For Byredo founder Ben Gorham, scents serve as ways of accessing distant locations and memories, exploring broad concepts and commentating on the current day. "Smell and memory are so closely linked and importantly so subjective," Gorham says. "One smell can remind three different people of wildly different things: one person might like it, one love it and the other absolutely hate it. This is what I find so interesting about smell."
In previous interviews, including one with us in 2021, he revealed the first Byredo scent recalled memories of his absent father, featuring notes of sage, jasmine, violet and musk. His follow up, a blend of temple incense, amber, ginger and bergamot, took notes from the Mumbai suburb where his mother was born. These scents, which are highly intertwined with his own memories, relied on real-life figures for inspiration (his mother, his absent father), but the brand's latest release, a reissue of the popular Mister Marvelous, conjures an archetype instead.
"For Mr Marvelous there is the olfactive pyramid that has an essence of classic men’s cologne that we twisted — cedar wood and bamboo with lavender and through bergamot," he says. "Then there is the name and the story — no man is just one thing. At different stages we evolved and often through dichotomies — a son, a father, a failure, a success, an athlete, a business. [There are] so many facets that can make the modern man marvelous."
From afar, Gorham is as marvelous as it gets. He's a talented, self-taught perfumer, a former professional basketball player, an emerging sneaker and fashion designer and a passionate surfer. Plus, his brand will be acquired by Spanish conglomerate Puig for an estimated $1.1 billion.
But he, although ultra-successful, has shared the feeling of being both up and down — a failure and a success, as he puts it. These experiences inform his fragrances as much as the good times, he argues.
"All of my inspirations for creating a perfume are connected to personal memories," he says. "Places from my childhood, specific moments of my life, being a son, a husband and a father... Fragrance much like fashion has the ability to express one’s personality but also allows people to be something they aspire to. It’s completely subjective. Some people might feel confident, others reminiscent, some reassured [by my scents]. I am happy that people feel something associated with it."
For most, fragrance is a final touch, the last thing they put on before they leave home for the day ahead. While it's undoubtedly something extra, to some it's essential to who they are, especially if it alleviates stress or boosts their mood.
Mister Marvelous, beyond the name, delivers lightness, brightness and complexity. Once on, it's rich and pungent, like a complex, herbaceous cocktail ordered in a dark, thumping bar. Top notes of mandarin and neroli flower segue into middle notes of heart of bamboo and green lavender, while there are base notes of fresh spice, courtesy of black amber and white cedarwood.
It's multi-dimensional, Gorham says, just like most good men. "Mister Marvelous is a celebration of the contemporary man and an exploration of what makes someone marvelous in 2022," he says. "Their creativity, their resilience, their successes and especially their failures that made them who they are. The difference from the first launch [in 2011] is that my vision of what marvelous means has changed — well, [just] as the world and everyone constantly evolved."
Mister Marvelous tells a story close to Gorham's heart, but it is plenty universal, too. It resonated with friend and Mister Marvelous campaign frontman Odell Beckham Jr., a Super Bowl-winning wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams.
"When I crossed paths with OBJ [Odell Beckham Jr.]," Gorham says, "I knew he was the perfect person to embody this idea in 2022. There are a lot of similarities in our stories: the highs and lows, being kept from doing what you love and eventually becoming the successful underdog. 2022 felt like the right time to tell this story again."
The relaunch was 11 years in the making, but for both Gorham and Beckham Jr., it felt like perfecting timing. "Mister Marvelous reminds me of a Renaissance man," Beckham Jr. says. "Winning the Super Bowl, becoming a dad and going into my thirties, I’m in a happy place. That’s what Mister Marvelous exudes — a well-rounded happy guy."
Byredo Mister Marvelous
Eau de Parfum, 100 ml / 3.4 oz ($276)