A YouTube Perfume Reviewer’s Big Dreams

Annette K. Brown

Carlos J. Powell was not at the entrance rank of the fragrance equipment. Luxury makes did not invite him to occasion at their ateliers in Venice or to go rose finding at dawn with influencers in Isparta, Turkey.

Mr. Powell, who lived in Sheepshead Bay and was acknowledged to his enthusiasts on YouTube as Brooklyn Fragrance Lover, worked as a children’s shoe salesman at Lester’s Clothing and Footwear for 35 many years prior to he was laid off early in the pandemic. He roomed with two cats, Claude and Jean (named after Jean Claude Ellena, a master perfumer), and his fragrance selection, with bottles numbering in the thousands.

A really hard worker, spiffy dresser and preternaturally gifted smeller, Mr. Powell was also the ur-New Yorker, residing paycheck to paycheck and undertaking what he loved in his off hours. As opposed to some of the specialized niche personalities who have proliferated on YouTube and TikTok, he was far more enthusiasm than polish, from the earworm-ish opening jingle that he composed for his films to his uninhibited enthusiasm for both the scents he dissected and the combination of folks he dissected them with. His company ran the gamut from well known “noses” and vocation chemists to nieces and colleagues from the Lester’s shoe department.

Brooklyn Fragrance Lover’s subsequent of virtually 69,000 was a portion of the 1.4 million subscribers to Jeremy Fragrance, the German-born Ken doll look-alike who vlogs in evening dress. Nor was Mr. Powell in league with Junior Barreiros, the upbeat Brazilian who reviews fragrances in Portuguese for far more than 50 % a million. But Mr. Powell was with no rival in other methods, this five-foot-six Latino male who loved Broadway musicals and Oreo cookies.

While Mr. Powell didn’t outwardly begrudge the fragrance world’s superficial values, he didn’t undertake its algorithm-dictated priorities. Look through his channel and you are much more probable to land on a boisterous vacation track medley, with him accompanying close friends on keyboard or piano, or a goofy “Niche or Designer” recreation evening. Films with clickbait names like “12 Sexiest Men’s Fragrances” or “What Colognes Girls Just can’t Resist” had been exceptional and reluctant concessions.

The video that finest encapsulates Mr. Powell’s spirit could be the a single chronicling his night time out at the 2018 Fragrance Foundation Awards ceremony.

He was a nominee in the Customer Option Vlog category, for a video clip that he experienced shot the evening of the preceding year’s ceremony, with his pricey close friend and fellow vlogger Steven Gavrielatos.

A 10th quality English teacher who lives in Jersey Metropolis, Mr. Gavrielatos is the founder of the Redolessence fragrance overview channel on YouTube, which has 150,000 subscribers. The two appeared in quite a few of each other’s videos, which they filmed in batches every week, usually until eventually 1 or 2 in the morning.

When their classes took place at Mr. Gavrielatos’s property, Mr. Powell frequently slept above. In an business in which the term “collaboration” is so usually a cynical internet marketing ploy, the pair’s edition of teamwork stood aside.

The awards evening video clip opens in Mr. Powell’s apartment, exactly where Claude the cat and a panoply of waving cat figurines maintain our hero enterprise. He spritzes on Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute, slips on his Brooklyn baseball cap and Men’s Warehouse rental tux, and off he goes.

At the ceremony, Mr. Powell stands to the aspect of the crimson carpet. He greets Jeremy Fragrance, a fellow nominee, who seems eager to keep shifting via the crowd. Mr. Powell’s encounter lights up when he spots the grasp perfumer Olivier Cresp. (Other folks on hand, like Jane Krakowski and Naomi Campbell, have no these kinds of result.)

We bounce slice to the minute when the winner is declared. Jeremy Fragrance ascends the stage like a dastardly Disney prince. He thanks the space, then proceeds to decreased to the ground and do 10 just one-armed press-ups. The crowd goes wild.

“We have been the two sensation a huge variety of emotions,” Mr. Gavrielatos recalled. “Carlos favored Jeremy, and usually had an appreciation for his hustle. But that night time he was upset. He considered, ‘This is my only prospect. Jeremy’s subscriber rely was expanding 300 per cent quicker than either of ours have been, and he was like, ‘If we really don’t earn this yr, we’re not winning at any time.’”

Mr. Powell’s spirits experienced recovered by the stop of the ceremony, when he was handed a bag of fragrances on his way out. His exhilaration got the very best of him. He turned to Mr. Gavrielatos and proposed, “Want to go to your location and shoot some video clips?’” It was a late night time.

Mr. Powell dreamed of creating up to 100,000 subscribers. His other desire was to release his possess scent. He and Mr. Gavrielatos commenced to do the job on a fragrance line named Redbrook.

The brew was mixed at the Society of Scent, an indie enterprise that favors the “slow scent” movement and is in a former button manufacturing unit in the South Bronx. Overseeing the potions lab is Jean-Claude Delville, the grasp perfumer behind the popular scents Cabotine de Gres and Clinique Pleased. The firm’s innovative director and founder, Frederic Jacques, expended a lot more than a yr going back again and forth with Mr. Powell and Mr. Gavrielatos, speaking about substances and design things, bottle shape and advertising and marketing copy. “It is essential to get not just the notes but the narrative,” he explained.

There was a setback past slide, when Mr. Powell, 56, who had very long struggled with diabetes and other overall health complications, vlogged about a continue to be in the clinic for minimal potassium degrees that had despatched his system into shock.

Then, very last thirty day period, immediately after asking odd questions all through a dialogue with Mr. Gavrielatos’s wife, he stopped answering calls. Police sent to test on Mr. Powell discovered him unresponsive in his apartment paramedics could not revive him. His stepbrother, Billy Davidson, Jr., claimed the result in of dying was believed to be a coronary heart assault.

“It was all very unexpected,” claimed Nina Pelton, a singer, longtime good friend and the voice on the Brooklyn Fragrance Lover jingle. “The morning I read about it, my 1st considered was: Thank God he was household and with his cats.”

Mr. Gavrielatos is transferring in advance with their genderless potion, which is scheduled to occur out on Sunday, March 21, timed for a holiday referred to as Countrywide Fragrance Working day, and probably additional meaningfully, Mr. Powell’s birthday, March 19. Redbrook’s debut scent is identified as the “Underground” edition, after the two-hour commute between their houses (and their south-of-the-radar status in the environment of Large Scent). The initially run, of 1,000 bottles, offered out through pre-buy earlier this 7 days. A new batch is in production.

Pinpointing a formulation that encapsulated their distinct aesthetics and preferences experienced been a problem. “They experienced their dissimilarities: Carlos was homosexual and in Brooklyn, Steven is an English teacher who lives in New Jersey with his spouse and daughter,” Mr. Jacques reported. “Carlos was additional bling, Steven is more classic.”

What most psyched him about the pair, he stated, was their shared enthusiasm and groundedness. “Our planet is not wonderful — it operates close to the style environment, and there’s an ingredient of attitude extra than kindness,” Mr. Jacques stated.

The good friends had been extra interested in becoming experienced than they were being in getting very well regarded. The formula Mr. Jacques and his customers landed on is much less of a center ground in between their individual preferences than a thing new altogether. It’s also charming, brighter and sunnier than what you may perhaps picture if you read that its major notes are patchouli, pink pepper, ginger and vetiver, kin to stylish scents from D.S. and Durga and Le Labo.

Mr. Powell’s very first enthusiasm was new music. He taught himself how to perform the piano, the accordion, and trumpet, in accordance to Mr. Davidson, whose father, a wholesale shoe salesman, married Mr. Powell’s mom, Hilda, a hairdresser, when Mr. Powell was 12.

“He got genuinely into theater as a tiny kid,” Mr. Davidson claimed. “Being a kid in the ’80s, in a closely Italian neighborhood as a 50 percent-Dominican and fifty percent-British-Panamanian kid, he had a great deal to offer with.” Mr. Powell attended summer season camp at French Woods Pageant of the Performing Arts in Delaware County, N.Y., exactly where he met Ben Stiller, one more camper, Mr. Davidson said, and explained to of forming a band, with Mr. Stiller playing the drums.

Following completing his higher school diploma at City As School, Mr. Powell landed a occupation at Lester’s in Coney Island (later, he moved to the Upper East Facet shop). As a younger grownup in the early 1980s, he was centered on his band, UBoy, and exploring the club scene. He also dabbled in musical theater, writing audio for Off Broadway providers.

A lot more not long ago, he organized the Godspell 2016 Task, a reprise manufacturing featuring the original 1978 solid of Edward B. Shallow JHS 227’s staging of “Godspell.”

Mr. Powell’s affinity for fragrance slowly tipped into an obsession. At 1st, he traded in the patchouli oil he had favored as a teenager for the moss- and pine-large scents that reigned in the ’80s. “He beloved Pierre Cardin Pour Homme and the initial Polo,” Mr. Gavrielatos claimed.

His enthusiasm was fanned even further in the early 2010s, when he fell in with a group of fragheads who known as them selves “The Goodsmellas.” This culture of gentlemen, numerous of whom worked in regulation enforcement, went on weekend sniffing expeditions, sampling new perfumes and using in the city’s scents. The West Village fragrance boutique MiN NY functioned as their clubhouse, the way Supreme used to be for skaters. “We were standard fellas,” reported Edward Libassi, who runs the YouTube channel Frunkinator.

Most of these die-difficult fragrance admirers experienced their have YouTube accounts. Mr. Powell developed a Fb team referred to as Peace, Really like, and Fragrance, which turned a hub for market gamers and fragrance obsessives. He commenced his have YouTube account in 2016, and labored his way up to publishing a few films a 7 days: short, sweet and adorably enthusiastic. “He cherished life, he loved to be happy, and he was quite jovial but not juvenile,” Mr. Libassi said.

The GoFundMe web site that Mr. Gavrielatos set up to raise revenue for funeral arrangements has obtained contributions totaling around $38,000. A stunned-wanting Jeremy Fragrance posted his reaction on YouTube: “that’s pretty, very shocking and pretty, very, very, quite really hard-main.”

The learn perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, the creator of Mr. Powell’s beloved Amber Complete by Tom Ford, sent an Instagram eulogy to his buddy: “You were being not just a spritzer, you would clearly show up at situations, arrange video clips with perfumers to get some actual details, and usually bring some fantastic temper way too,” and revealed the mystery method in Mr. Powell’s honor. “That’s a large no-no, and a extremely large deal,” Mr. Gavrielatos stated.

Donna Quinones, who operates at Lester’s, recalled Mr. Powell as a playful colleague who preferred dressing up in Halloween costumes, pulling pranks on his co-employees, and generally making an attempt on new scents all through the working day. “Whenever Carlos walked in, you smelled him,” she explained. “I’d say, ‘Oooh what are you wearing? That smells a small citrusy,’ or, ‘that smells a small woodsy.’ Most of all he loved the responses.”

Tiff Benson, a fragrance blogger and a person of Mr. Powell’s very best buddies, remembered their normal dinners and salsa dancing periods as a supply of joy and assist for Benson, who is Black. “He recognized who I was as a individual, and which is super-exceptional specially in this business which is so white and male and European,” she explained.

A single of the reasons Mr. Powell championed underdogs, Ms. Benson reasoned, was that he was one.

“A whole lot of the men and women he was chatting to on his videos had been people today no one experienced listened to of,” she reported. “The marketplace is so compact, if you talked about a modest model, it could be existence-changing, and he understood that.”

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