Capturing Norway's 'essence' in a bottle


POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2009

The idea of vying for consumer attention, when every major brand with a multimillion-dollar budget is trying to do the same thing can be daunting for an entrepreneur, but with a little imagination and chutzpah, Geir Ness is showing that a little guy can still challenge the big guys on their turf.




Day of Beauty

        Place: Nordstrom Ala Moana

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 21


Admission: Free




He chose a particularly challenging field, that of perfumery. Many scents are introduced annually, and most languish against the giants of the industry.

But Ness, calling from Orlando, Fla., where he was introducing his fragrances at Epcot Center, said, “;I started with nothing, so I had nothing to lose.

“;When I started I had no name and no advertising money, but finally Nordstrom's LA store agreed to take 100 bottles to test how much would sell over three months.”;

What Ness did have at his disposal was a $5 secondhand suit and piece of red carpet that he bought at a garage sale, plus head shots from his work “;in B or C movies.”; He set out his carpet in front of Nordstrom, posted his photograph and got a friend to agree to come out and take photos of him on the spot. Pretty soon, people were lining up to see the “;celebrity,”; and the hundred bottles sold in an hour.

Since then, Laila has become an international hit, started simply with the idea of creating a perfume in honor of and named for his mother.

Ness, who had grown up in Norway, moved away from home at 18, but he was close to his mom, and he said whenever he thought of her, he remembered holidays in the mountains west of Oslo, lush with wildflowers and the scent of lily of the valley and lavender, which now provide the essence of Laila, a gift to his mom on Mother's Day 2000.

He'll be introducing Laila, which he dubs “;the essence of Norway,”; at Nordstrom Ala Moana during its Day of Beauty cosmetics trend event March 21.

The event is a showcase for the newest in spring makeup, skin care and fragrance, with the opportunity to also meet Hank Hoffman, National Artistry Trainer for Smashbox Cosmetics; Sandra Obagi, daughter of ZO Skin Health founder Dr. Zein Obagi; and Ron Robinson, owner and creator of Apothia Fragrances.

Growing up skiing amidst Norway's natural beauty left Ness with an interest in health and fitness, which he pursued in a career that led from Spain to the United States.

He started thinking about creating Laila in 1995, but there was a steep learning curve involved in creating the fragrance he wanted. His aim was to create a scent as fresh and crisp as Norway's mountain air.

“;I was never into perfumes because of the experience of getting onto elevators with people wearing fragrances that are too strong. It's to the point where if you're sitting with someone wearing perfume, you couldn't enjoy the person.”;

It took him five years to find the right blend of herbs and oils to create Laila.

“;You can say, 'I love this flower,' but in the bottle it's not what you think it is; it might be too sweet or too soapy. I didn't want a soapy scent. I wanted to give it more romance.”;

And one of the key scents was unexpected, a touch of watermelon for the clean freshness he was looking for.

Laila is also the scent of Ness' bath and body products, and if any men happen to be at the event, Geir will also be introducing his spicy men's fragrance, Geir.

“;I couldn't think of a better name.”;