Meet Niclas & Christine Lydeen of Agonist Parfums
A very particular kind of scent story was calling for me, as we approached and drifted closer to the archipelago of Donsö. Call it a stroke of serendipity, but I knew I was in for a treat. That treat came to me in the form of AGONIST Parfums, but more specifically the story of Niclas and Christine Lydeen.
In Christine's absence (she was actually embarking on a creative meets business trip in San Francisco), Niclas gave us an intimate tour of his life in the beautiful, quaint archipelago of Donsö. It was truly a breathtaking sight to behold. Everything in the Lydeen residence was artfully curated, a visual manifesto that is evidently reflected in the way AGONIST is designed, produced and branded. As my eyes continued to probe and prod almost every AGONIST scent in its portfolio, I sat Niclas down for an interview that unearths the story behind the couple, who is at the helm of this boundary-breaking fragrance brand.
Tell us a little bit about Christine and Niclas Lydeen, in a nut-shell.
We are curious in our nature and love to travel and discover new things. Since 4 years we live on an island on the west coast of Sweden where we have our studio and family. We enjoy the ocean and shifting seasons. The contrast of the lifestyle on the Island and our traveling suits us perfect. We are actually quite different from each other but one thing really connects us: Our specific taste in lifestyle, art, scent and beauty. Lucky for us we met and are able to do what we love the most.
What is the impetus behind AGONIST? Why the term ‘AGONIST’?
AGONIST for us represents two forces creating something new or a force that triggers another. It’s the magical thing that happens when feelings and inspiration are brought to life through a work of art, a collaboration, scent, music, literature or design.
When a person experience an AGONIST scent memories, inspiration and associations are triggered within that person.
Could you briefly elaborate on the creative and production process, without divulging any trade secrets, behind each AGONIST parfum?
We always begin our process based on an idea or a mood we want to express and capture. It’s about giving shape and life to what start as quite abstract. The funny thing is that when its done its back to abstraction and the actual work is brought to life through the experience of others. Since we have a background in design and visual communication we start by developing a creative platform consisting of imagery, music, material and drawings, etc to make the concept visible. When we then decide on the direction we enter into the invisible again and shape the composition of the fragrance. The name, visual imagery, packaging and story is brought to life at the same time as the scent is being created.
Some AGONIST parfums packaging are more arty, exclusive and limited than others. What was the inspiration behind the glass-blown fragrance dispenser?
Christine’s background from fashion started the idea of developing the AGONIST collection as an ”invisible wardrobe”. The handcrafted glass sculptures are the Haute Couture version of the scent. A way for us to artistically interpret the scent in hand blown glass. We want to manifest the artwork that is contained in the bottle and also emphasize the ritual of applying the scent through the steel pin that comes with the sculpture. Each sculpture is handmade and no one is like another in exact shape and colouring. Just like the experience of the scent is individual each bottle is unique as well.
P O S T C A R D S F R O M D O N S Ö
What does scent mean to you? Is it more art than just utility?
The sense of smell is the oldest of our senses. It has amazing power and can transport us in time and place. It has the power to evoke memories and associations like no other sense. You can walk down the street and suddenly be transported to your childhoods first memories when passing a bakery. It is also very subjective and honest in the way that it is unique for each and every person. You can not really pretend that you like a scent, if it speaks to you you know it.
AGONIST Parfums’ headquarters is uniquely situated on the Donsö archipelago, just outside of Gothenburg. How does the island’s natural scenery and environment become a part of the brand?
We love to be close to the ocean and the always changing nature around us. You are isolated but still connected to the world by the ocean horizon. The contrast that we experience when traveling the world and bring back our inspiration to the island gives us a calmness and focus in our creative process. It’s something in the distans that gives space for contemplation and focus on details.
I understand both you and Christine are partners in life and in business — how do you intertwine the two components of this relationship together? What are some benefits? What are some drawbacks?
Best thing is that we have a constant dialogue about inspiration and ideas. There is also a strong bond of understanding and since we share the same dreams and ambitions we become very close. The drawbacks is that when blending work life and private life sometimes ordinary issues can conflict the work and vice versa.
Do you believe in scent loyalty? Is that even a thing, in your opinion?
Both yes and no. You can become permanently in love with a specific scent and become very addictive or loyal to it. But on the other hand there are so many scents to discover. You would never wear the same clothes to every occasion so why should you wear the same scent? We recommend to build a fragrance wardrobe based around your favorite notes and different moods and occasions.
The AGONIST collection consists of 4 main areas of emotions. The Power scent that you wear when making a strong impression and they work as a super power. The Soft Poetic scents that increases your well being and that you wear to feel good about yourself. The sophisticated and elegant scents that are like a bespoke suit or dress perfectly fitted to enchant your surroundings. And finally the fresh energetic scents you wear when you discover the world, embrace life and share happiness around you.
Who is the perfect audience or person for Agonist Parfums?
People that love quality and beauty. That wants to feel good and spread the best versions of themselves. That wants to inspire and be inspired.