Monday 29 April 2019


From visual art to experimental scent, New England born Chris Rusak is one of an emerging group of American perfumers that is challenging the way that we wear fragrance. He understands the fine balance between individuality and wearability but where does this inspiration come from? It’s time to discover his fragrance memories during “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
The smell of brake dust from the nearby turnpike whizzing past my childhood home and the Freon whiff one gets when you open one of those red-white-blue Rocket Popsicles from the ice cream trucks of your youth. But, if I'm being frank, the first smells of childhood were all malodours: danger and fear and confusion. Stale beer, nicotine, and the deafening humidity of New England summers. My first olfactive memories are upsetting and confusing. They are evocative of rough times, but I think they ultimately burnished how I create in the present.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
It was probably my dad's deodorant, Speed Stick by Mennen. It was in the green container and smelled of lime, radiation and, strangely, the safe harbour of our bathroom. The bathroom was, after all, one of the few locking rooms in our house.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
My perfume adolescence occurred in the nineties when I worked, surprise surprise, on a department store fragrance counter. So, as a result of excruciatingly sexy advertising campaigns and a lovely employee discount, my dresser was bedecked with so many bottles of designer perfume that it's indistinguishable which one was the perfume. Besides, even today, I've always been more in to polyamory than monogamy. I wore, amongst others, Escape and CK Be by Calvin Klein, Polo Sport Woman by Ralph Lauren, XS by Paco Rabanne, Hugo by Hugo Boss, and Grass by GAP. Maybe nothing glamorous in hindsight, but it was fun.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
In my mid-twenties an unfortunate period of illness forced me to confront sudden facial paralysis, twice, on both sides of my face. That temporarily stunned most of my senses and, ultimately, permanently decimated a large percentage of muscular function. As a gay man who was dealing with a sudden change to, and loss of, his visual identity, I became extremely sensitive. I went through a brutal period of what felt like rejection, and many of the men I found myself interested in at the time were hyper-masculine and not into “cologne or other scents.” In hindsight now, my biggest perfume mistake was pretty foolish, but in a fit of distress with life and my situation, one day I threw out my entire perfume collection because it was something making me not-masculine enough. I miss that bottle of Truth by Calvin Klein like nothing else.

You can only choose one perfume?
If I can only choose one then it would have to be Tar by Comme des Garçons. It evokes a happy memory of my first visit to Los Angeles, where I now live. I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where it was being sold in the bookstore. The experience of smelling perfume in a museum bookstore certainly complements my affinities for brake dust.

What perfume should I try?
There are so many good ones to choose from so I'll be difficult instead and ask you to F**k gender. Perfumes aren't male or female. Let's stop marketing them as such. Bless my fellow indies out there who refuse this categorisation. I love how perfumes help us define who we are, marketing shouldn't attempt to do that.

For more information about Chris Rusak and his collection of fragrances you can visit his website at


  1. What an excellent Stephan's Six, very interesting. Wow, Chris has really been through the mill, and come out the other side smiling. I need to check out his website now.

    1. Hello Barry, do have a look at his website. There'll be more about Chris Rusak from me in the coming weeks. Best, Stephan

    2. Hi Stephan. That's brilliant. I'll keep my eyes open for more on him.