The idea of elevator music usually conjures up the thought of soft, monotonous melodies played in the cramped confines of an elevator. To Ben Gorham and Virgil Abloh, it’s anything but lethargic. Nearly a decade after meeting, the Byredo Parfums founder and the restless ideas-man behind Off-White, and now Louis Vuitton Men’s, are making their own Elevator Music by way of a capsule collection of fragrances, clothing, and accessories. The synonymous scent is a blend of midnight violet, bamboo, musk, and ambrette musk, making for an unmistakably Byredo combination with an Off-White twist. Gorham and Abloh fused their collaboration with the work of their friend Carsten Höller, the conceptual artist responsible for the 2004 installation The Elevator, itself influenced by Swedish scientist Gunnar Johansson, who pioneered studies into human movement perception. Höller’s work is the centerpiece of the collection’s T-shirts, for which the artist contributed a new iteration of the piece. Document spoke to Gorham on the heels of Elevator Music’s U.S. debut at Barneys New York, where you can find the line and the new Höller installation this month.
Document—How did the Byredo and Off-White collaboration come about?
Ben Gorham—Virtually from the day that we met, eight or nine years ago in Stockholm, we have talked about doing something together—so it’s technically a collaboration nine years in the making. Two years ago, I think we felt there was a level of brand maturity, for both Off-White and Byredo, where we could pool our resources together and do something interesting.
Document—And this is your first foray into clothing, right? How has that been?
Gorham—I’m a fan of Virgil’s and I’m a fan of fashion, so it was exciting; but he pulled the work load on most of the clothing. We already do bags though, so that was quite easy. Elevator Music became more of a box, where we were able to just input ideas. We later asked a friend of mine, the artist Carsten Höller to also contribute to that box, which is a new iteration of an old work that he’d done.
Document—How much of the piece did Carsten create for this installation specifically?
Gorham—His early work from 2004, which was referenced, shows up on some of the T-shirt prints, but this piece is unique and commissioned just for this presentation. I’m going to try to steal it and put in my house.
Document—Virgil has done a number of collaborations with brands ranging from the near-universal Sunglass Hut to the French juice bar Wild & the Moon. Was there a push for you to collaborate with Virgil from a business point of view?
Gorham—It was more like, just simply collaborating as friends. I’ve been working with [design agency] M/M (Paris) for 10 years. I’ve worked with Inez & Vinoodh before on a project. I’ve shot different models that are friends. It’s that type of vibe.
Document—How did you select the fragrance notes?
Gorham—We just simply smelled things. We started by describing emotions; describing the smell of skin; imagining how people wear fragrance today; how people express themselves. Then I started pulling raw materials and sending them to Virgil who would smell them and then we would discuss. It was not that different from how I work on other projects.
Document—What emotions were you trying to capture?
Gorham—I think the initial one was how do we create a fragrance as a background as opposed to the foreground? That was the theme. Then we had to ask ourselves how to make the bag. Most of the work Virgil has done and most of the Byredo work is quite expressive, and this stuff was really built to be a background, a complement to people.