Today, Geir Ness is preparing for a personal appearance at Nordstrom’s trend show, where he will discuss his line of fragrances, handbags, and skincare products. It’s his first official release of them in Canada, although they have been available in America and Europe for years. He decided to bring them here when Nordstrom’s began opening stores across the country. “I’ve worked with them before and thought it would be a good fit,” he explained.

For Ness, the star of the show will be his women’s fragrance, Lalia. Because he’s originally from Norway, he wanted to recreate the smell of home in a perfume. This quest began when he was working as as a fragrance model in department stores.

“People would come up to me and ask if Norway had its own fragrance, and I realized that we didn’t. Well, my mom always took me outdoors in Norway. I practically grew up outdoors, and I remember that it smelled so fresh and clean. I wanted to capture that in a fragrance and that’s what I did,” he smiled. “I collected different herbs and worked with a perfumer for almost four years. When I came up with the scent, I needed a name that meant something, so I copied my mom’s signature without her knowing it. Then I silk screened it on the bottle and I gave it to her for mother’s day. Laila’s my mom’s name.”

Specific memories that inspired the creation of Laila include climbing up into the Norwegian mountains, “looking down onto the nice fjords below the blue sky, and knowing that scent.” In fact, those mountains are where most of the perfume’s key elements came from. Ness travelled around the West Coast and Northern region of his home country, picking up “berries, mountain herbs, white wild flowers, and lavender”. Originally, there were 56 elements chosen for the fragrance, but it was narrowed down to 30 for the final product. That process took four years between Ness and his perfumer, but in the end, they got a perfume that “smells like Norway”.

“I wanted a fragrance that was calming, happy, clean, sexy, nothing too heavy, nothing too sweet. If you’re sensitive, most people can wear it, too. It’s hypoallergenic.” He adds that medical professionals have reported wearing the fragrance for its subtle and inoffensive smell.

The bottle for Laila is also inspired by the mountains which Ness remembers so fondly. “It’s more shaped like a mountain capped with icy frost,” he explains, holding it gingerly in his hands. “This (100mL) is $77.00 and the small (50mL) one is $57.00.”

While this fragrance is dear to his heart, Ness has several other products available. One of these is a men’s fragrance, which is comparatively more “woodsy and warm”, featuring pine, lavender, and citrus. Others include an anti-aging skincare line called Skin of Norway, deodorant, body wash, sparkling powder, lip gloss with lip plumper, a line of reversible purses, and travel kits which combine several of his creations in an easy-to-transport package. The skin cream, two fragrances, and reversible handbags are available at Nordstrom’s, and everything else can be found online or in American stores.

It’s clear that Ness has had his hands busy with his cosmetics and fragrances, but this is only the most recent of his many professional endeavours. The tale of how he got to this moment is both inspiring and fascinating.

“I started to work when I was thirteen and I bought my first condo when I was seventeen,” he smiles. “We had such a small space, with three boys in one bedroom and mom and dad in the living room. We had to share a bathroom with our neighbours downstairs. I’m very close to my parents but we had no money growing up, so I wanted to have my own space and I worked very hard. I did newspaper routes in the morning for school, and on the weekends I worked in restaurants and hotels. I had two or three different jobs on the weekends, so I saved up and bought my first condo. Then I went to the military up North in Norway for a year and a half. Then I was a tour guide in Spain, and I was a flight attendant for a short time. You name it, I’ve done it all. I think it’s good to try different things.”

He pauses for thought and then adds, “But I never thought I would be designing a fragrance. It just happened because I did it and it took off. I got into Vancouver Fashion Week and The Grammy’s, where I gave all the nominees a special bottle, so I got to go to the parties and meet all the stars. I was lucky, but you never know what’s going to happen in life. I think it’s important that you go with your heart and what you want to do. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing something wrong, but just stick with it. I was competing with some of the biggest lines in the world with all of this money behind them, but you have to just keep going.”

Ness pictured with his Mother. CREDIT: Courtesy of Beatrice Davis

Ness seems genuinely happy that he kept going, and genuinely happy to be where he is. He recounts the story of a young couple who approached him at Disneyworld with a huge smile on his face.

“This man came up to me and said, ‘I have a story to tell you, Mr. Ness. I went to the bank to pay my bills and I smelled somebody behind me who was wearing your fragrance. She smelled so good that I turned around, we exchanged phone numbers, we started to date, we got engaged, we got married, we had a little girl, and we named her after your fragrance. They had this little baby and we took pictures. It’s more than just creating a fragrance. It’s one thing to make a product and sell it, but it’s another to have people tell you stories about how it changed their lives. It makes me so happy to hear that. That’s why I try to be more engaged with customers. I try to meet people directly, myself.”

Who would’ve thought releasing a perfume would have such a huge effect on others? With the positivity of a designer like Geir Ness, it’s not terribly surprising.