If you were to ask me which fragrance house has really pushed the boundaries of what perfume can be I would answer Etat Libre d’Orange without a moment’s hesitation. They arrived on the scene in a whirlwind of spunk and accompanied by a plethora of bold olfactory characters, ranging from high class hookers to smoking sirens of the silver screen. The house rubs noses up both the wrong way and the right way, taking pleasure in the delightful and the depraved. In short, they are the most scandalous perfumery on the planet but they’re also one of the most substantial with fascinating fragrances that more than live up to their provocative names and inspirations.
The man behind Etat Libre d’Orange is Etienne de Swardt, a self-described troublemaker. Having spent many years ‘working for the man’ at LVMH, as it were, de Swardt broke free from the constraints of boring everyday big business perfumery, which included scents for cats and dogs, to create the ideal ‘anti-brand’. He launched his perfume house not with a slogan or a mission statement, but with a battle cry. Etat Libre d’Orange marched into war in the department stores screaming “Perfume is Dead, Long Live Perfume” at the top of its smoke-filled lungs. The scents were the weapons – missiles that exploded, destroying inhibitions and preconceptions. Etat Libre d’Orange was a chieftain tank and Etienne was the maniac at the wheel.
Having been a big fan of Etat Libre d’Orange ever since I encountered their phenomenal Jasmin et Cigarette one drunken evening, I jumped at the opportunity to pose some questions to the rebellious renegade that is Etienne de Swardt. In one of the most fascinating and frankly hilarious interviews I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in for The Candy Perfume Boy, Etienne tells us what led him to perfume, whether he could create anything more shocking than the blood, sweat, sperm and saliva of Sécrétions Magnifiques, and what is next for the brand. So buckle up, leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for one hell of a ride, because Etienne de Swardt is in the building and he’s in a mischievous mood…
[Please note that there are a few NSFW images below]
Super Scent is back, people. Let us rejoice! If you’ve not encountered the series before, please let me fill you in. Essentially, for each instalment of Super Scent, Persolaise, Basenotes and I (please click the links to view their pieces) pick out our top fragrances from a particular brand. In the case of Persolaise and I, these are our personal favourites, whereas Basenotes offers a round-up of reader favourites using the data found within the fragrance directory. Now that you’re filled in, we can get on with this edition of Super Scent which is all about the most punk-like and pop art perfume brand of them all: the dastardly dirty and downright devilish Etat Libre d’Orange.
Etat Libre d’Orange (The Orange Free State) climaxed onto the scene in 2006 with a collection of 10 fragrances. Founded by Etienne de Swardt, who is described on the brand’s website as a “troublemaker and perfumer” (although he is more of an art director than an actual perfumer) the brand shook up the fragrance industry with fragrances inspired by, amongst many other things; cum, high-class hookers, belly buttons and nothing, and with a battle cry that shouted “perfume is dead, long live perfume”. They are a rebellious purveyor of perfume that doesn’t take itself to seriously, but most importantly they like to challenge our preconceptions of what a fragrance can be. Is it unwearable art or is it a marketable consumable? Eat Libre d’Orange seem to think that perfume can be anything one wants it to be.
This was a tricky one, I’m not going to lie to you. At the time of writing, Etat Libre d’Orange has an extensive catalogue consisting of 32 fragrances and the rules of Super Scent dictate that I must pick a top five. I’ve narrowed down my selection to those scents offered by the Orange Free State that I enjoy the most, but there are many not included here that I love, admire and respect, scents such as; Rien, Charogne, Jasmin et Cigarette, Eau de Protection and Fat Electrician to name but a few. So, without any further moaning about how hard this has been, let’s take a delve into the risqué world of Etat Libre d’Orange with my all-time top five!
I’m back, finally! After a month of painful wrestling with my dissertation and other nasty bits of uni work I can finally turn my attention back to my first love – perfume. The last month has been both stressful and refreshing – stressful for obvious reasons and refreshing because it felt like a good time to take a blogging break so that now, when all the work has been handed in, I can come back with a fresh mind and renewed enthusiasm.
Despite the absence of blogging during my uni-fest I have managed to stay (relatively) sane. This can be attributed to three things; the constant support of Nigel (my partner), a metric ton of Maltesers and a constant supply of episodes of my new all-time favourite TV programme – RuPaul’s Drag Race. That’s right squirrel friends, all one needs to get oneself through a tough time is a parade of drag queens…
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching RuPaul’s Drag Race then; a) watch it now (go on) and; b) simply picture the model-filled runway of America’s Next Top Model crossed with the home-made fashions of Project Runway with a generous dollop of drag queen fabulous-ness on top. Now can you see why it is perhaps the absolute greatest thing on earth?
I love RuPaul’s Drag Race so much that I thought I would pay my own scented tribute to the queens that make it so darn sickening (that’s sickening in the good sense of the word FYI) to watch. So without further ado I present to you the latest instalment in the Scent a Celebrity Series, an episode containing perfumes and queens who display the ultimate levels of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent – gentleman, start your engines, and may the best woman, smell!
What is the worst thing that you’ve ever smelled? For me it’s the smell of rhubarb boiling. Seriously, there is nothing worse to my nostrils than those large sticks of pink fruit bubbling away on the stove. As a kid I used to hide away from the kitchen whenever my dad made rhubarb crumble because the smell (which is the olfactory equivalent of white noise FYI) would permeate every fibre of my being and leave me feeling utterly nauseous.
What is the worst perfume you’ve ever smelled? Now this question is even easier to answer! I’ve smelled a good few stinky scents in my time, take Estée Lauder’s Spellbound for instance, a vile syrupy mess of florals and fruit that apparently has the power to strip nail polish, but that’s hardly the worse thing I’ve ever smelled. No, if I were to pick a scent that was the worst I’d ever smelled then I would pick Sécrétions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d’Orange, and to add insult to injury it is a fragrance that INTENDS to smell bad.
Sécrétions Magnifiques was part of the original bunch of offerings from Etat Libre d’Orange when the brand first launched in 2006. Since then it has gained cult status as one of the most disgusting fragrances on the market whilst simultaneously earning a legion of fans who love and wear it. Sécrétions Magnifiques, with its accords of milk, blood and iodine, is described as being “as real as an olfactory coitus that sends one into raptures, that extraordinary and unique moment when desire triumphs over reason.”  Above all it is a “subervsive, disturbing perfume”  that really does need to be smelled to be believed.