Smell Me a Story
It’s easy to hate perfume when you’ve elevated the experience to create scents that “tell stories and capture exact experiences.”
I Hate Perfume creates ready-to-wear perfumes such as At the Beach 1966, 7 Billion Hearts, Walking in the Air, Gathering Apples, and my favorite: Mr Hulot’s Holiday.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite storybooks was about a villain who had lost his sense of smell so he began to steal the smells of everything around him – the baking gingerbread, the pine forest, the rose bushes, and so on – and kept them locked away.
The idea of being able to capture all the beautiful smells around me was such an amazing idea as a child, to walk into a room and have a library of smells of your own.
Admittedly, beyond the concept, I really loved the book’s Scratch ‘n Sniff stickers. Christopher Brosius, the nose behind I Hate Perfume, has managed to create a library of nearly 400 individual accords like Grass, Wildflower Honey, Firewood, North Atlantic, and many many more. I’ll take his library over a few stickers any day. In fact, I remember walking into his shop in Willamsburg, Brooklyn and feeling like I had stepped into a fairytale. CB is truly a magician.
Not only do the perfumes created invoke a memory or a place or a concept, but the raison d’être that CB even creates perfume has to do with his childhood inundated with the lovely rich smells of the countryside: wet rocks, vegetable gardens, forests, and the like, as he explains beautifully on his site. This past July 2014, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of I Hate Perfume, CB created a magical box of all his ready-to-wear perfumes to date – 40 in all. As he says, “I have long wanted to write a book not with words, but with scents.” And he has. The “book” details the mission and history of I Hate Perfume and provides a story and scent description to go with each of the scents. Each box is numbered, signed, and registered – like any good first edition.
Beginning with a manifesto and following with a description of his involvement with art and scents and life in general – including how he discovered that he hated perfume while working as a cab driver – he concludes his short pre-history with how all these bits and pieces added up to a 2003 Cooper Hewitt Triennial exhibit of 70 scents as well as two other 2006 exhibits entitled “Everything Here is False” and “Scent is Life.” Though it is clear he views perfume as art, he celebrates that it is an art accessible to many, which makes elevating it and making it personal all the more noble. The way one experiences smell is inherently very personal, as are the memories they invoke; as such, CB personally blends each perfume and bottles them by hand. He will even work with a client over several sessions to create a custom scent, recreating your own memory or experience. So, it seems my childhood fairytale book has come to life; I can open CB’s book and smell burnt wood, fig trees, violets, and so many other beautiful things, even without the evil villain. Now that’s a bedtime story.