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Brosius, Christopher - Perfumer and entrepreneur, Career, Sidelights

scent demeter fragrances york

Born in the United States. Education : Earned degree in visual design.

Addresses: Office —Christopher Brosius Ltd., 93 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211.

Career

Worked as a taxicab driver in New York City; creative director, Kiehl’s Pharmacy, 1988–92; founder, vice president, and creative director, Demeter Fragrances, 1992–2004; founder, CB I Hate Perfume, 2004.

Sidelights

Christopher Brosius is the founder of CB I Hate Perfume, a chic perfumery in the New York City borough of Brooklyn that offers his unique range of single-note and custom fragrances. Previously, he was the co-founder of Demeter Fragrances, a company that gained a cult following for the uncommon scents he created for it, such as Snow, Dirt, and Gin and Tonic. His new venture’s custom line is what brings Brosius the greatest satisfaction. “I love listening to people to find out what smells they truly love and why,” he enthused in an essay that appeared on the CB I Hate Perfume website. “I love to see people light up when they smell a scent they love so much and realize that they can have it whenever they want.”

Brosius studied visual design in college, but spent a few years driving a taxicab in New York City. “This was when I first realized that I hate perfume,” he wrote in his website’s essay. “Certain women would get into the back of the cab and 12 hours later when I finished my shift the car still stank of whatever horrible scent they were wearing.” Brosius eventually wound up at Kiehl’s Pharmacy in New York’s East Village in the late 1980s as creative director. Kiehl’s had a devoted clientele among style-conscious New Yorkers for its personal-care products at the time. There, he learned the art of blending essential oils to create a unique fragrance, and by his own admission the first custom scent he ever created was for model Cindy Crawford, a Kiehl’s fan.

In 1992, Brosius left New York City for Dornsife, Pennsylvania, to establish Demeter Fragrances there with a business partner, Christopher Gable. The company took its name from the Greek goddess of agriculture, and its first scents reflected their interest in the earth’s natural essences. Their Demeter Fresh Cologne Water, made from frankincense and geranium oils, among other elements, quickly accrued a loyal following once posh retailer Henri Bendel began selling it. Brosius experimented with other unusual combinations as the company’s creative director, and in his quest to replicate the scent of the tomato leaf—one of the first smells he could remember from his childhood—he received a shipment of the extract for that plus some other unlikely oils from his European suppliers. He began wearing each of them on himself to test them out, and came to realize that the single-note scents smelled just as terrific as the blends. That led to the launch of eight single-note fragrances in 1996, including Dirt, which became Demeter’s best-selling product.

Brosius realized that he possessed a rare “nose,” or a talent for quickly identifying certain notes, that is commonplace among the world’s master perfumers. Over the next few years, the company thrived, with Gable serving as head of marketing and Brosius spending his time concocting new fragrances such as Turpentine, Dandelion, Holy Water, Lobster, Condensed Milk, Humidor, Crust of Bread, and Laundromat after the pair returned to the New York City area. They opened a Demeter store in the East Village in September of 1999, and the company’s products, which grew to include 140 scents, were available there as well as a line of clothing, Demeter Deluxe, that Brosius had designed. Fragrances remained their mainstay, however, and Demeter even won two Fragrance Foundation awards, one for Snow in 2000 and another for Sugar Cane a year later. Snow took some time for Brosius to perfect, and others proved equally difficult. “There’s been a whole bunch of bizarre materials where I will smell one thing that has absolutely nothing to do with the thing that I really want to achieve, but there’s some aspect of it,” he explained to Chicago Tribune writer Julie Hudson. “There is an element of rye bread perhaps in Puppy Feet. That’s a scent we are working on.”

Brosius left Demeter in July of 2004 to launch his own solo enterprise as a custom perfumer. He set up a workspace in what had been a garage in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and had not planned on running a retail store. When he occasionally became overwhelmed by the aromatic fumes from his work, he would open the large garage door to let some fresh air in, and “all of these people would walk by and say, ‘Is this a perfume store?’” he told Crain’s New York Business writer Mary Sisson. He began to reconsider his business plan, and decided to put up a sign, calling his venture CB I Hate Perfume. He named it by using his initials as well as the title of a manifesto he had written several years earlier and then rediscovered in a box in his family’s home. Written long ago in the era when he refused to wear cologne or perfume himself because he could not find one that worked for him, the manifesto lays out his philosophy in frank terms, asserting that “perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape.”

Brosius’s line uses an oil base, not the more commonplace alcohol base. He believes that alcohol warps the scent, and also allows it to evaporate on the skin too quickly. His store offers a typically cheeky array of scents, such as Basil, Doll Head, and Coppertone 1967, but customers can also make an appointment for a custom blend, which can cost up to $3,000. “I prefer to work on a small scale,” he asserted in an interview that appeared on Now Smell This: A Blog About Perfume. “[T]his keeps me in close contact with all the people who use my scents—I want to know how they use them, why they use them and what they really want to smell!”

In early 2005, Brosius scored a minor publicity coup with the launch of his first celebrity scent, Cumming, which was created with Broadway star and film actor Alan Cumming and features notes of bergamot, Douglas fir, and cigar smoke. On the CB I Hate Perfume website, Brosius credits his Aunt Corrine as a lifelong inspiration. “She was an Avon Lady when I was a child,” he wrote. “We always knew by her perfume when she arrived or’d been there and that was exciting. It was she who really made clear to me the powerful connection between Scent and the Memory of Kindness.”

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