• photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG
    photographer's assistant STEPHANIE CETINA

    Agonist: An Invisible Wardrobe

    Written by Giovanna Pisacane by Stephanie Cetina

    All the fragrances are inspired by our culture, our country; even the climate is a source of inspiration”

    Niclas Lydeen considers the perfume line as a storytelling.

    Niclas with his partner (and wife) Christine founded Agonist in 2008, a niche Scandinavian perfume brand. 

    In just a few years, Agonist has expanded its borders. You can find Niclas and Christine’s fragrances in more than 267 stores, perfume boutiques and interior design stores in Italy, the United Kingdom and in the USA. “Next step: Japan. Many Japanese retailers are interested in our products. Sometimes I think about the moment when all this started. We were interested in raw materials, we were trying to understand patchouli, sandal. We were focusing on different inspirations. You know, when you work in fashion, for example, you have constant visual inspirations. But this is another world. You try to reproduce feelings with smell.”

    Niclas takes inspiration from literature, music and poetry. “A Swedish novelist I keep reading is Karin Boye. She has written amazing books and she can really capture certain “Scandinavian” feelings as melancholy, loneliness after a storm, the lights. And I personally love Tomas Tranströmer, who has died recently. With just a few words his writings are able to open up into infinite associations, and his use of metaphors is so inspiring”. 

    Both came from a creative background; Niclas and Christine were working for different brands, spending most of their time on creative concepts. “I was working as a visual artist and a product designer, while my wife was working in the fashion industry when we came up with the idea of launching a fragrance brand. I believe that design and fashion are two backgrounds that come together. One of our first ideas was to create an invisible wardrobe. Scents are abstract. What you wear can be considered as an extension of your personality”.

    Niclas explained that breaking into the niche perfume market has been a natural process. “We started producing our own ideas by launching expensive, limited-edition design products, presenting them to collectors and receiving international recognition. From this point we decided to go further, finding our way into perfumes. And we shared confidence, education, experience and also useful references from what we did before”.

    Today Agonist has a strong identity. Every fragrance is able to dress you.”When you get in contact with Agonist, it's like having the possibility to choose a different dress, a different style, depending on your mood”.

    Agonist wants to overthrow the idea that every person should have his/her own fragrance. “People should discover more and play with scents as a natural way of self-expression. We've received loads of positive feedback from people who have always been using the same perfume for years. You know, it is like with food in a way; people shouldn't be afraid to try new things. In the same way, it is so boring to always wear the same smell. Once a customer told me that “Solaris” was the first fragrance  he used after ten years of wearing the same perfume every single day”.

    Personalizing perfumes is a trend lately. “We have been asked (but we have never done it.) The closest we have been is creating a fragrance for a brand. This happened last year with the Swedish clothing brand Hope. We produced three candles and one perfume (Hope), inspired by tactile materials, the way they cut the leather, the style of their stores. And the names of the candles were very important for us, because they expressed perfectly the feeling of that moment: “Hope for diversity”, “Hope for freedom” and “Hope for courage”.

    A new scent “White lies” came out on the market in November and it is presented with a quote from the Scottish artist and musician Momos: “Every lie creates a parallel world, the world in which it is true.” Niclas describes it as a joyful and playful fragrance that doesn’t reveal itself at first, just like a little lie. It is a smooth sensation that becomes stronger. 

    We wanted to create a scent that takes you to another dimension where dreams, stories and fantasies come to life. In the end it keeps its promise and becomes a symbol of truth, yet with some intriguing shades.”

    The packaging reveals the fragility but also the power of what you call a lie: a simple clean bottle with a little crack in the middle. You see, the bottle is cracked but it is not broken. At the same time a white lie can't hurt you.”

    blazer & tshirt NICOLAI D'ÉTOILES
    jeans & rings NICLASOWN
    jacket GANNI
    shirt FILIPPA K
    trousers & ring CHRISTINE'S OWN
    Christine wears
    blazer FRAME
    dress GANNI
    bracelet CHRISTINE'S OWN
    Niclas wears
    blazer & tshirt NICOLAI D'ÉTOILES
    jeans & ring NICLAS' OWN
  • photography by STEPHANIE CETINA

    An Interview with Ellen Sundberg

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Ellen is ready for the next harbour


    23 years old, she released her third album “Cigarette Secrets” and she is already talking about producing a fourth.

    – I hope it will not be too long before I release a new album. I'm in a very productive period right now.


    But first, Ellen Sundberg want to spread her songs from “Cigarette Secrets” abroad. She guesses that Germany becomes the first country to launch her new album in.

    - It looks like it will be an intense tour next year, she says.


    I meet her when she has just completed a short tour in the south of Sweden. She is a bit disappointed about that she had to cancel two gigs, because of her cold. She says that it´s the disadvantage of being a musician - that she is dependent on her voice.


    Do you enjoy being on stage?

    Yes, but it takes quite a while to get into it. It´s only when you start playing for real as the music gets into your muscles.

    When I was on my first tour for about three and a half years ago, I was very worried. How will this go? I thought. I´m a person who likes to be home in the country. I usually get stressed by meeting crowds of people, but when I came out on the roads it felt so right. I need the contrasts, I think.


    Now she longs to come home, charge her batteries and start writing. Ellen wrote her first song when she was around seventeen years old, and from that day she does everything on her own.

    – The best part of writing your own lyrics is that you can use your imagination freely. I can do whatever I want, she says. No one interferes you.


    From where comes your inspiration?

    Usually from my life and what has happened in the last year. My experiences need to grow for a while before I write them down. The lyrics are often inspired by a specific happening, but I love to fantasize so my songs contain a lot of imagination.


    Your albums have different sounds. Why?

    On the latest album “Cigarette Secrets” I had an idea about producing a more straight and accessible album. I was curious about how it would sound like. I also got a new producer: Sanken Sandqvist. He has produced a lot of music in that niche. He is also Managing Director at BMG Scandinavia.


    What song on the new album do you like the most?

    I like “I´ll be your Harbour”. I have a special feeling about that song. I can´t explain why.

    Favorite town” is the listener´s favorite. But “Blame it on the dreamer” becomes more and more popular on Spotify.


    How will your fourth album be like?

    Once more, I want to record a different album from the earlier ones. But I still want to make a direct and available album for a wider audience. Maybe I will use more traditional instruments, but in a simple manner. I like the sound when your not to good playing a specific instrument. It feels very alive.


    It seems like Ellen is a little ambivalent about her singing style. She is the girl from the country who loves singing Americana and at the same time she is eager to learn and try new things - she is experimenting a lot. She also likes challenges. For example, you can see a video on YouTube where she sings Televisions “Marquee Moon”. It´s fantastic.


    How did this Television cover version idea arise?

    It´s all about contacts in this business. My producer Sanken Sandqvist and Richard Lloyd, who was the guitarist in Television, are friends. Richard was going to add some guitar in some of my songs and the day before we should meet him in New York, my producer asked if we could record a Television cover. So, I listened through some of their songs and I fell for “Marquee Moon”.

    I barely remembered the text and it all happened very fast. I think it took less than one hour.


    It´s apparent that Ellen is from the country. This young woman expresses the independence and humility you often get when you grow up in a smaller place. She describes the nature around her village Bjärme in the middle of Sweden, where she lives. She smiles when she talks about the woods, mountains and the big lake she has around the corner. It´s in this surroundings she write her songs.

    – I think that nature has shaped my personality very much, she says. People ask if I will move to Stockholm, but I like Bjärme. And it´s not that far from Stockholm.


    So now, on your trip back home, what music are you listening to in the bus?

    I will listen to a band I have never heard before; Little May. I´m not usually listening to new music so I´m very euphoric about that I have been discovering them.

  • An Interview with Pieter Ten Hoopen

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Although Pieter Ten Hoopen is a photographer, he is surprisingly not really interested in photography. It´s storytelling, he really cares about. 

    –  I enjoy being with people for a longer time. For me, it's very much about the story - the camera is just a tool or a technical thing to be mastered. It's the same with film - it´s the narrative form that I am interested in.

    He loves to travel around the world meeting people from various places. Pieter Ten Hoopens latest documentary work is a photo reportage when he was moving around visiting small villages in India. You can see his work at the Swedish Museum of photography Fotografiska in Stockholm until December 11, 2016.

    This current exhibition Spirit for Change is a collaboration project between the NGO organisation Hand in Hand and Fotografiska.

    Hand in Hand helps poor people, mostly women, to start their own business with micro loans. In over two weeks Pieter has been following the new entrepreneurs, mostly women, in their ordinary lives. The result ended up with twenty images.

    – There's very few images, but it is enough to give a picture of a society, says Pieter. 

    M: How would you describe “Spirit for Change”?

    P: It´s a glimpse of an everyday situation As you may land a short time in an Indian community in a small Indian village.

    M: Are you good at socializing with people from different cultures?

    P: Yes, I think so. I have been working in fifteen countries since January and it requires that you like talking with people if you are going to collaborate with them. I have worked a lot in Africa, Asia and the United States. All countries have different codes and traditions.

    M: How did this project start?

    P: Hand in Hand asked me and I think it was a proposal from Fotografiska who recommended me to do this project. At first I had a meeting with Hand in Hand to learn more about their organisation. Then I came up with some ideas how we could do this. It´s not easy because I come from a 100 percent documentary background and I am really obliged the documentary tradition I´m working in. Hand in Hand wanted to highlight some way of change. It´s hard to present change in a photo reportage so my question was to them: “What change are we talking about?” Maybe we can show some kind of pride or some form of daily life that are representative for these particular villages in India?

    The images in the NGO-world is changing. Before, it was the thumbs up and a smile on the face of happy children who have been helped, but it doesn´t work anymore. Today we have an audience that is more critical and if you want to invite them to your organization, it requires a smarter way of thinking. That´s why this whole exhibition is a solid journalistic work on a documentary tradition.

    M: Are there just positive images?

    P: It´s a mix. An image can be seen in different ways. We all have unique preferences when we look at photos. In this exhibition there are pictures who are emotional. For example, there is an image of a sick woman being comforted by her doctor. He puts his hand on her head and he does it with empathy and compassion because she is alone, without her kids, longing for them. It´s a real life situation.

    M: Is there anyone who don´t like being photographed? Or feel objectified?

    P: No, I don´t think they do. They're proud and happy people. They do not seem to care at all. But, if they care, it shows. Sometimes people get really angry. Last week when I was working in Sicily and I walked across the street and there was a woman who got completely mad when I was photographing. When I cross a street in a public place I have the right to photograph there, but you get all kinds of reaction and you need to accept that as a photographer. There are usually no problems If you explain why you are taking photos.

    M: Were you living with the people you met?

    P: I wanted to stay in one village that I thought had great potential to tell great stories from, but Hand in Hand didn´t want me to do that. I think they were afraid that I would get sick from the food or something - I don´t know. They have rules they need to follow. I respect that, even if I had been doing this for twenty years. I am familiar with these situations.

    M: Have all in your story their own enterprises?

    P: No, some of the people are more like a part of the story. But I have concrete portraits of women who got a micro loan to start their own small business. Someone bought a cow to sell milk to support her family. Another bought a sewing machine to earn money on that.

    M: Do you have any enjoyable memory from the trip?

    P: Many of the citizens in these villages are not accustomed to tourists or foreigners. They think it's super exciting with a pink gentleman who sweat copiously and running around with a camera. You became an attraction. I´m big as a house for them and I have a lot of tattoos so I believe they think it´s odd.

    M: Was there anyone who was curious of the camera?

    P: Sometimes you have to tell them to calm down a bit. My assistant helped me so that I could devote myself to work. But this is the way it is in India, especially South India. There are a lot of  isolated villages that barely have electricity and they do not know much about what happens in the world outside these villages and get curious.

    M: Are you going back to India?

    P: No, I´m not going back. And what to do now, I don´t know. I have had a long tour of productions so now it becomes a little more quiet period for me. I will start sketching again. I have many own ideas about what I want to do, which I then want to seek funding for in various ways. I also want to publish a book, but also there, I´m in the research stage right now. I think there will be some travelling for me the near future to search interesting environment for the book. I think it would be a book without people.

    M: Are you getting tired of people?

    P: No, I love being with people. But I have done so many books and there are people in all of them. The latest book I did I was working in the same community for ten years. I have a need to take a break and do something else - for example, a book without people to later cope with other projects. You need to be sharp when you work with people and many times it can get really intense.

    M: Why did you become a documentary photographer?

    P: It didn´t decide to be a photographer. It was something that grew with time. I started to study photojournalism and then I noticed that I liked storytelling better than working as a press photographer.