Updated: Oct 31, 2020
ånd fragrance, recently launched by Simon Constantine, former head buyer and perfumer for Lush and co-founder of Gorilla Perfumes, is all about sustainability, regeneration, and support for communities of growers. I had the pleasure of collaborating with ånd to create a series of illustrations based on each of the 5 fragrances (peep them at the end of article). After creating the images, I wanted to learn a bit more about the brand and about Simon's journey to creating it. Simon kindly answered all my questions and shared some fascinating insights into his inspiration and process:
1. What inspired you to launch ånd fragrance?
ånd really came about as my response to the problems of ecological and climate breakdown. I had been working on Permaculture growing projects for Lush for over a decade and I was seeing the rate of change with weather patterns speeding up. This feeling of urgency and the fact that the fragrance industry could play its part in solving the issues was what drove me on.
5. What inspired the name and branding?
The name came from the old Nordic and English word for Breath,Spirit and Ghost. Something about breath clicked. In addition the word 'and' is an adjoining word, there's something positive and expectant about it. The branding is really focused on being abrasive and welcoming at the same time! Like the perfumery, its bold, comforting and dynamic - we want to drop the stupid pretence that surrounds perfumery and get a nuts and bolts/ earthy connection to our customers and them to us.
2. What impact is the fragrance industry having on the environment and how can we improve it?
The Fragrance industry as a whole is enormous, from detergents to deodorants it has a huge impact. Just the shipping and packaging alone is an environmental nightmare. But my particular focus is ingredients, many natural materials have the ability to support ecosystems and communities if sourced and handled correctly. However, equally they can cause greater harm. I believe that perfumers are skilled trained technicians but lack the ecological education to accompany that knowledge. I think that they can sit in a very powerful position if they chose too, designing their supply lines as well as their perfumes. The perfume industry is lucrative, some of the wealthiest people in the world come from the luxury perfume and cosmetics markets, but what these sectors choose to spend their money is now key. If they wanted, they could rapidly redeploy funds from bloated marketing campaigns to ecological restoration - and that's what I want to demonstrate through ånd - a model for a regenerative enterprise, the longer it survives the better off the world is.
4. How do you find the growers you work with?
I have a strong connection via my previous role and also through my experience have accumulated a series of great contacts. They aren't exclusive to ånd but what I hope to demonstrate is that the combination of careful selection, a preference to those communities who look after ecosystems better than most of us - Indigenous communities for example - and longterm partnership together will drive more benefit for us all. We chose to work with our current selection by this intuitive understanding, that these are the best of the best, in terms of impact and in terms of quality. The beautiful thing is to have a gorgeous product that works in its own right, my skill has been lifting these exquisite ingredients up and showcasing them for you - the end result should be seamless!
6. What's your favourite smell?
Today it's the damp forest floor, mushroom earthiness with sweet rotten leaves.
7. Which of the 5 ånd fragrances is your favourite?
That's for you to decide!
8. I really love Frank because it’s so different from how I expect a frankincense fragrance to smell - it’s bright, fruity and fun! How did you come up with this fragrance?
My favourite challenge for myself creatively was to take staple perfume materials and bring them to life in a completely new way. I would say I focused on drawing out notes that make you smile and take you to places you wouldn't expect with ånd. When I visited Somaliland, in particular the Cal Madow region, I was struck with what an absolutely incredible region it is - it's partly irrigated by regular morning mists which drift across this think band of coastal ridge line and push low cloud through the trees, very eery. I walked into a dark shed full of frankincense resin in one of the collecting communities, I was immediately struck with a rich, unctuous and most of all fruity-gum quality. We even chewed it directly from the tree, and it stuck in my teeth for about 2 days, releasing a really fresh flavour so I go to know it very well indeed!
9. How is ånd influenced by your work with Lush and Gorilla Perfumes? And how does it differ from those brands?
There is a huge influence of course. I actually think for me now ånd is a more consolidated form of all those influences. I felt that my work on ethical buying sat relatively separate to Gorilla. Now however, I feel that this is more consistent with my focus now. I feel that this is less about differences with Lush as opposed to a shot across the boughs of the $40bn fine fragrance market sector and what they are doing about supporting rapid ecosystem restoration.
10. From Gorilla Perfumes I know that you're very interested in artistic collaborations and the overlap between fragrance and other creative disciplines such as music, literature, art. Will this interest play a role in ånd?
I suspect that it will play a role as, like you say, I have a deep passion for that in my work. However, I think that it will be in supporting and galvanising people to causes and action rather than for its own sake at this point. Not to diminish anything but instead I think that everyone's actions should result in some tangible positive result at this moment in human history in an effort to right the many wrongs we are all so aware of right now.
Below are my illustrations for each of the 5 ånd fragrances
from top left:
Beån - a fragrance featuring the tonka bean harvested by the indigenous Kayapo peoples of The Amazon. Other fragrance notes include Brazilian orange oil, lavender, neroli and fennel.
Båre - a fragrance featuring Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Shore Pine harvested by the indigenous peoples of the Great Bear Rainforest. The fragrance has a warm vanilla base.
Frånk - a fragrance featuring frankincense harvested by Marda Moge communities. Unlike most frankincense scents, this one is sweet and fruity with additional citrus notes.
Sånd - a fragrance featuring sandalwood harvested by Dutjahn of Western Australia. Other fragrance notes include banana, cardamom, black pepper, labdanum and benzoin resin.
Måd - a fragrance featuring Madagascar vanilla. Other fragrance notes include ylang ylang, vetiver, violet, musk, jasmine and cloves.