Interview with Johan Bergelin

Founded by the Swedish artist and product developer Johan Bergelin, cosmetic cult brand 19-69 was a twenty-four month long creative process with artisans in Scandinavia, France and Italy, leading to the launch of 5 perfumes. Each scent is inspired by a different era, culture or setting from across the globe. The unique fragrances allow the individual to explore beauty across the borders, whilst allowing the wearers imagination run free.

“To me, perfumery is the ultimate storytelling. You tell a story that lets your imagination run free. It is a form of art but it is invisible.”

Naming journey of 19-69

I have always surrounded myself with creative people, personal friends as well as professional. What has always inspired me is how these artists very often stand up for their values. They want to make a difference. This can be made in endless ways: a mural painting, a sculpture, photos or music lyrics. You may or may not personally agree, but it takes guts to stand up for your beliefs and who you are, and I do respect that. I think this is what planted a seed in me and was the beginning of 19-69. The name of the brand 19-69 is a powerful statement. The year of 1969 represents an era of freedom, tolerance and counterculture. It is also the year I was born. The different colors on the bottles symbolize a rainbow which in 1969 stood for peace and freedom.

19-69 is a unisex brand.

I grew up strongly influenced by the fashion trends that ruled during the 80’s. Gender boundaries were pushed and included men when it came to experimenting with looks and images. Even rockstars wore makeup. To me a scent is a scent. If you like a perfume and it works well with your natural body scent, why limit yourself? 19-69 is about including, not excluding.

What about perfumery fascinates you the most

To me, perfumery is the ultimate storytelling. You tell a story that lets your imagination run free. It is a form of art but it is invisible.

How did you fall into the world of mixing your own potions

Even as a kid I was into art, creating and experimenting. I tried out different styles and trends. I redecorated my room every week, like I´d paint the floor checkered black and white inspired by a chess board, the next day I´d color my hair. I went through a punk phase and needed strong products for my different hairstyles including a mohawk. That is how I started to experiment and mix things like sugar, toothpaste or even ice cream.

Were you always passionate about perfumery. You were ingrained in the fashion, photography and music world for a long time.

Absolutely. To me it is all about creating and achieving a result but using different senses. I have worked with product development for a long time. You want the end result, but the product´s texture, the packaging and the smell are all part of the total experience. A major part of making a hair product appeal to somebody is by how it smells.

19-69 is all about fragrance´s journey. How did you create the collection.

The inspiration for the perfumes includes different iconic moments of counterculture. With each perfume comes a fragrance journey which is like a mood board.

When working on the collection, it was important that the scents were all individual and different from each other. I spent a lot of time on the narratives researching and going through each layer of the fragrance. Inspiration was taken from different eras from my own life but I was also influenced by music, films, art and books.

“The inspiration for the perfumes includes different iconic moments of counterculture. With each perfume comes a fragrance journey which is like a mood board.”

Each fragrance tells it own story: Rainbow bar originated from time spent on the seedy Sunset strip in the 80s … there is Purple Haze. Are these your experiences?

There are a lot of references from my own life. Like when I met with Keenak in Bahama Village, Key West and he invited me to his trailer. The story that takes place at Van Nuys airport (Rainbow bar) happened to a good friend of me who is very established rock manager. L´air Barbès has essences from when I lived in Paris during the mid 90s.

Which one came first?

Purple Haze. It sets the mood for 19-69 and embraces the hippie movement and counterculture, like John and Yoko’s bed-ins in Amsterdam and Montreal (1969). A sense of Woodstock. Purple Haze is about the legendary Keenak who I met in Key West. Guitar on his back, snake skin boots, skinny jeans and long hair.

When you smell a certain potion, does it take you back?

Yes it does! I love the complexity in each of our scents, and enjoy discovering the different layers which all evokes memories and senses.

First fragrance you ever wore?

The first perfume by Karl Lagerfeld named “Lagerfeld”, launched in 1978.

“I love the complexity in each of our scents, and enjoy discovering the different layers which all evokes memories and senses.”

Out of all of your potions, which one do you wear daily?

At the moment I wear Chronic daily. But it changes.

Which one do you wear least?

L´air Barbès. The reason is that my wife usually pinches it and puts it in her bathroom.

You are based in Sweden, do you travel often?

Yes, I´m in Paris, Milan and London every month. During production I personally supervise every step to make sure our standard is met. I also go to Copenhagen (Denmark) to meet with the 19-69 creative team on a regular basis.

Chronic, describe it in three words.

Leafy, vibrant and green.

Find 19-69 Perfume sold exclusively in store at PLAYA & The Salon.