Text: Alec Coiro
Photo: Kat Slootsky
Why is it that we know scent to be the most evocative sense, but we so often relegate it to last place among the 5? Is it because smell is the animal sense, and it offends our notion of civilized humanity to think we are creatures of the nose? If so, this is not a problem that has been solved by Ann Ringstrand who brings her mastery of design to the table to make her scents the most civilized thing you put in your home or wear on your person.
Her journey toward the Ann Ringstrand brand of jewelry and scents began with a moment of clarity in a cafe in Paris. Ringstrand is the co-founder of the much beloved Swedish fashion label, Hope. After more than a decade growing the company (which, by the way, continues to thrive), Ringstrand felt she needed a change, “The company was growing faster than I’d ever imagined. I noticed that when I was with my family, I couldn’t stay present in now. When my daughter was talking to me I was in my next meeting, in a financial report, in a fashion show. I think one of the most touching moments for me was when we did a fashion show in Paris and everything went perfectly, and I went by myself to a cafe afterward just to cool down, and I thought why does this not feel 100 percent inside my heart when everything’s great. So I started questioning a little bit.”
Ringstand’s questioning soon turned into a multi-continent quest. “I started a journey of leaving my daily operating life. And it was way hard. I used a lot of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to create a calmness within my body. I also came to New York for inspiration to work in the studio. I started my journey toward trying to be present with trying to use my senses: if I’m tasting chocolate, how does that for real. I’m not just eating it, I’m tasting it. I took a short journey when I asked professors within smell, and I asked if there’s a smell that I like, can that tell me something about what I need. And the professor said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. But it’s super complicated.’ I am very curious about things that we like to touch and feel and smell. I was looking in the market to find things — essential oils, perfumes — with some kind of native wisdom, something that was real, and the things that I found on the market were very much in the spiritual word, a lot of oil burners, ceramic diffusers that were inspired by India or Bali, and when I brought it home, I thought this is not really working for me. So I thought how can I use my knowledge from design and I thought maybe this is where I’m heading on my next journey: to leave the fashion part, but still, work in design.”
I started my journey toward trying to be present with trying to use my senses: if I’m tasting chocolate, how does that for real. I’m not just eating it, I’m tasting it.
Ringstrand’s perfumes have a purposefully understated quality that I would love to call classy if that word hadn’t been colonized in all the wrong ways. They are subtly evocative, not in the way that slams you with the memory of a college girlfriend when a woman walks by you wearing her perfume. But rather they bring to the fore more foundational memories. The sorts that define you, but that you might not always be fully aware of. If you are destined to be a fan of these Ann Ringstrand’s work, this probably will be what connects you to it the most. But the other thing that will connect you is her wonderful innovation: that the scent does not have to be diffused by an artifact you might find at an ashram supply store in Woodstock. It can be something that fits tastes like Ringstrand’s. This is where the partnership with sculptor Maria Moyer came into play. Moyer is a marvelously talented artist, who, as chance would have it, happened to also share studio space in Manhattan with Ringstrand, and so Ringstrand thought, “What if we do something all new. So we started collaborating. In the middle of the room she had ceramics, I had my part. There were days when there was so much smell that we could hardly work. And then we started finding the right temperature and the right oil.”
The scents that are emitted through Moyer’s diffusers come in three flavors: Ground, Gather, and Touch. “They are all about the relationships that are necessary for us.” Ringstrand goes on to describe each one. “Ground is what we do with ourselves. The feel of being with yourself and just and to allow yourself to be really still. It has a lot of ingredients that are earthy but in a stoney way. It’s more for myself. It’s perfect for a bedroom or wherever things are clean and fresh. The next one is called gather. It’s for everything we have with each other, the relationship we have with our friends. Touch is about the relationship we have with one intimate person. It’s very warm, it’s spicey. I explain it as if you’re a Swedish person and you go on vacation, you want the heat. And in the afternoon when it’s almost four and it’s almost wine time and you sit with the person you love and you touch the person you love, that warmth, is what this scent is all about.”
The jewelry that accompanies the scents is probably most closely connected to Ground because it is they are designed as ingenious conveyances for the scents. Again the gorgeously designed jewelry has a subtle and personal quality to it. They employ porous stones that meld in wonderfully with Ringstrand’s uniquely earthy take on a black and white color palette. The perfect way to carry these fragrances with you and help make the world just a little more pleasant.