Like Christopher Street, the olfactive story of Asphalt Rainbow begins with a look at the fragrance brief: the how’s and why’s that went into crafting the final fragrance. The first rough sketches for the project date back to the fall of 2012. At the time, I was on the precipice of launching the first scent and was consumed by capturing daily life on Christopher Street, shooting photos and video of the West Village day and night. So, as you’ll see, the idea for Asphalt Rainbow would grow from that work.
Finding Asphalt Rainbow
One afternoon I was out stalking the old Badlands building at Christopher and West, taking snapshots of its general state of disrepair, along with some really great graffiti art covering most of the exterior. As I stopped to check my shots, the anti-graffiti squad descended on the space, hosing and scraping away most of the art on the walls I had just captured. Then, in this one beautifully unexpected power-wash moment, the street exploded in these amazingly vibrant hues of paint residue (magentas, greens, rusts…) littered with torn paste-up remnants (jumbles of faces and words) and your run-of-the-mill daily buildup of city debris… an unexpected momentary blip of unintentional beauty that just stuck with me. But the launch was imminent, so other than a few rough sketches of what I had witnessed and some basic accord ideas from what was lingering in the air, the main brief concept had yet to fully materialize. However, my subconscious was clearly hard at work formulating the pieces, as the amount of photographs of street art I was taking increased exponentially.
Fast forward a few months… Christopher Street has launched and the number one question on everyone’s lips: “What’s next for CM?”. I knew our second fragrance needed to be a bold statement to follow up a story like Christopher Street; to possess an equally compelling philosophical undertone. It also needed to maintain that connection to “the real” that guided the entire Christopher Street development process; be a fragrance grounded in shared olfactive memories and captured scents from objects specific to the original source of inspiration. Most of all, it needed to continue pushing the boundaries of fragrance formulation; be another step forward in shedding the tired cliches of antiquated archetypes. And though a few ideas were batted around, my thoughts were still focused on that fall afternoon on Christopher Street and that unforgettable Asphalt Rainbow.
So I decided to return to that corner, and though I’d been there countless times since, that day I came armed with a fresh perspective. Badlands was again covered in tags, but absent was the cleanliness patrol. For the next 10 hours, I allowed myself to just get lost in the space around the building… to take in every aerosol swash and ink scribble… every poster and sticker… the texture of the walls, the ground… studying every sensorial touchpoint up close and afar… all the while replaying that explosive moment of color in my head. And during those 10 hours, as I stepped back and forth, I started spotting artists actively adding to the walls, and that’s when it hit me: this rundown forgotten scar of old NY was actually a living breathing piece of art, one of many scattered all across the city; its story was just as much about time and place as it was about materials and emotional depth. What it was yesterday is not what it is today, or will be tomorrow… and it’s that ebb and flow that brings the Asphalt Rainbow to life.
At the end of that night, I sat down in a coffee shop in the West Village and started writing the brief below. Two crazy years later, this quirky little street art-inspired rose fragrance called Asphalt Rainbow was born.
Asphalt Rainbow In Brief
Following the successful launch of Christopher Street, Charenton Macerations heads back into the city streets, this time blending our disruptive approach to perfumery with the defiant world of underground street art. Inspired by street art’s ability to distort and transform with time, Asphalt Rainbow is a fragrance that rips the rose apart, scattering its fragmented pieces throughout the urban underground.
Asphalt Rainbow asks the question: What happens when a graffiti artist’s spray cans are replaced with the perfumer’s organ of ingredients and applied to the skin? Borrowing from techniques (e.g. aerosol, wheatpaste, ink, stickers…) used by underground street artists, the fragrance is an exploration of the beauty of olfactive distortion: a means of defying preconceptions about everyday materials in perfumery by intentionally manipulating and disrupting expectations of their natural order of progression and impact (i.e. the scent of dewy rose petals ghosting well into the heart of the fragrance). Furthermore, the arc of Asphalt Rainbow twists and unfolds like the lifecycle of street art tags: a bold interpretation of a rose accord that gradually distorts and morphs over time, presented as a fragmented flower that dances up walls and down alleyways, until, inevitably, fading to background.
Asphalt Rainbow draws upon three key pieces of inspiration from the world of street art: distortion, transformation, and impermanence.
Street art can distort our sensorial perceptions by bending and blending realities. Certain street art reappropriates the familiar and everyday, with the purpose of crafting a new narrative (like WhisBe’s mashup of Ronald McDonald and Hitler, or Invader’s relocated 8-bit video game iconography). These artists disarm us with nostalgia, using our emotional attachments to the familiar to provoke and delight. To incorporate this same concept olfactively, Asphalt Rainbow distorts the rose (one of the most common notes in perfumery and oldest cultural symbols of beauty), re-envisioning it as a street art stencil: a skeletal version of its garden-variety self, yet aromatically present enough to remain recognizable. This deceptively familiar accord is further exaggerated by incorporating the lushness of freshly sprayed hyper-colored aerosols. What you think you know of the rose is inverted… turned upside down.
From simply adding text to a wall, to installing more involved imagery with paint or wheatpaste, street artists hijack the original intent of a space and create an opportunity to consider it anew. As auto-tune does with sound, molecular gastronomy with taste, and fetish arts with touch, the best street art transforms our perception of visual space. Asphalt Rainbow sets out to do the same with olfaction, reshaping the rose at the heart of the fragrance through reflections on its surroundings. Leaves brush asphalt. Thorns crack concrete. From its glossy petals to its plumy center, the Asphalt Rainbow rose is pulled apart and splayed open, only to be embedded into its rougher surrounding olfactory walls.
From conception and design, to execution and eventual disappearance, street art is a performance: a thrilling theatrical adventure showing for a limited time only. Much of street art’s true beauty is revealed in how it ages and changes with the passage of time; how as it is weathered, worn, and even buffed away, it continues to provoke through its connection to other surrounding unexpected moments of beauty. To recreate this effect olfactively, Asphalt Rainbow is constructed so key olfactive pieces disappear and reemerge throughout the scent’s time on skin. Pieces of the rose echo in and out throughout the progression from top to dry, each facet further distorted and transformed along the way.
Asphalt Rainbow is built upon the skeletal structure of a simple rose accord, which is then fractured and deconstructed. In a sense, the rose is reimagined as a street art stencil applied to a series of olfactive walls —blended with scents of concrete, wood, and asphalt—to reveal different sides of the fractured flower. To add a few color distortions to the fragrance, other polarizing scent flourishes (e.g. aldehydes, lactones, sulfurs) are incorporated like paint globules splashed across the walls. Throughout the progression of Asphalt Rainbow, pieces of the rose fade and reappear, mimicking the ever-changing nature of an outdoor street art tag. The final perfume is a love letter to the street: a roughed up rose that’s been twisted on its head, and nailed to the wall for your olfactive pleasure.
Do You Scratch & Sniff?
To further connect the visual and textural components of street art to the Asphalt Rainbow fragrance, as well as create a way to re-introduce fragrance back into that world, a series of limited edition scratch and sniff stickers have been designed by CM Founder Douglas Bender. Each 4×4 sticker, embedded with the Asphalt Rainbow fragrance, is a composite of words and images representing the original sources of inspiration for the project. Attach them to any surface in need of scent. (Available for a limited in the CM online shop, as well as at Twisted Lily, Luckyscent, and Indigo Perfumery)
Learn more about how Street Art Techniques were used in crafting Asphalt Rainbow here.
For more background on “Why the Rose,” check out the #Roseshards Story.
To order your bottle of Asphalt Rainbow, visit our shop.