Sunday, July 21, 2013

Christopher Brosius, CB I Hate Perfume

I was surprised to bump into Christopher Brosius last summer at Elements Showcase, given his rebel reputation inside the fragrance industry; turned out he was attending as a panelist entitled, Art & Commerce: Can They Live Together? 

Flash forward almost a year later, and Christopher agreed to meet with me, and Clayton Ilolahia, from What Men Should Smell Like, in Williamsburg. Enter his gallery and one can easily imagine a perfumer who is in constant dialogue with his collection. Christopher spoke candidly to us about the times he had consciously chose to be part of the fragrance world, and the times he has gracefully stepped away. However outspoken, Christopher is quite easy to be around, and you get the sense that he has and will always take the path less traveled. He is an award-winning perfumer who has been creating fragrances on his own terms for more than 20 years. I could easily imagine Christopher riding a chariot filled with fragrances that challenge the status quo, taking us closer to what we didn't know we wanted. He wants fragrance to reveal, not mask or coverup.

Christopher mused about some becoming anosmic not only to their perfumes, but even to their own bodies. Lucky for us, this type of anosmia, the inability for people to smell their own crappy perfumes led Christopher to create his own fragrances. Christopher told us about a fragrance that he wore for the longest time because he fell in love with the initial top notes of tomato leaf. “The first fifteen minutes were soooo good.” The first hit blinded him to the rest. A good friend came to his rescue, and told him to please stop wearing the fragrance. This friendly scent intervention along with a decision to leave the city was the beginning of an intense exploration into capturing his olfactive impressions, and perhaps that glorious fifteen minutes into a bottle.

It was during his days at Demeter where he perfected making scented close-ups, if you will, Holy Water, Snow, and Dirt just to name a few. His approach came from a pure emotional investment about scent never a gimmicky one, when it started to go in the gimmicky direction he wanted out. Emancipated, he began his line, CB I Hate Perfume in July of 2004. He has created fragrances that in one moment speak to the transformation of love, and then has turned around and asked the question, what would the antithesis of scent be, a scent that only a few could smell? He created M5 Where We Are There Is No Here (#405), a fragrance that that is barely detectable, here he found his “ghost of a flower,”  he worked sandalwood into the formula, as many are anosmic to it.

Some have compared his fragrances to realism in art, but it was clear that he loathed this idea. His formulas are impressionistic, inspired by the real world, literature, memories, ideas, and people. He spoke with great clarity about the idea of Romanticism in fragrance and how he captured this notion in a fragrance, A Room with a View (#404). There is the iconic scene in the film, A Room with A View when Julian Sans and Helena Bonham Carter's characters find themselves together in a barley field. In that moment, their love is unspoken and yet they know that their connection is undeniable. Christopher saw the film first, and then read the novel, (in French) and found that the barley field in the film was indeed a field of violets in the novel, and thus a fragrance was inspired. He worked with beta-ionone, to create a Florentine Violet. Beta-Ionone is a note that turns on and off, comes and goes, adding texture, reflection, and emotion. Christopher described that texture is where the artistry lives when building a fragrance, it elevates the core idea, helps support and create the illusion. 

Christopher doesn't believe in signature scents, a single scent that one wears day to day, year after year. Rather the nose that we smell with has evolved, and is discerning and sophisticated. Through CB I Hate Perfume one can make decisions on a day-to-day basis, experimenting with scents and our many different sides, choosing a fragrance based on how we are feeling that particular day, similar to getting dressed. Perfume can be the driver of our days and nights.

As we were leaving, there seemed to be so much in motion for CB I Hate Perfume, an updated and streamlined website, a new design for his flacons, and an opportunity that comes from not the best news, seems CB I Hate Perfume is being kicked out of their current space, but a brilliant solution is here. Art and commerce are well and alive. Thank you Christopher. 

Become a benefactor. 


  1. Valerie, this is a fantastic and detailed account of our afternoon with Christopher, who certainly challenged my approach to perfume appreciation. He is an interesting man! Reading your post I have a picture perfect memory of that day we walked around Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn. Thank you for the invitation and for being such a wonderful Brooklyn host! Please come to Australia so I can return the favour. Mi casa es su casa! Clayton

  2. Gessh what a great piece of writing. " a perfumer who is in constant dialogue with his collection " fantastic.

  3. Clayton,

    Thanks so much for saying so. It was wonderful to finally meet face to face. I wanted to show and share EVEN more during your visit! It was wonderful to walk the streets that I normally do with a kindred spirit. There is nothing like that.

    I hope to see you soon in Australia.

    Missing you. Valerie

  4. J. Vivienne,

    Thank you. One can instantly feel this connection when you walk through the door!

    Have a great day!


  5. You have certainly begun to capture the essence of CB through this piece. Clearly, the man is as unique as they come and refuses to succumb to any convention whatsoever. He is an inspiration and produces some damn fine scents. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world!


  6. Dear AJK,

    Thanks for saying so, certainly my perspective is just a thin slice of the man. I felt as if my conversation with CB could have lasted for days. He is inspiring and continues on with grace and speed.

    Do you have a favorite CB perfume?

    Happy Friday,


  7. Besides being one of the most generous and talented men that I have ever met, CB is truly ahead of the times with his creativity as a Perfumer. I applaud your article for truly getting to the heart of this wonderfully, gifted genius!
    Thank you so much for giving the rest of the world a view into the world of Christoher Brosius!

    Love, Light, and Blessings,

  8. Divaa,
    Christopher IS naturally generous, and gave us over two hours of his time. After my visit with CB, it took me a while to even begin to write this post, mostly I wanted to gather my thoughts, and make sure that the essence of the day was captured. Thank you for writing, and understanding what I was striving for.
    All my best, Valerie