NOTES ON MY JOURNAL
I use this journal to jot down thoughts on what I'm working on, what I'm doing and occasionally what I'm thinking. Sometimes I'll write about interesting aspects of perfume or the sense of smell. Now and then, I'll add a photo I've taken or a quotation from my collection that catches my attention.
Once I've made an entry though, I rarely have time to go back and look at it again. So if you have comments, please email me. Since I am busy, it might take some time to reply, but at least I'll see what you've got to say.
Well, something entirely unprecedented is about to happen here. We will very shortly be sold out of most of our perfumes. This is not something I have ever been before and certainly never expected to be.
In other years, we make it through the end of the year with at least enough perfume on the shelves and at least a few hundred bottles in reserve to last through January. But not this year. We made plenty of perfume back in August and September which would normally last us through the season. But now most of that is gone and we've run out of the new absolute bottles completely and have slightly less than 200 water perfume bottles left. Those may last through the weekend but we're not at all sure. The next bottle shipments are not due from Italy until mid January. We do have a bit of perfume left but not much and it's going quickly. So when those perfumes are sold out, we won't have more until late Januray or early February of next year.
So if you're planning a special trip to visit the gallery, please PLEASE PLEASE ring ahead to make certain we have or can make the perfume that you want.
And note that we do have the 2 ML Travel/Trial Absolutes and all of the HOME and WARDROBE sprays. We can also make to order the ready-to-wear perfumes in the old bottle with the black cap if you like and there will be a $10 discount to reflect the lack of the glass stoppered bottle.
We will also be holding the release of 7 Billion Hearts - my new smoky vanilla perfume - until February as we currently have nothing to put it in.
I really am very sorry about all this. It is lovely to be so popular and I appreciate that more than I can say, but I very much hate to disappoint people.
And in the meantime, Very Best Wishes for the New Year.
By Christopher Brosius
on December 13 | Permalink
The time has come for a change. It has been on my mind for some time to change the way my perfumes look. This is more easily imagined than done. Last year we spent a great deal of time looking around at what was possible. Then I spent a lot of time working that into what was desirable. I find the challenge for a small house is always to make something very special out of very little. Fortunately I have a talent for that...
Since the beginning of this year, we have all been working very hard to accomplish the change and finally everything is ready. The New Look is here.
I've kept to my original inspiration taken from art/science materials but much has been reinvented and improved. The labels are now matte silver lettering on a white background which is now Waterproof, Smudge-proof and UV resistant. They won't run or discolor if a little perfume is spilled on them by accident. Just wipe em down. I've have very cool "rubber" boxes made that still remind me of the drafting tubes from my architecture days but a very sharp.
The most exciting change for me is that finally at long last, we've found suitable bottles with proper ground-glass stoppers to contain the perfume absolutes. I find this kind of stopper to be teh most elegant and also the best for maintaining the quality and longevity of any perfume. They are however very difficult to find in the modern world - not to mention expensive. But we've managed to track down those that fit the look of my collection and meet the quality requirements i insist upon.
Overall the New Look for I HATE PERFUME is much sharper and more elegant than the original version. It's also much more "me" I suppose as well. I can't say how pleased I am with it or how happy I am when I see it on the shelves in my gallery or on the table in my studio. I think all that hard work was very well worth it.
Now on to renovating and overhauling the website. Changes Coming Very Soon...
By Christopher Brosius
on April 21 | Permalink
I've been asked to do many "celebrity" fragrances in my time. To date, I've turned them all down. What did any of these people really have to add to the already hyper-crowded world of perfume? To my mind, virtually nothing. Then I met Alan.
My first encounter with him was in June 2000. In fact, he presented me with the first of my four Fragrance Foundation Awards. Apparently he was intrigued with my work as he began visiting my former East Village shop whenever he had the time. Over the years we became friends and I realized that Alan has extraordinary talent and style. And he is very kind, funny, generous to a fault, perfectly unique and totally fearless. These are all qualities I very much admire. So when I was asked to create a scent for him, I instantly agreed. This time, it all made sense. I knew we could have a good deal of fun with this project and so we did.
Our first go round with Cumming the Fragrance was good. People loved it but there were many problems - it wound up being mass-produced which none of us were terribly pleased with and we got a little carried away with some additional products. And the scent was sold by others which became very complicated indeed. Also at the time, Alan was (and still is) EXTREMELY busy and I was just beginning my new company so unfortunately neither of us had the time to give the project as it really deserved.
Fortunately much has changed since then. I'm still growing at a wonderful rate but I'm now firmly established. Systems are in place and the Ducks are in their proper rows. So when Russel was doing inventory a while back and found an enormous tin of the original fragrance compound in the storeroom, I realized the time was right to redo the fragrance but this time, just as Alan and I intended. We both have a knack for reinvention - hence the name 2nd Cumming. Same wonderful scent - brand new better format.
And unlike any other "celebrity" fragrance I can think of, Alan and I decided to give ALL profits from the project to various charities. We both know how lucky we are to be able to do this. And since the "global economic crisis" (which I am NOT going to rant about any longer) there are more organizations than ever that do critically necessary work but are lacking the necessary funds to carry on. My personal pet project at the moment is funding the Smoke Free Project that I attended last year. This group was instrumental in helping me in my battle to quit and I found out a while back it was in danger of being shut down due to state budget cuts and general lack of funds. I decided this was NOT going to happen.
So naturally I am encouraging everyone to buy, buy, buy! Not my usual way of going about things but in this case, I have no qualms about pushy salesmanship.
By Christopher Brosius
on December 11 | Permalink
I'm delighted to say that Cradle of Light (the 12th perfume in my Archetype Series) is back. I've just reactivated it on the website.
I'm very pleased and, if I say so myself, quite proud of Cradle of Light. It is in the original sense of the word a masterpiece. Although it is a contemporary perfume, its composition is remarkably traditional and very French. I also make it in a very traditional way almost entirely of natural materials that would not have been unfamiliar to an 18th century French perfumer. Indeed I'm always pleased when French people smell it here in the gallery. They get it.
Cradle of Light is extremely complex and rather difficult to make. Many of the absolutes it contains require quite a bit of work before they can be used in the perfume. And many of its ingredients are actually perfumes within the perfume, blended and aged before they can be added to the final compound. All this requires a great deal of skill and time.
Furthermore, many of the Absolutes I use in this scent are extremely rare and can be very hard to get. That's what lead to Cradle of Light being unavailable on the website for such a long time - no available Jonquil.
Certain absolutes become rarer and rarer with each passing year - Jonquil and Narcissus among them and these are key ingredients in Cradle of Light. And naturally their price leaps accordingly. At the moment, the Jonquil and Narcissus I use are neck and neck at around $18000 a kilo. I understand this cost though. These are very difficult flowers to extract and it requires an astronomical number of them to arrive at a kilo of absolute. Of course synthetic versions of Jonquil, Narcissus and Jasmine are almost instantly available and a fraction of the price. But these synthetics - however good they might be - are not at all the same.
The real is always so much richer, subtler and infinitely complex. The real is ever-changing and always reflects the one who wears it. The real is magical and the synthetic is dreary in comparison. This is why, despite their enormous cost and shaky availability, I will always choose the real over the synthetic. At least with this particular perfume...
I feel these absolutes deserve a good deal of respect. Their rarity and the skill and persistence of those who extract them demand this. These are not oils to be wasted or messed around with. They deserved to be properly appreciated. I suppose this is why I am exceptionally careful with this particular perfume - perhaps overly so. But then I know it intimately. I know what's in it and how very hard it is to make. And this is why I'm always thrilled when people really get its point.
Cradle of Light is a marvelous perfume - elegant, hypnotic and serene. There are few perfumes left in the world like it and these are not to be treated lightly.
I'm really not sure how it happened, but now it's December 1st. Of course I should have seen this coming since I am informed Thanksgiving was last Thursday. Of course I should have seen that coming too but I was in Canada at the time so missed the turkey this year...
But I should also have been better prepared for December since we made our annual batch of Gingerbread just before I left. And that only happens once a year just before December starts. I like this scent. Very much in fact. It's spicy but subtle, and so delicious on the skin. And this year, I've done something with the Limited Edition Gingerbread that I haven't in years past - I made it up in Water Perfume as well. I must say I prefer this scent best in Absolute when it warms on the skin but I've also discovered there's something very attractive about its scent wafting from sweaters. Very warming and most comfortable.
So even though I know the next few weeks are going to be absolute chaos, at least I'll have a little Gingerbread to make me happy. And of course at the end when I'm really ready to go face down, I'll be on my way to the farm to see my nieces and nephews and the rest of the family. That I'm looking forward to.
By Christopher Brosius
on December 1 | Permalink
I love Montréal. I find it to be a fascinating city with so much creative energy. The people are charming and the food is terrific. I've had the best time every time I've visited and frankly I hate coming back to New York.
As for the bookshops they are the best. I can't think of any city outside England with so many bookshops of so many kinds. I love browsing at Mona Lisait, Volume, and Bouquinnerie du Plateau on Mont-Royal. And I can and have spent hours at Archambault and Renaud-Bray. This is a very short list of my favorite libraries. In fact, I've had to get a slightly larger suitcase because every time I've visited Montréal, I somehow wind up with at least 40 pounds of books. This puzzles the customs inspectors at the US border but that is not my problem...
In any case, I'm extremely pleased that this week I'm going to be expanding my presence in that city. Commissaires on the Blvd St Laurent will shortly be the only store in the world to stock the full collection of CB ready-to-wear perfumes. Apart from my own gallery here that is... We've sent off the first shipment which should be arriving there any minute now. And through the fall, we'll be adding more to that collection.
I'm very happy to be at Commissaires. It's an excellent design gallery full of fascinating objects. Pierre has an exceptional eye and a distinct talent for finding the astonishing and unexpected. I've yet to see one of his shows or to visit his gallery without having to keep my wallet firmly shut. It is necessary to remind myself that i really haven't the space in my studio for all these brilliant things. Well c'est la vie. One day...
I'm also very happy to have more of my perfumes in Canada as I sincerely hope this will make things easier for all my Canadian clients and customers. UPS rates from here to there are extremely high and that company will insist on charging a perfectly outrageous "brokerage" fee simply to transport a small package across the border. And unfortunately we've found the US mail to be highly unreliable.
But now, people from Canada will be able to order FROM Canada. They can simple contact Commissaires and have what they want sent to them.
Naturally I'm also delighted as this gives me a really great excuse to visit Montréal much more frequently! Like in October...
By Christopher Brosius
on September 23 | Permalink
This is just one book by Tove Jansson that, when I first read it as a child, I didn't enjoy. It was far too melancholy for my young taste. The story concerns a group of people who come together unexpectedly one November at a small house in a valley beside the sea. They come with fond memories of summer days spent on the shore, sitting quietly amid blooming flowers and, most especially, they remember the kindness of those who lived there. They come seeking comfort and solace from the family whose house this is. But the family has gone away and now the house is abandoned, dark and musty. Now in November the valley is filled with rain, chilled air and the scent of decay.
These people are thrown off by the family's absence. They are puzzled, upset and sometimes angry. They quarrel and they sulk. But, hopeful the family will soon return, they decide to remain and, slowly but with difficulty, they come to terms with the fall, with each other and with themselves.
As I read this book now many years later, I realize this is a fascinating character study and quite a subject to tackle in a children's book. There is no adventure here - only feeling and reflection. Now I can marvel at how well Ms Jansson tells her tale. I suppose that now I have the experience to appreciate her story, these characters and their feelings...
For decades November depressed me. As the year died away, I too longed for warm green grass, long summer evenings spent with friends outdoors and the sight of fireflies twinkling in the woods. the days became shorter and colder and i would become more and more gloomy. This feeling would never really leave me until the first snow fell. Sometimes that was a long wait...
But i have learned to embrace November and find comfort in the beauty of decay. I have come to realize the warmth I long for is still there - but it has taken other forms and it has changed just as I have. Change is inevitable and although I am still sometimes sad as the fall deepens, I know there is much to look forward to. The coming snow will being the warmth of family and friends.
So now on rain chilled November afternoons, I am content to sit quietly and wait...
Pumpkin Pie, Fallen Apples, Bonfire, Wood Smoke, Dried Grass, Fallen Leaves, Wet Branches, Damp Moss, Chanterelle Mushrooms and a hint of Pine Forest
By Christopher Brosius
on September 13 | Permalink
After a few weeks of gorgeous weather, today is rainy, chilly and dreary. I'm never at my best during such weather - except strangely when I'm in England. Maybe it seems more normal there I really don't know.
At any rate, I spent a lot of spare time over the weekend working on the labels for 2 new perfumes. And this morning I've been prodding myself to finish them. Not easy when I find it so hard to simply stay awake...
But now they're finished as are the 2 new perfumes they'll shortly be on. Frankly I'm excited!
The first perfume will be added to my Metamorphosis Series. It was inspired by a passage toward the end of Chapter Six of one of my favorite E M Forster novels. Here's a bit:
"She did not answer. From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems, collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam. But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head, the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.
Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.
George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her."
I've long loved that passage in this novel as well as its counterpart in the Merchant Ivory film - although I've always been sad that nature didn't oblige the filmmakers by providing that deluge of violets. They had to make due with barley and field poppies. But the point of this passage, and the reason I love it so, is what it represents: the moment when one simple beautiful gesture can transform an entire life.
That's why I chose to include this particular perfume in my Metamorphosis Series. And naturally, it will be called "A Room With A View". It is the scent of the hills above Florence - the vineyards, the wild grass, the finocchio, the hot dusty Florentine earth. And of course, a torrent of Violets.
The second perfume is an Amber blend. I've always loved this particular incense and have worn and used it a lot over the years. And bizarrely, my own name is derived from the ancient Latin word for amber although at some point through the centuries, we managed to loose the "am". Recently, I decided to rework a version of an amber scent that I'd been wearing myself for a while. I blended a few types of real amber with cistus, labdanum and benzoin (among other natural resins) and arrived at a perfume that seems to crackle and smolder on the skin. Naturally I love smoky incense scents but this one is particularly delicious. And it will be added to the Reinvention Series and will be called simply "amBrosius".
We're in the process of compounding both these perfumes and should have them in the gallery by the weekend. And I hope to have them on the website sometime in very early August. It might seem somewhat strange to introduce an Amber scent in the middle of summer but frankly I love them on a hot summer evening. Perhaps it's memories of camping as a child but I find there are few things more appealing than the delicate waft of a rich smoky scent...
At any rate, those are the two new CB perfumes that are about to appear. As soon as I'm back at the end of July, I'll keep working on the others.
By Christopher Brosius
on July 21 | Permalink
I have been thinking about violets a lot lately. In fact, for several months. These have always been among my favorite flowers and my favorite smells.
Of course I have a violet perfume in my ready-to-wear collection already - Violet EMPIRE. This was inspired by a chapter I read ages ago of Diane Ackerman's marvelous book, A Natural History of the Senses. I loved her writing on the Empress Josephine and why violet was her favorite perfume...
Sometime last fall (I think it was) I smelled Violet EMPIRE again and realized something about it. While it's a lovely smell and one I truly love myself, it wasn't quite right - it didn't truly fit its name. I realized it was the wrong period of history and had much more to do with ancient Crete than it did with early 19th century France. Perhaps it's because I was reading The Bull From the Sea by Mary Renault at the time which is all about Theseus's adventures in the Labyrinth of Minos and later on in Athens. I realized the scent of Violet EMPIRE was really much more an ancient Minoan smell...
So through the course of the spring, I've been working a lot with Violets. I think I've finally created one the Empress would be pleased with as well as a lovely Florentine violet. So, as soon as I'm finished tinkering with those formulas, I expect to be adding two new violet perfumes to the collection. The existing Violet EMPIRE will be renamed, one of the new Violets will replace that and the third will be added to the Metamorphosis Series.
And, as i was working on Violet EMPIRE, I did a fourth variation that I like as well. But it's much more Victorian or perhaps Edwardian and I'm not really feeling those periods of history at the moment. So perhaps I'll hold that one until later.
Incidentally, this "smelling through the ages" might seem strange to a lot of people but this is how my mind works. And it is perhaps one of my greatest gifts - the ability to truly smell that which can never be known...
By Christopher Brosius
on July 10 | Permalink
It has been brought to my attention that there is a rumor going around that I am discontinuing the CB Individual Accords. I'm not. However, there are certain ones in the archive that are temporarily unavailable and a few that may well have to be permanently retired. This is due to my inability to find certain raw ingredients that are necessary to make them. I have found over the years, this is a perpetual dilemma - especially for the small independent perfumer.
i work with a great many strange and unusual materials both real & synthetic, and unfortunately I've discovered that these things often become very hard to find or have completely gone the way of the Dodo. With natural materials such are certain essential oils or absolutes, they may go away because producing them becomes too expensive to be generally commercially viable. A few years ago, one of my very favorite essential oils - Bourbon Geranium - disappeared off the face of the earth. I was told that the Island of Réunion decided to stop distilling altogether. Apparently they were more interested in developing a tourist trade... For a short while I was both frantic and heartbroken. Bourbon Geranium is an oil that I have used pretty much since Day One (it was the major ingredient in my very first public perfume) and I'd been using it as a key ingredient in several other CB perfumes as well. Of course the world is full of Geranium oils but to my nose, none of these had the same crisp greenness of the Bourbon. Fortunately though, I found a similar essential oil of Geranium from Madagascar. It's close enough to work but there's slight difference that perhaps at this point, I am the only one who remembers...
And a while back, I had to pull my 12th Archetype perfume "Cradle of Light (white flowers)" from the website because I couldn't find the necessary Jonquil Absolute to compound it. Fortunately a few weeks ago, I was able to find more - which should be arriving here in a few weeks - but it was ASTRONOMICALLY expensive. Still i will now be able to make more of that perfume and hopefully have it back on the website by early fall - it's an extremely complex formula to compound and the absolutes are very tricky to prepare - this all takes time. Still I'm shooting for September...
Synthetic materials can be almost more of a dilemma than natural ones - especially "new" or "very strange" aromachemicals. Manufacturing aromachemicals is a HUGE and highly competitive business and like any business it is largely driven by what the market wants as well as what the shareholders expect. The major houses create countless molecules annually but only a handful make it to market. And frequently, those that don't perform well sales-wise will be suddenly discontinued. I've found those tend to be the oddball molecules that I find very useful in creating the scents of strange objects or foods and without them, the scent will not ring true. I've also found that the major manufacturers of aromachemicals will sometimes discontinue certain materials because they've created something "new" "improved" and "better". Naturally they feel they need to do this in order to have more to sell in a calendar year. This is understandable but what is maddening about that process is that even a tiny variation in the odor of a molecule can radically alter a given scent and again, I lose the reality of the original.
But this is the way perfume and the making of perfume have always been. Things must change. Even a great perfume like Shalimar will be forced to change its formulation over the decades to the point that what it was when it was introduced in the 20's bears little resemblance to the perfume as it exists now.
As for myself, there are a great many accords that I originally worked on back in the mid 90's that have undergone a radical change. I have never been afraid to improve things. When I opened my doors here in July of 2004, I realized that what smelled good as "fresh cut grass" or "tomato vine" in 1997 could be INFINITELY better now. So I redesigned a good portion of my accord collection. This is something I still continue to work on and always will.
But i completely understand how upsetting it can be for my clients and customers to suddenly not be able to have a favorite smell. After all, few understand as well as I do just how powerful our emotional attachments to certain scents can be. And it's extremely upsetting for me every time I am forced to retire a scent from the Accord collection - it's like completely losing touch with an old and dear friend. Of course I do everything possible to prevent that from happening and my assistants and I spend hours scouring every possible source for the necessary bits and pieces. But sometimes they're gone and what's gone is gone. Change must happen.
I think more than any other, perfume is the art that most demonstrates the concept of change within the context of life - it is powerful, it is often profound and it is inevitable...
But still, I will continue to rework those accords that have been temporarily retired (at least I HOPE it's temporary) from the main Accord Collection. I can rarely say when a certain scent might be back. There are SO many variables and my position has always been and will always be "a scent is finished when it's finished".
Hopefully some of my scents like "porcelain" won't be finished for good!
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