a journey of the senses by FLACONNEUR
Christopher Brosius is the owner and perfumer of the niche brand CB I Hate Perfume. He is not your typical perfumer. He’s not interested in creating perfumes for the masses. Frankly, he finds people who smell just like everyone else a bit disgusting. He isn’t interested in indoctrinating anyone to his olfactory beliefs. What Brosius finds interest in is the scents of life and experiences, sometimes both, and presenting these to us in the shape of perfume. As a child, he aspired to be an artist or a scientist. Interestingly enough, today Brosius is a little bit of both.
Brosius spent his childhood in a small town in the country where many of his scent memories were established. These scents were regional, natural and nothing anyone would experience living in an urban environment. Brosius also spent a great deal of time making things, specifically with Lego blocks and cardboard. He dreamt that one day, his creations could be sold in a shop of his own. During his teen years, Brosius found chemistry the least favorite of his studies, but appreciated the values of precision in weighing, measuring and exact notation — crucial knowledge for later in his career.
Brosius the artist was instructed in painting via private lessons. His love of painting and the prospect of becoming an artist worked, in theory, but the idea of living in the world of the starving artist certainly didn’t appeal to him. Brosius decided to choose a path in the study of architecture instead. His studies were conducted while still in high school, and attended a program at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating high school, he attended Columbia University instead. During his time at Columbia, he was involved in set and costume design, and, even with his natural love of building things, he decided this area just wasn’t of interest to him. Upon reflection, Brosius admits that sometimes he regrets not pursuing theater design because he enjoyed it and he was rather good at it.
Brosius classifies his defining decade as the 1980’s in New York, where music, style, fashion, films, clubs, magazines and people, in his own words “all seemed so new.” Creative types do their best to avoid being a starving artist by working many odd jobs. During this period, Brosius found his experience driving a taxi was one of the more unusual. Little did he know that this strange choice of profession would ultimately become the basis for his own perfume house. His cabbie days brought him to the realization of how much he hated perfume. Women riders would get into his taxi wearing their questionable choices, making him sick. Even hours afterwards, the caustic scents would leave his eyes watering and stomach churning.
In 1987 came yet another career move, this time to the world of fashion. Brosius enjoyed drawing and had an interest in couture, so he started classes at Parsons School for Design. In order to pay for his new adventure, Brosius took a job with Barneys New York in their cosmetics department. His experience there was not a positive one. “Everything you’ve heard about that store is absolutely true. Still, as ridiculous as it was, I’m glad to have been there because it ultimately led to my job at Kiehl’s.” Shortly after he started at Parsons, Brosius realized that his choice to attend the school wasn’t in his best interests, since it was clothes he was interested in not fashion.
Brosius worked for Kiehl’s from 1988 to 1992 and appreciated his experience there under the direction of Jami Morse, who had just taken over from her father. Kiehl’s began their business on Third Avenue and 13th Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1851. The company had a long history in the industry and was well-respected. Brosius learned a great deal from Morse regarding the workings of a business. Kiehl’s is where Brosius began his endeavors in perfume making. Part of his responsibilities there was to portion out scents that the customers ordered. This allowed Brosius to get familiar with them, setting apart his favorites. He would then create blends for himself as well as for Kiehl’s special clients.
Brosius left New York in 1992 to escape the noise, crowds and the sheer lack of nature and green. He went to his family’s farm in Pennsylvania to work out his next move. It was here that Brosius went back to his love of making things. No, this process didn’t involve Legos or cardboard but it did involve scents. At the suggestion of a friend, Brosius read Diane Ackerman’s “A Natural History of the Senses.” He found the first chapter of the book, ‘Sense of Smell,’ so interesting that he considered making scents. Brosius wasted no time in setting up his company, designing the packaging and then creating his first scent.
Brosius’s first scent was created for himself and composed entirely of natural essential oils. He found much interest, and positive responses from other people when wearing this creation. This scent was eventually sold at Henri Bendel in the spring of 1994 with new scents to follow. The growth of Brosius’s new brainchild was rapid, moving from his kitchen table, to a workshop in the barn on the Pennsylvania farm, to a small factory in a nearby town. His innate love of the farm, and in particular, the smell of fresh clean earth, translated into his first real success as a perfumer. Brosius loved this scent so much that he decided to bottle it and called it simply, Dirt.
The next years found Brosius developing unusual scents, some just as intriguing as Dirt. The precedent was set by Brosius for a line of scent experiences, not just simply what the world knows as perfume. His creations were experience-based, and nothing showed this more than his venture in what Brosius considers his greatest achievement, a scent creation named Snow. Brosius spent many years on the scent with it completion in 1999. In the spring of 2000, Brosius was awarded two Fragrance Foundation awards for his hard efforts. In 2003, 70 of his scents were included in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial exhibition. This was a historical turning point for the fragrance industry and the first time a major art museum recognized scent as “designed.”
With a bright beginning of many great successes, Brosius’s relationship with the company he created were in his own words “deeply and extremely painful.” He doesn’t find the discussion of the details important, but in 2004 he severed connection with the company he started 12 years earlier. There was a great deal of valuable experience gained and Brosius simply moved on to the thing that was most important to him, making perfume.
In the spring of 2003, Brosius moved his studio from the East Village to the creative neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The following year, in July 2004, he opened CB I Hate Perfume Gallery to the public. This concept was based on an idea originally conceived during the Cooper Hewitt Triennial where he decided the exploration of perfume as art was of interest. Brosius’s collection has been expanded to include many more natural materials with his undertaking “to capture every possible pleasant scent.” Brosius continues to create scents that replicate life experiences and tell those stories. He also has taken on the task of bespoke fragrance. Whether you have a love for the smell of old suitcases or a nice roast beef, Brosius will do his best to recreate it for you. He finds inspiration in nature as well as inanimate objects, using these experiences for his next perfume creation. Even though Brosius has achieved a great deal, he finds happiness in this period of his career with much more to accomplish.
A few endeavors in 2006 found Brosius in the limelight. First, a piece called “Everything Here is False” for a group show on the Lower East Side. Next, his first solo exhibition at the University Science Center’s Esther Klein Gallery in Philadelphia. This show was sponsored by the Monell Chemical Senses Center, an institute that Brosius has admired for a long time. Lastly, an exhibition called “Scent is Life,” an olfactory exploration with autobiographical connections between scent and memory. The exhibition had great success with requests to take it on tour.
Take a look at the driving force behind Christopher Brosius’s art with his own personal manifesto:
I hate perfume.
Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape
A lazy and inelegant concession to fashionable ego
Too often a substitute for true allure and style
An opaque shell concealing everything – revealing nothing
A childish masque hiding the timid and unimaginative
An arrogant slap in the face from across the room
People who smell like everyone else disgust me
Perfume is a veil that reveals the soul
Perfume is the fanfare of our individuality sounding differently to everyone who listens
Perfume is a signpost to our true selves – a different journey for the brave to travel
Perfume is the weather of our inner world bringing left to a personal landscape
Perfume is an art that shows us who we can be if we dare – an invisible portrait of who we are
Perfume is discovered fully only by our lovers when we are together – naked
I encourage you to be yourself, expand yourself and please yourself
Allow yourself the luxury of your own vision
Perfume is a adventure
I encourage you to explore
I love making perfume
I love being a perfumer
originally written 1992
copy-written & revised 2004
Brosius continues to thrill us with his original scents and accords. He believes that everything that we think and everything we feel is generated from our ancient ability to smell, and this ability being a function of survival. The sense of smell allows us to recognize aspects of life that are safe, as well as dangerous.
Now that Brosius is the artist he longed to be, he has used his own memories to bring some of his experiences to life. A very popular perfume he created is called In The Library. It’s a scent revolving around the warm blend of English novel, Russian and Moroccan worn-leather-bound books with the hint of wood polish. Why would anyone want to smell like this? Brosius tries to convince us that we need to just get over the objects themselves and focus purely on the smells.
We are taken back to the sights, sounds and smells of the North Atlantic. There’s wet sand, seashells, driftwood and yes, Coppertone suntan lotion. Any sunbather from the era is familiar with the scent of Coppertone products. This perfume is simply called At The Beach 1966, and is another amazing scent memory from Brosius’s childhood.
I own only one CB I Hate Perfume fragrance at this time. Surely not because the rest of the perfumes in his collections are not interesting, I’m just taking my time with this brand. My own favorite is a scent experience, this time, from MY childhood. That memory is permanently etched in my mind, and was pleased that Brosius worked his magic with a direct translation without the bespoke price point. For my complete thoughts, please check out my review for Burning Leaves.
The ingredients in Brosius’s perfumes consist of two categories, absolutes (made with diisopropyl adipate, an extract from beet juice) and water perfumes or home sprays (made with distilled water). Brosius does not use alcohol for a few very logical reasons. He doesn’t consider it appropriate for the skin or hair and it is highly flammable. He uses an oil and water combination which skin naturally needs to hold fragrances the longest. Brosius also does not like the initial blast you get from alcohol-based perfumes. Without the alcohol, you can enjoy his creations immediately after without all the waving and blowing.
In 2013, a collection called Rare Flowers was introduced where Brosius lays all blame for their amazing scent on mother nature herself. The collection is done in soliflore style and includes: Tuberose, Neroli, Narcissus, Jonquil, Jasmine, Sambac and Champaca. These fair beauties are among the rarest and most expensive materials in a perfumer’s palette. All perfumes are available in perfume absolute and water perfume. Because of the limited availability of materials like these, they are not usually present in mainstream perfumery.
One year ago this month, Brosius moved his business to a new location at 318 Maujer Street, third floor, Brooklyn, New York, where he has twice the amount of space as he had in his previous building. He occupied the gallery on Wythe Street in Williamsburg for almost ten years. The additional space has allowed Brosius to work on projects long overdue. Brosius will provide his customers with a very personal shopping experience Tuesday through Thursday by appointment only. The gallery will be open, no appointment necessary on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 to 6 p.m. Brosius has also resumed his bespoke services as part of the move. For around $10,000, you will have the opportunity to work with Brosius in the creation of an original personalized perfume.
Within this last year, Brosius has brought a few new perfumes to his line with the introduction of Do Not Ask Me Why. This heady, hypnotic smell of opium smoke, has sheer floral notes wafting over a dry, spicy smoke. There are a few releases from fall of 2014 like: Wet Pavement London, Chocolate Box and Firewood.
Christopher Brosius has continued to be a breath of fresh air in today’s smell-alike society. His approach and referential content is interesting yet unconventional. His perfumes exhibit the ability to be socially bonding, like in the case of At The Beach 1966 or Burning Leaves. Brosius takes two life experiences and tells their story successfully through perfumes. He creates a sense of community, from which these life experiences can be related. Brosius’s childhood experiments with cardboard have truly paid off for him. CB I Hate Perfume’s packaging is beautifully designed, fresh with timeless details. His attention to the contents of his perfumes is especially noteworthy and appreciated by his customers.
Brosius’s journey from Legos and cardboard to niche house perfumer has been a true success story. It’s inspiring that he has managed to maintain the pure fundamental idea for his perfumes. Brosius has taught us that the sense of smell is very different from our other four senses, giving us the ability to capture life experiences and replay them through our interaction with perfume.
CB I Hate Perfume products are available in retails store in 23 states within the United States and in 9 countries internationally. Please visit CB I Hate Perfume for a complete list of locations.