjoy nature and practice some outdoor sports and activities, Byredo’s founder and the Swedish brand, which is specialized in technical wear, have joined forces to create this collection combining the highly-technical expertise of Peak Performance and Gorham’s approach to fashion. “It’s not the first time I design clothing but it is the first time working with technical clothing. First and foremost, the apparel needs to function, and that becomes your starting point”, he tells us about approaching design from a different perspective than he’s used to. In this interview, we discover some of the secrets behind the collaboration, his love for outdoor sports, and why anyone living in the city should make sure to venture into nature.
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Ben, let’s start getting to know you a bit better. How is a ‘normal’ day in your life like?
Most days, when I’m not travelling, I’m in the studio in Stockholm working on various projects. I’m also a father of two girls, so dropping off and picking up from school and other activities take up a fair amount of time.
Just four days ago, the Spring/Summer 2020 collection you designed for Peak Performance hit the stores. It’s titled Possessions of My Soul, which sounds rather mystical. Where does the name come from?
It’s a quote taken from the iconic movie Apocalypse Now, by Francis Ford Coppola. I came across it while researching Peak Performance’s brand history – the movie came out the same year as the brand was founded. In the context of this project, I tried to convey more the idea of how this collection makes you feel in nature and less about how it makes you look.
You work at your own brand, Byredo. So how did this collaboration come about? How identified do you feel with their business philosophy/ethos?
When Peak Performance contacted me for the collaboration, I was quite excited because I really like their brand and products. They have highly technical expertise and have a rich history in alpine culture, which has become a growing interest in my personal life over the last few years.
The team explains that “Ben hopes to get more people outdoors and take away the stigma and intimidation that these environments can have”. That called my attention. Could you define this ‘stigma’?
I don’t think it’s so much about ‘a stigma’ but more about cultural differences and the limited possibilities of having an outdoor lifestyle to large portions of urban society. Because of this, I felt we could create a collection and narrative that bridge cities and nature in a more accessible way.
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How do you think you can get over these issues with this collection? What does Possessions of My Soul offer to the consumers?
I hope this collection speaks to people like me – who grew up in cities – and gives them simple tools and the confidence to venture out into nature. Also, knowing that the collection was developed considering many terrain and weather conditions that they may experience.
Talking about outdoor activities, which one is your favourite? Do you practice any outdoor sport?
I hike, trail run, climb, cold-water surf and ski. I have no preferences, but lately, I have been focusing on getting back to running.
And what is your connexion with nature?
Nature has become a great source of inspiration, but more importantly, a way to renew my energy and reset my brain.
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Byredo, your own brand, offers perfumes and fragrances, accessories, leather goods among many others, but not clothing. However, Possessions of My Soul is an apparel collection. How has the challenge of designing clothes been like? Was it your first one?
It’s not the first time I design clothing but it is the first time working with technical clothing, which has been great. It challenges you to express design within a different framework. First and foremost, the apparel needs to function, and that becomes your starting point.
After this experience, would you think of expanding Byredo’s product range?
Byredo is a very specific idea and I don’t think it makes sense for Byredo to develop outerwear. However, one of the things I have learned in the process with Peak Performance is that it can be interesting to adopt some leather bag developments.
Ben, you graduated from fine arts but then decided to create perfumes. What made you change the paintbrush for your olfactory skills? How was that journey like?
I met a perfumer by chance after graduating from art school and I was very inspired by the idea that something like smell could evoke so many emotions and memories.
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After you made up your mind on perfumes, you also decided to extend to new products. Did it all happen naturally or had you already thought of having your brand before? How was the brand born?
I always imaged Byredo would be more about perfumes, but I was also committed to making products of a certain craft and quality. So, it took a couple of years to start the new categories.
When you were studying fine arts, what affinity did you have with fashion back then? Has it always been a passion of yours?
I have always been a fan of fashion, and luckily, I have been able to engage with it through friends that work in the industry. Even though it’s different from what I do at Byredo, it’s inspiring to float in and out of fashion and art to inform my work.
How much of your knowledge in fine arts can you apply to your actual work? How would you personally describe the convergence between fashion/beauty and art?
I don’t think there is a formula, but all three are important to me. I try to approach all products from a truly subjective place as I believe that there lies a sort of truth that makes people connect to what we do.
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