Jason Fried, the founder of Bergamot and The Shed, a Brooklyn storytelling salon, talks about his hybrid life as a perfumer and narrative guru.
Blending what we desire with what we need is a recipe for pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. In Dynamic Doers, a series by PSFK and iQ by Intel, we look at versatile entrepreneurs, artists, designers, and developers who are always evolving and changing much like the Intel based 2 in 1s, a line of new multifunctional devices that are a tablet when you want it and a laptop when you need it.
Jason Fried is passionate about the power of narrative. He is constantly looking for new ways to tell stories whether that is in a community setting or by curating objects that carry with them an intricate history.
Fried is the founder of monthly subscription perfume service Bergamot, that selects three unique scents per month and mails them out with a small booklet describing their origins, as well as how the scent changes from first spray to the end of the day. His is also the driving force behind The Shed: A Storytelling Salon — an open and inclusive community event taking place in Brooklyn where anyone can share their comic, tragic or banal life experiences and observations.
Whether in his professional life at Bergamot or as part of his passion project at the Shed, Fried is always discovering new ways to support both and marveling at the places where the two intersect.
Working on dual ventures is no easy task, but Fried’s innovative drive and ability to pivot between the them speaks to his dedication and dynamism as well as a growing trend that sees a blending of work and play where people are expected to be able to effortlessly switch modes at any given time. Fried believes however, that no matter what, it is important to have a project on the go that is all about fun.
In the conversation below, Fried discusses what he believes needs to change in today’s perfume business, why we need to rediscover the art of storytelling and the most important thing to keep in mind when starting a side project.
What inspired you to create Bergamot?
Scents evoke memories more than anything else. If you think about your earliest memory of a smell it brings you instantly back to that moment in time. It is the most evocative of all the senses, in conjunction with taste maybe, but it’s the hardest thing to describe. Its recall is incredible but people don’t pay enough attention to it.
What is lacking from today’s perfume market? And how is Bergamot trying to fill that void?
If you look at the genealogy of perfumes on the market today everything falls into the same 8 to 10 scents.
When most people think of perfume they think about what they smell in the department store. I think that type of experience should end. It’s what created this mass market in the first place. A typical fragrance goes through a life cycle of how it smells. What you smell like in a perfume three hours later is different than what you smelled like when you put it on. You can’t sample that in a department store.
Buying fragrance should be a really warm, awesome experience where you can find what scents you like on your time, not have to be rushed through this and forced to just buy something. The idea is that this is an experience that you can have and it actually holds some value in your life outside of a commodity.
What is the strongest misconception about perfume?
I think the whole idea that perfume equals sex. We talk about having your fragrance wardrobe or an array of scents for different occasions. I think people, when they hear “perfume,” they don’t think about, “This would be something nice to wear if I’m walking in the woods or hanging out with my kids,” or whatever it is.
It’s clear that for you, scents complement a mood or event and add another level to a story; did this belief influence your decision to start The Shed?
Actually, I had wanted to do this for so long. I love the idea of a salon. Writers and artists and filmmakers coming together and having a place to meet each other and exchange ideas was so amazing to me. It felt like it was something that didn’t exist, but should in my lifetime.
We wanted to bring people together. It’s about drinking and eating, and then the storytelling part unfolding into the night. People leave feeling like they had a special experience, that they met people, and that their lives have changed.
How do storytelling and scent overlap?
For me, it overlaps in many ways. If you go on the Bergamot site there’s a whole section that is dedicated to stories about the perfumes. Like I said, these perfumers are often telling a story with their scents. We are trying to build communities that provide people the opportunity not to be intimidated, by perfume or by storytelling.
How do you balance having two ongoing projects? Is it challenging?
Bergamot is more of a full time, everyday thing, but it still gets me totally excited and amped.
I think when I’m inspired to do something for The Shed, I do it. The Shed is one of those things that never felt like work to me. I prefer to keep it that way.
What lessons have you learned over the course of creating and developing these projects?
I think when you have an idea that you really feel passionate about you should allow it to take form. Sometimes that actually requires you to wait a significant amount of time for it to happen. It’s important to write those things down and prosecute them a little bit. Think about them and keep reading them up and keep trying to make it happen.
With the ideas I have, I’ve found it’s really hard to make things happen without a team of people. So it’s important to keep bringing it up and giving it a chance to survive. Once that seed starts to grow you really have to nurture it or it’s just going to die. I think it’s important to not always feel you have to rush into something. It is important to make it happen when the time is right.
What advice would you give people looking to turn their passion into a reality?
I think if you’re really passionate about something, especially if you’re younger, just do it. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to take risks. It’s good to see where your own boundaries are and to go past them.
In terms of a side project, regardless of what you’re doing, you should have one. I think everybody should have something that they do that they’re passionate about that they don’t get paid for. I think it will make them a lot happier.
Photographs (1) & (5) by Mackler Studios / MACKME.COM
Blending what we desire with what we need is a recipe for pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. In Dynamic Doers, a series by PSFK and iQ by Intel, we look at versatile entrepreneurs, artists, designers, and developers who are always evolving and changing much like the Intel based 2 in1s, a line of new multifunctional devices that are a tablet when you want it and a laptop when you need it.