With a background in branding and digital design, Alf Arén fell in love with an island. He’s just released the first three fragrances for his own brand, Grethe — ”a love letter to Anholt”.
— I use the brand as a platform to explore ways of mediating different qualities that I experience, when living at the old Lighthouse, called Fyrgården, at Anholt. Each of the fragrances reflects a different aspect of life there, he says.
How’d you describe Anholt?
— It’s a small island located between Denmark and Sweden, in the middle of the Kattegatt sea. The geographical location, and the fact that it houses one of Denmark’s oldest lighthouses, have made Anholt play a major role in history. The island consists of a small village to the west, and one of Scandinavia’s largest deserts to the east. The strong northern winds leave their marks on the dunes and beaches that surround the island. In some places, higher vegetation has been able to grow, and on the western part of the island, there are two high hills — Sønderbjerg and Nordbjerg — which have created both good soil and cover from the wind. During the summer period, we host a pop-up restaurant on the island, called fælles — a great opportunity to meet people who are interested in us, and where we come from.
After launching a new brand in a highly competitive market, Arén shares how he’s been confirmed in the importance not only of, as always, listening to the customers but also to have a clear story.
— Especially to know what it is that you want to tell. This will make your own work so much easier as well as communicate it to others. You get a lot of insights along the way from working with a project like this — not the least when you haven’t tried it before. From starting out, figuring out how to shape fragrances in collaboration with a nose (a perfumer, Ed’s note) who is located in another country, to realising how much work that goes into legal and logistics to get your product ready for sales internationally. Having a limited budget forced me to think in a different way when it came to bottles and packaging, which is a big part of a fragrance. I do believe in a slow process. Take your time, start out with smaller batches. Now, seeing the result and how well it has been received, I think I made the right choices.
The fragrances are made in close collaboration with a nose in Scotland.
— It’s been a long process and, as mentioned, I like that. You need to live with the samples, try them, let other people try them, try them again yourself, iterate and move forward — or backward. Anholt and Fyrgården are the backbones of the brand and it’s the qualities of living there that I want to share and spread, says Arén.
Can you describe those qualities?
— The place, its architecture and its unique location on the northeast tip of the island have created a unique biotope for human culture. The way the architecture affects your mood, your way of living alone and together with others, the inherent qualities of an abundance of daylight, and how being there, in that specific space, can affect your sense of time — if you let it. All of these are more relevant than ever to share, Arén concludes.