Not many perfumeries boast a six-article Declaration of Independence in which the first article declares that perfume is dead, but then, the French niche perfumer L’Etat Libre d’Orange is not like other perfumeries. Founded in 2006 by the South African conceptor Etienne de Swardt, L’Etat Libre D’Orange is situated in the heart of Paris’ Marais district on the fabled Rue des Archives.
Composed of 24 scents, each one more peculiar than the next, L’Etat Libre d’Orange (The Free State of Orange) endeavors to go where few fragrance brands do these days by combining luxury and audacity in the world’s most unclassifiable hands. When L’Etat Libre searches for a collaborator, they turn away from the pop stars and reality television figures that people this loud world to the impenetrable creatives who are quietly—elegantly—forging their own paths.
A far cry from the asphyxiating flower bombs of the celebrity fragrances that crowd shelves of retail chains, when L’Etat collaborates with a muse, the result is subversive and surprisingly quiet. L’Etat’s recent collaboration with the perfumer, Mathilde Bijaoui and the actress Tilda Swinton was a quest to create an olfactory representation of an ethereal personality who has been known to say she can’t stand the idea of a scent being confined to a bottle. Dubbed, Like This, the victorious result is a heliotropic daydream of yellow mandarin, candied pumpkin neroli, ginger and everlasting flower.
Other notable collaborators of Etienne’s include domestic animals. In 2000, after six years spent working as the creative designer for Givenchy’s perfume division, Etienne launched, Oh My Dog!, a perfume line for canines, followed by a similar line up for cats. Next muse: free standing heavy bags. That’s right, in 2004, he was called upon to design a line of skin care products for the American boxing brand, Everlast. The name he gave it? Made in Pain.
Lustful, irreverent and always seductive, Etienne’s olfactory libertinage is visible and sniffable in each bottle on every high gloss, black lacquered shelf. The product names alone are work worthy of poets: Noel au Balcon (Christmas on the Balcony), “Vierges et Toreros” (Virgins and Bullfighters), Fat Electrician and Delicious Closet Queen instantly conjure up a celebratory hallucination of what these perfumes smell like. And then, there is the scent itself. Most known for their very provocative (and disturbingly realistic) body secretion-inspired eau de parfum Secretions Magnifiques (Magnificent Secretions), this salty mixture of blood and sperm accords is meant to replicate the moment when “desire trumps reason.” Desire often trumps reason chez L’Etat Libre d’Orange: the nose-wrinkling perfume Jasmin et Cigarette (Jasmine and Cigarette)—homage to the screen sirens Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich—is a naughty, antique leather club chair drenched in jasmine and tobacco. Lots of tobacco.
Playful, pulsing, and fearsomely distinct, L’Etat Libre is above all else, an invitation to create not just perfumes, but a more unique and vibrant version of ourselves.
L’Etat Libre d’Orange
69 Rue des Archives
Paris - Marais