Lilja Birgisson on Fischersund, Icelandic perfumes by Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós.
Tucked into Fischersund alley in Iceland's old town Reykjavik is a mysterious metal-and-brick building housing a sensorial wonderland — auditory, visual and olfactory. Named after its address, Fischersund is the artistic coming together of the Birgisson family, most famous for the music of Jónsi Birgisson, the enigmatic singer of the soaring post-rock band Sigur Rós.
For nine years, Jónsi studied the art of perfumery on his own, even bringing fragrance materials on tour with the band. His resulting perfumes explore the natural elements of Iceland, using local botanicals and essential oils distilled by aromatherapist and forester Hraundís Gudmondsdóttir. It was in the hands of the three Birgisson sisters, Lilja, Inga and Sigurrós that Jónsi's scent obsession became an experiential boutique and an exquisitely executed fragrance brand.
Each member of the family has a role — including the Birgisson's father and uncle who built the shop — and the brand incorporates visual art, live scent experiences, music, perfume and home fragrances. The fragrances themselves are 100% natural, unisex, original and memorable.
Compelled by the cross-sensory approach of Fischersund, we reached out to artist, photographer and brand creative ambassador, Lilja Birgisson (Inga handles art direction and Sigurrós is the resident artisan and production manager). Lilja shared more about why the family came together to build the business and how important an artistic approach is to them all...
Q. Fischersund being a family-run perfumery, how did the idea to start this business come about?
A. We have always been really tight as a family and everybody is involved in each other’s business. We wanted to combine our different creative skill sets for example perfumery, photography, music and art, and make a platform for all our ideas. Every time we sat down with a glass of red wine it always ended up in us planning on how we could make a living out of creating art together.
Q. Why did you choose to work with Hrandís Gudmundsdóttir and what can you tell us about her particular specialization as an Icelandic essential oil producer?
A. Hraundís is the only trained distiller in Iceland and a pioneer in her work. She is an educated Aromatherapist and forester and is very talented in her work. All of our scents revolve around her oils. They are the heart of the perfume for they have something so unique and magnetic about them.
What makes these oils so unique is the fact that everything she distilled grows wild in Iceland and is watered by the clean water of Icelandic nature. It’s been said that she sent her oils to evaluators in Grass, France — the go-to location for global ingredient sourcing — for examination and was told her oils were the cleanest oils they had ever seen. She is also really experimental and always up for trying to distill something truly unique.
Q. What are your favorite Icelandic perfumery materials? And please tell us a bit about what makes them special from an olfactory perspective...
A. We are very much in love with Icelandic Sitka spruce, Subalpine fir, and Siberian fir and use them in so many things. They have beautiful high notes that welcome you right away and after resting for a while on your skin, you start feeling the soft middle notes that feel like a warm hug. The scent world of Iceland is very special and maybe a bit different from a lot of places in the world. We want to embrace that.
Q. You work with materials derived from wild harvested plants — do you have a sustainable practice and what does that entail?
A. Hraundís' production takes place in the Southwest of Iceland and all the plants are hand-picked in areas that have organic certification from Tún and distilled in the pure Icelandic water. All raw materials used in the products are organically certified and environmentally friendly. Our goal is to be as environmentally friendly as we can. Helping to forage some of these ingredients is truly a special experience.
Q. We love your visual aesthetic, from the packaging to the product photography to the shop in Reykjavik, and would love to hear more about it.
A. Our background is fine art, so we approach each visual element not just as something for the eye but complete with a concept and a story. It was so interesting when we started working together; combining and building upon all of our different skill sets, so we could go deeper with our storytelling.
Q. For Jónsi, whose music we love, is the creation of music and fragrance part of a unified creative vision?
A. Yes. We really want to create an all-around experience for our clients. All the senses are equally important to us and when we are making a new scent for example we also make new music and visual art simultaneously so all these elements come together to tell the stories we want to portray. Fischersund is the intersection of art and the senses.
“You create something like music and it’s invisible, but still it moves you in some way. It’s the same with scents: you smell something and it moves you...” Jónsi Birgisson, Flood Magazine
Q. Your aesthetic manifesto is "to allow the senses to synthesize and harmonize." Can you explain this further?
A. When you visit our store, we want you to feel like you can't single out one element in the Fischersund world, everything is a part of a whole. You start smelling the Fischersund scent before you even enter the store and as you step in you are greeted by ambient music before you start seeing or touching anything.
We feel that by combining all the senses it creates a deeper experience for our guests and we are the happiest when they leave feeling inspired. We hope you and your clients will come visit the store in downtown Reykjavik. It would be our pleasure to welcome you. [Yes, please!]
Q. Anything new on the horizon for Fischersund that you'd like to tell our community about?
A. Yes, a new scent coming this fall. More to come….