The following is an excerpt from the original Christopher Street brief. After months of historic research, personal observation, and countless interviews of residents past and present, I distilled the information down to three main areas of interest: the people of the West Village, the architecture of the neighborhood, and the lyrical music connecting the two. This story continued to grow as the outlines of the fragrance took shape, with new angles of the story added in as more people took part in the process. The story (and history) was absolutely key to the narrative approach to the fragrance development process (as you’ll see with the final scent unveiling). For a quick Christopher Street historic overview, click here.
As discussed in my earlier post, I find the brief essential to my creative process. Not every developer is always so comfortable showing their briefs outside of the lab (gotta love the double entendre), but personally I find it useful in helping wearers understand the inspiration behind my fragrances. Besides, I think you should have that choice. Without further ado, here is how the Christopher Street project first started out.
Christopher Street In Brief
Stemming from the rich history of Christopher Street, the fragrance should invoke the decadent spirit of Christopher Street, Stonewall, and the surrounding neighborhood through three lenses: the architecture, the music, and the people.
Like the unique architecture of the Northern Dispensary, Christopher Street will aim to introduce a distinctive fragrance structure that challenges traditional olfactive notions of gender. Unlike unisex fragrances that target a lowest common denominator, Christopher Street revels in its masculine and feminine attributes. The fragrance should combine classical floral elements with more subversive tones of metals, smoke, watered down alcohol, wet woods, clove, burnt coffee, and dark tea: An homage to the many merchants that once lined the bustling street, and how the scene might have played out as one strolled down the street.
Dancing was really what made Christopher Street such a draw in the fifties and sixties, with clubs like Stonewall showcasing the sounds of the era. Motown spoke directly to the racial diversity seen inside Stonewall, an even mix of Whites, African Americans and Hispanics. Drag queens gravitated towards the songs of The Marvelettes, Gladys Knight, Connie Francis, Dusty Springfield, Diana Ross and The Supremes… and their stories of people overcoming impossible circumstances, love-loss and heartache. It was both romantic and dramatic. According to Smokey Robinson, “[Motown] is not an audible sound. It’s spiritual, and it comes from the people that make it happen.” Olfactively, this is captured by incorporating the smell of “dance on the skin“ (jubilant, yet sweaty). Imagine that it is 1969: you are dancing inside Stonewall in an unventilated, smoke-filled room, no running water… and loving every minute of it.
The period of the late Sixties is also known for championing the power of the individual (“Flower Power” and free love). This celebratory drive is reflected in the people of Christopher Street: a cast of unlikely heroes. From the truck stop boys and butch lesbians, to the drag queens and activists, the neighborhood is a spectrum of vibrant personalities that shatter traditional notions of gender. The fragrance created is neither a gay-specific nor drag fragrance anymore than it is a masculine or feminine fragrance. Instead, it is representative of the coming together that was witnessed before, during, and after Stonewall. It is a balance of colorful floral and citrus notes enriched with darker subversive tones. Ultimately, it aims to capture the spirit of New York City activism in a bottle.