Byredo and Oliver Peoples experiment with Synesthesia

Byredo and Oliver Peoples experiment with Synesthesia

By Alexandra Donaldson

The late musical legend Jimi Hendrix reportedly described chords and notes of music as colours. Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, Tilda Swinton, Stevie Wonder: Each one of these artists, past and present, are synthetes. They have or had synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes certain stimuli to trigger multiple senses. For example, many synthetes perceive letters and numbers as having inherent colours. Letters and colours—two distinct sensory experiences—linked together with very little rhyme or reason. Allegedly, Hendrix called the chord E7#9—often referred to by guitarists as the Hendrix chord—as “the purple chord”.

The condition has now inspired an unexpected collaboration between Stockholm-based fragrance house Byredo and Los Angeles-based eyeglasses and sunglasses maker Oliver Peoples.

Black_GroupIt started with an experiment. Byredo’s master perfumer went out to experience LA through three differently coloured sunglass lenses and then translated those visions into perfume smells, which were then used to develop top, middle and base notes for an original fragrance.

The resulting spritz boasts top notes of juniper berries and Californian lemon; surprisingly they’re more of-the-earth than overtly fruity or citrusy. The scent’s orris butter is slightly powdery and the patchouli, musk and warm sand accord lend warmth in the scent’s dry-down. As a base note, helichrysum (a plant in the sunflower family) is lightly sweet, but also reminiscent of a farm—sans the livestock stench. The result is a complex, but exciting scent that morphs as it diffuses, smelling like sunrise in a cornfield one minute, and a cup of honey-ed tea the next.

For the limited-edition collaboration,  Oliver Peoples has created unisex, acetate sunglasses in either semi matte black or beige crystal frames with three different photochromic lenses. Colours include indigo, champagne beige and olive green. The Byredo fragrance bottle is merchandised in a trio of colours to match the customer’s chosen lens. The shades and scent are sold separately, but can also be purchased in a set that includes a bespoke case and pouch.

Byredo X OP fragrance, $210 (100 ml),


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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.