The Right Combination: Interview with Nina Friede and Elisabeth Modin from Friedemodin
18th December, 2013
I meet Nina and Elisabeth at an exclusive private club in London. You'd never know there were marble staircases, luxury lounges and several bars hiding behind the ordinary façade. Nina and Elisabeth have been busy juggling all the jobs that come with being a perfume start-up and have been using the club lounge as an impromptu office. Non-alcoholic cocktails and hot chocolate are the order of the day and we settle down on plush sofas.
I'm curious about their journey down the fragrant rabbit hole and what the experience of starting a perfume brand has been like. I know the perfumer they've been working with is François Robert of Parfums de Rosine fame. Friedemodin has already debuted in Nina and Elisabeth's home countries, Germany and Sweden. Now the pair is keen to find retailers in London and we spend some time discussing the state of the UK perfume scene and the process they've been through to bring their concept of combination perfumery to life.
Pia Long: How did you become interested in perfume?
Nina Friede: My mother collected miniature perfume bottles and although she wasn't too much into the perfumes themselves, I became really interested and started collecting, too. I ended up with miniatures hanging on my wall. When I started working with luxury products, I worked for Annick Goutal and then started to get into Tom Ford perfumes.
Elisabeth Modin: The first perfume I really fell in love with was the Kenzo with the flower on top. I still have it! I've always loved perfumes more for the pure enjoyment and pleasure of them.
PL: How did you create the brand?
NF: I started working for a company for in-flight products straight after school and went on to create branded amenities for hotels. I was working with luxury brands all the time; and with high-standard hotels who like to have products that match those standards. I initially worked with Annick Goutal and created their luxury hotel line, then with Gianfranco Ferre, and created their hotel line as well. That's how I first came into contact with perfume oils and perfumes - and felt really pampered! One day I said I'd love to have my own perfume and it became a real ambition of mine.
EM: I'd worked with a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurs and I loved the innovation and creative aspect of it; and doing something you're really passionate about. You can fully decide how you want things to be. When you're working for someone else you have to take many more influences into consideration but here you can really set the tone and direction - and create something amazing and exciting in the process.
PL: How did you two meet?
EM: We met through friends in London a few years ago and we were both interested in starting something together. At the time we had a lot more spare time and lived only a few minutes from each other so we went for a lot of coffees! We'd dream up all these ideas and we were always talking about fashion and beauty. Nina would come in with whatever the latest thing she was working on and we kept saying how great it would be to actually do something on our own.
NF: One day we just felt the time was right and just had to take a chance. When we thought about the kind of perfume we'd like to create, the idea of doing different collections around different concepts and stories came to us. We sat in Chelsea on a really nice summer afternoon when the flower show was on and all the scents were wafting in. We went to a lot of different parks and gardens and just kept coming back to this idea of something green and wild.
EM: I always think back to our summer cottage in Sweden and the wild nature there. We didn't want to connect the collection to a specific place or a particular event; we wanted to create something more mysterious and full of surprises.
NF: Definitely not a specific place - we want people who wear our perfume to imagine their own perfect space, their own secret garden and that's why we leave it open.
EM: It's not a botanical perfume range. We wanted to add some elegance and mystery and when we originally created the brand imagery, we imagined a chandelier in a garden. When François was creating Rose de Nuit, he described it as a nocturnal garden party. Our inspiration was more European. We didn't go down the road of heavy orientals and we based it around greenery and the love of fresh, woody notes. There's a Northern European flavour in particular with our first collection.
PL: Do you think people should have a signature scent or a perfume wardrobe?
EM: I believe a scent should fit the occasion and what you want to portray. Accessorise with your scent. Now it's becoming more usual for people to experiment and for us, working with perfumes has made us want to try out lots of different scents. You just don't want to wear one perfume all the time.
NF: It was certainly more traditional to have one signature scent but now it's becoming more common for people to realise they are attracted to a specific fragrance family or style of scents and then buy and wear according to that. I like woody notes so when I'm looking at which direction I'm going with perfumes, I would never wear a fully floral perfume but when we're working with scents of course we look around at all kinds of notes and become more experimental. I don't think you need to stay with one scent all of your life. Your body changes, your skin changes and your taste changes.
EM: I guess we are very fortunate that we happened to like similar perfumes and go for woody notes.
PL: When you really decided you were going to go for it, what was the creative process like?
NF: We just wanted to do something different. And the story - we didn't just want to go to someone and leave them with a brief; we wanted to be fully involved in the creative process.
EM: We wanted to do our perfumes as collections right from the beginning and each collection would be part of a particular story. By the time we met with our perfumer, we already had our creative concept and the moods and descriptions of the environments we wanted to create. François was really excited about it because he liked the idea of working on the combination perfume concept and I think he also liked the garden idea in particular because he really loves his own garden in Brighton.
NF: He liked that we came to him with a story and that he had to be creative based on that, rather than us just going to him and saying listen, we like woody notes, create us a woody perfume. Virginie [Daniau] helped us a lot. She is an expert on perfume trends and what works, what's already out there, what's up-and-coming and whether something might be a great perfume for a year but will never stand the test of time. So she joined us as well and a lot of other people helped us and all that creativity came together.
PL: What's been the hardest part about starting a perfume business?
NF: To get noticed. There 's already so much out there. Of course we have a lot of professional contacts but the customers have so much to choose from these days.
EM: We created these amazing fragrances and we know that but the hardest part is definitely getting the word out there.
NF: And doing it on our own with a small team is really challenging. It's just the two of us and the people we've worked with to create this brand, so there is a lot of pressure on us to get it all to be perfect.
EM: We're going to start working on our next collection soon but it takes quite a long time from the initial concepts to the finished product so there won't be any new perfumes for a while. We are bringing out a 4 x 50ml set of all the scents in the current collection though.
NF: And I couldn't resist the temptation to start working on some hotel amenities for the brand so I'm doing something with that as well...
Jardin Mystique, the first collection from Friedemodin is made up of four scents: Jardin Mystique, Vertine, Rosée de Nuit and Feu Follet, each representing a different aspect of the story. François and the team first translated the idea of an enchanted garden to a single standalone perfume, Jardin Mystique. The rest of the collection was developed from the key components of the titular fragrance and each perfume can be worn on its own or combined with any of the others from the same collection.
The range is available in Estonia, Germany, India, Netherlands and Sweden and internationally through the online shop.
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