Andrea Maack is an Icelandic visual artist that launched her first perfume as an art piece. Soon after that show the art developed into the perfume brand ANDREA MAACK, that has become an international success, with alluring witchy scents like CRAFT and COVEN and nature inspired BIRCH. We wanted to have Andrea as RVK RITUAL first interview as she brings together ritual, beauty and fashion in an effortless way. We met her at the only perfume house in Iceland, Madison Ilmhús, to talk about her journey.
A OR B TYPE: I am a total morning person – I read once that is in our genes, something how we developed like this.
MORNING RITUAL: As I work so much alone from a studio I like starting the day by going to the gym. These days it’s doing crazy cardio for 30 minutes. I have gone through it all; yoga, running outside and more but I need to find ways to talk to people so I don’t isolate too much.
FORREST OR DESERT: Forrest
STRUCTURE OR CHAOS: Structure
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HOW DID YOUR BRAND START?
I am a fashion kid originally. I moved to London when I was twenty years old and started working in fashion. There, I was exposed to another level of beauty and fashion than I had seen in my first two decades Iceland. When I got back home, I decided to study fine art, which was a surprise even to myself as I was always going to study fashion but changed my mind at the last minute. I was obsessed with beauty and fashion but thought that fine art could be more open and give me a wider perspective. When I began my art studies, I felt I had to leave the fashion part of me and focus fully on art. However a few years later it started to slip back in, I had shows lined up and was working on a series of line-drawings and started wondering how I could bring the world of fashion and beauty somehow into my shows. I started with clothing and made sculptures in the form of haute-couture dresses and wanted to incorporate scent somehow which became the first idea creating something with scent.
Perfume has been used before in art but I felt I would bring something more modern to the table. I dived deep into research for a series of shows I was working on and found a „nose“ in Grasse, a person educated in perfume, and felt I could get something more interesting by working with a specialist and this nose was willing to work with me on this very abstract idea of developing scent based on a drawing. All communications were by post and finally this collection of fragrances became the center point of these exhibitions. For the fourth show in this series I made a perfume shop as an installation in a design concept store downtown Reykjavík. I packaged the scents from the art shows and worked on the concept of creating a brand. I had been a working artist for a couple of years and was excited about the possibility of this developing into a luxury brand with an artistic background. This was all before social media, but I still got international press and excitement when I opened the show, and after that got contacted from all over the world by perfume and design stores that wanted to carry the brand. And the rest is history. I love that I am working with emotions, and that is the wonder of my job, and this I never get tired of.
HOW IS THE COMPANY BUILT UP?
It’s been such an education starting my own beauty company, and I have gone full circle. I do not have a business background but as most entrepreneurs say the only way to learn is just to do without thinking it through really!
Now I have experience in all sides of the business and developed a business model that I like, where I control the company and work on a wholesale basis only and focus on e-commerce, where the future of retail is right now. This is a modern business arrangement where I have the freedom to work with people freelance on different projects within the business.
You have to have such a passion to be in this business, and delay the gratification, slow and steady growth selling in more exclusive boutiques is where I want to be and that has proven to be successful. My name is on the bottle, I don’t want to do this if I am not happy with the look, product and the brand. I want it to have soul and that I believe in it a 100%. We are now in over 20 countries, mostly in high end perfumeries and carefully selected concept and department stores.
Here in Iceland I am selling only in Madison Perfumery where the staff is very knowledgable that makes the shopping experience much better for everyone involved. Retail is changing and we are preparing for that. For example when I was working on the new perfume bottle, I thought a lot about shipping and I am developing this sample system so people can get it sent to them and then people can shop perfume online and really take time to test the whole collection.
The beauty business is the stepsister of fashion, so I always look at what’s happening there and how the business is developing. When I first got into this niece world of perfumery, I couldn´t believe how old fashion it still was, no one really believed it could be sold online. We are lucky that influencers buy the perfumes and post about the brand, so we get a lot of creative content from our customers.My main thing is that I want the experience to intrigue and be smooth from beginning to end, not just the scents themselves, but the whole look, the bottle where everything is custom made.
HOW IS YOUR WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
My husband has been involved from the start so the company really is my whole life. He has an engineers brain and has helped in many ways. We mostly travel for business meetings with the shops and I get to meet amazing people from all over the world that show us around. I am the type for this boundary-less life where the lines between work and life are blurred, but not everybody likes that and I understand that well. Social media sometimes fools you to think that there was no journey to this goal but that is so far from the truth. Nothing is an instant success, everything is hard work. But of course, I need to stop sometimes so I won´t lose my mind. Sometimes you stop seeing how you can make things better because you are so close to it, then it is good to take time off.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AESTHETICS?
I just have my style, that I have always had. I am very open to influences, but I like starting with a blank page and seeing what happens. Of course I am under Nordic Scandinavian influences with a darker side and I really like being a woman that makes perfumes for men and women.
NEXT STEPS WITH ANDREA MAACK?
I´m launching a new scent in March titled CORNUCOPIA. Very excited about it, it´s based on the horn of plenty and is a luscious spring fragrance with super gourmand notes, even some that have never been used in perfume before. I also just came back from Milan where I launched a sunglasses collaboration with Italian brand SOYA, that is inspired by the look of the bottle, so I never know where the next project might be coming from.
HOW DO YOU RELAX: I could do more of that. I love reading, I am hyperactive. I like going out to the countryside and hanging in a sauna somewhere. I also just want to build a house outside of the city, with a sauna and hot tub and watch the northern lights in the winter. And have a studio there as well. We have a family cabin that is so old school, we just go there make a fire and listen to the rain. Then I make a lite home spa and put on a face-mask.
PRODUCTS YOU CANT LIVE WITHOUT: The By terry Cleanser and the cream from Skin Food. I am a beauty product obsessed. With age the beauty product obsession becomes even more intense.
FAVOURITE SPOT IN REYKJAVIK: The Indian restaurant Austur India félagið has been my favourite since I was 20.
FAVOURITE STORE IN RVK: Madison ilmhús, Húrra is a nice store aswell.
HEALTH: I try to eat healthy, I drink a juice with kale and avocado. I just look it as medicine, I don’t like it really. Like the gym, there is now excuse for mental and physical health. I eat healthy because it works and I drink a lot of water and believe in it for the skin.
FAVOURITE PLACE IN NATURE: Altavatn & Snæfellsnes.
WHEN ARE YOU CREATIVELY FULFILLED: Never. It’s a curse. But it’s my drive at the same time. Creatively am I always working on new perfumes. I want to bring some art into the next perfume and find balance between nature and the art world.
TIPS FOR OTHER ENTREPRENEURS: I think it’s just a journey, and such a school. I understand that people quit or that think twice before starting a company. You can’t really prepare for it, I have a mission, like on a hike, I can’t doubt myself and just keep moving. I really believe in this brand and myself. And thick skin, you can’t take anything personally. You have to keep on trying and make it happen, be a little bit crazy. Nobody is coming to you, you have to be brave and go get what you want.