“Mumbai Noise” Is Perfumer Ben Gorham’s Olfactory Ode to His Indian Roots

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Byredo is renowned for producing luxurious, left-of-center fragrances, and Mumbai Noise follows this maverick tradition of imagination and exploration. “I’m less rational when I create fragrance,” Gorham confirms. “It’s truly emotional. I create these briefs that are somewhat abstract and then I work with the perfumer [Jerome Epinette]. For this project, it was about identifying certain things—woods, incenses, spices, fruits—that are part of my memory bank in connection to Mumbai.” The scent is a delicious construct that includes notes of warm wood, amber, davana, coffee, tonka beans and dusky sandalwood. The name is an evocative riff on Mumbai’s ceaseless, churning activity. “The idea of ‘noise’ is my take on it. It’s more conceptual (and less definitive) than simply calling it Mumbai,” explains Gorham. “We are not saying this is the official smell of the city—this is a facet of the city, by Ben and Ashish.”

Message in a bottle

ASHISH SHAH

By Ashish he is referring to the Delhi-based creative Ashish Shah, who photographed the campaign for Mumbai Noise over a period of months, enlisting a diverse cast of local dancers, architect-turned-models, drag performers and artists, producing a luminous portfolio of images and a short film intended to reflect modern India. “I knew Ashish from his previous work for Vogue India. I found that beyond being young and talented, he is a photographer who has his own language. There is a zest, a curiosity and an exploration of diversity, which I love,” says Gorham. While the collaboration with Shah was focused on showing actual people, it was also about avoiding clichés. “Because India has such a strong visual culture, it’s very easy to get caught up in stereotypes—I know from living in different places in the world that they exist. Even though my memories were the touchpoints, the backdrop, the importance of Ashish to this project was immense. He played a role in creating a contemporary portrait of the city and its people.”

Diversity is a philosophy that has been at the core of Byredo since the company’s inception in 2006. “I understood that an authentic approach was something that was going to resonate with people,” says Gorham. “Given that I was biracial, multicultural and curious, the existing beauty industry didn’t really make sense to me. It was dictating a notion—that should be completely democratic—about what is beautiful, what is self and what is self-expression, and equality. India suffered colonialism and oppression, and it was also part of my living experience in Europe as a ‘Brown’ person. If I was to have a brand, it was very important that I did it my way.” It appears the world has finally come around to this way of thinking in the last few years—a long overdue shift in attitudes that Gorham acknowledges. “These things have become topics, talking points and initiatives because people are fed up. Social media enabled more voices and I’m grateful for that.”





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