Would you wear a perfume that made you smell like "A Day at the Beach?" How about "Baby's Butt?" If so, scent inventor Christopher Brosius can help. His Brooklyn boutique is at the vanguard of the anti-perfume movement, as you might suspect by its name: I Hate Perfume.
"I'm not out to sell millions of bottles," Brosius tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Jacki Lyden. "My work is really about things that really do smell wonderful, but don't have a lot of the properties that commercial perfumes do."
Brosius has created perfumes independently since 1992, when he made his first scent for himself. It got many compliments like, "Why do you smell so good?" but it took 135 variations to get it just right. Now he sells "a much more refined, sophisticated version" of that scent, called CB93 — after himself, of course.
"It was my interpretation of what the very first, original eau de cologne was designed to do," he says. "Something that smelled very fresh, very clean, but was good for the skin and very calming and relaxing at the same time."
Brosius' current collection of perfumes is diverse and eclectic. "Memory of Kindness" smells of tomato vines and was inspired by a childhood memory. The celebrity-inspired "2nd (Alan) Cumming" is, like all Brosius' scents, unisex. "I let people choose what they want," he says.
A perfume that smells like roast beef gets some of the most comments. "Food scents are incredibly tough," Brosius says. "When it was finished, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is exactly what I had in mind. But who in their right mind wants to smell this way?'"
Very few people, as it turns out. Only three so far. "I'm the first to admit that it is not a scent for everybody," he says.
In contrast, his most popular scent is called "In the Library." It smells like old, dusty books.
"'Oh wow, you smell terrific' is really the best kind of compliment," Brosius says. If that comes from someone close to you, he says, "My mission is done."
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
We took a trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, because we were intrigued by a shop called I Hate Perfume, which is at the vanguard of the anti-perfume movement. You didn't know there was one? What if you could make a perfume that smells like a day at the beach or roast beef or baby's butt? Christopher Brosius does all that.
Christopher Brosius, nice to meet you.
CHRISTOPHER BROSIUS: Nice to have you here.
LYDEN: When did you decide that you hated the scent of overpowering perfumes and that you were going to do something about it?
BROSIUS: Well, you know, I think that was really in 1992 when I first began making perfume independently. And the first perfume that I did, which was originally something for myself, when I was wearing it, I would constantly get comments like, why do you smell so good? What is that? Where can I get it? And I thought, well, hmm.
LYDEN: So you mixed up a perfume for yourself one afternoon. And we're speaking of how many perfumes?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BROSIUS: One afternoon, oh, lord. I did 135 variations of that first scent.
LYDEN: A hundred and thirty-five variations?
LYDEN: Do you sell it today?
BROSIUS: I do actually sell a much more refined, more sophisticated version of it.
LYDEN: Could you please show it to me?
BROSIUS: Sure. Of course.
LYDEN: Thank you.
BROSIUS: It's called CB93.
LYDEN: CB93, your initials, obviously.
BROSIUS: Yeah. Yeah.
LYDEN: Now, is this for men, Christopher?
BROSIUS: You know what, I don't differentiate...
LYDEN: Do you make that distinction?
BROSIUS: I don't. I don't. I mean, I really let people choose what they want. This one was actually originally - it was my interpretation of what the very first original eau de cologne was designed to do, something that smells very fresh, very clean but was good for the skin and very calming and relaxing at the same time.
LYDEN: Mm. This is everything you just said.
BROSIUS: Thank you.
LYDEN: Now, you have some marvelous names here. Roast Beef, Snow, Wet Mitten.
BROSIUS: You did mention the Roast Beef...
BROSIUS: ...which is curious because it is one of the most commented on. People who smell it have very strong reaction, generally along the lines of, oh, my God, it smells exactly like roast beef, which it does.
LYDEN: Oh, my goodness.
BROSIUS: Food scents are incredibly tough. When it was finished, I thought, oh, my God, this is exactly what I had in mind. But who in their right mind wants to smell this way?
LYDEN: Well, who does want to wear Roast Beef on their skin?
BROSIUS: Well, you know, actually very few people. I'm the first to admit that it is not a scent for everybody. In fact, I think off the top of my head, I can think of three clients who actually do wear it and love it, and that's fine. I'm not out to sell millions of bottles. If you like that scent, good.
LYDEN: What's the most popular here?
BROSIUS: I am delighted to say that one of my most popular perfumes is the smell of old books.
BROSIUS: It's a perfume called In The Library.
LYDEN: So right now, what you are doing is you and your assistant Sarah - Sarah has just dipped a white piece of paper into...
BROSIUS: Sample(ph) blotter.
LYDEN: ...In The Library. Sample blotter. And I'm about to sniff it. Mm. You know, it's so odd. You just - you hit it. Like, I'm in the library.
BROSIUS: It's a wonderful scent.
LYDEN: You know what, I have to say, as a woman who loves perfume and has worn the same one for almost 20 years...
BROSIUS: We'll discuss that later.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LYDEN: ...there's something very interesting and intriguing about these scents that are not in any sense floral, as most perfumes that I think of...
LYDEN: ...kind of come from. But these things have a different presentation.
BROSIUS: They do, yes.
BROSIUS: I mean, that really is very much the point. You know, my work is really about things that really do smell wonderful but don't have a lot of the properties that commercial perfumes do.
LYDEN: You simply want to be a personal signature more than, say, oh, is that a perfume you're wearing?
BROSIUS: Kind of, yes. Oh, wow, you smell terrific, is really the best kind of compliment. And I think if that can come from someone who is physically extremely close to you, my mission is done.
LYDEN: Christopher, I think I'm going to have to now turn from interviewer into customer. This has been absolutely lovely, and maybe I'll just browse.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LYDEN: Christopher Brosius, you are the founder and perfumer here at I Hate Perfume, your wonderful shop. This has really been a delight. Thank you so much.
BROSIUS: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.