Christopher’s journey into perfumery was an unexpected detour from a conventional legal career at PwC in Wellington. His move to London led him through various unsatisfying roles in investment banking and after being made redundant, he applied for a part-time position in a luxury department store, thanks in part to a creatively adjusted CV.
“I had to stretch aspects of my CV to land the job because they wanted someone with experience working in a luxury department store. My parents have a chain of retail stores, but none of them are considered luxury.”
The birth of a business partnership
One day Christopher was covering the perfumery department when a gentleman came in to ask who he should talk to in order to get his product stocked. Seeing an opportunity Christopher decided to take a chance.
“I said, ‘I’ll tell you if you show me the product’. I was on my break, so we went across the road to a cafe, where he showed me his products, and after 20 minutes I had committed to investing my redundancy pay check into this little unknown candle fragrance brand called Diptyque.”
That man, Laurent Delafon, remains Christopher’s business partner to this day. Christopher and Laurent grew the Diptyque business for seven years before selling it to the Fisher family, owners of American fashion chain The Gap.
“That took our small business to a global juggernaut worth over $100 million in sales. I think we just happened to be in the right place at the right time when there wasn’t much competition. Most of the time we had no idea what we were doing.”
Christopher says Kiwi ingenuity enabled him to build the foundations of a successful business where top international brands like Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld and Gucci wanted Diptyque candles even after the duo had sold their business.
“I had no idea how to make these candles for them, but I said I would find out. At the time, Diptyque had a wonderful French perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, I rang her and said, ‘I know you make candles for Diptyque, can you help me make a candle for Tom Ford and Gucci?’
Thinking back to his childhood, Christopher says a story from his mum made him realise that perhaps perfume was written in the stars all along.
“When I was eight-years-old, every summer we would travel to a family friend’s farm in Nelson on a small rickety flight from our home in Wellington. We only needed to be at the airport 20 minutes before boarding, but I always asked to go much earlier so I could play in Duty Free. There wasn’t even a Duty Free for a Nelson flight, but my mum loves telling that story as she says I was always interested in the creativity of smells and bottles. I loved the glamour of it back then just like I do now.”
Fostering creative talent in young Kiwi
Christopher is immensely proud to be Kiwi, purposely weaving it into his work. He also has a love for the arts, especially creative writing.
“I look at how New Zealand creativity and Kiwi creators inspire my team to look at things differently too. It’s intrinsic and it’s the lifeblood of what I do. All my friends studied theatre at Victoria University with Taika Waititi, Brett Mckenzie, Jemaine Clement and Melanie Lynskey. I have this network of incredible Kiwi talent and I still can’t believe they are all household names now. I wanted to pull that together with everything I have been given in my life in London to build a writing award that will showcase young Kiwi writers, support them, and give them a pathway in a very difficult climate for arts funding, and then also provide them with pathways into Hollywood and London.”
This passion has seen Christopher set up an annual writing award with Wellington’s BATS Theatre, which takes the form of a paid writers residency open to anyone aged over 16 with a story to tell.
“To be able to get top creative performing arts venues directors, writers and practitioners in the UK reading a beautiful playwright by a 26-year-old from Newtown in Wellington is something I am so proud to help with. It’s my way of giving back and making sure that Kiwi talent continues to grow and shine.”