Etat Libre d’Orange (“The Free State of Orange”) is a new French perfume line, “a land of olfactory liberality, free from every taboo, where insubordination and olfactory eroticism reign supreme”. From the moment I heard about it I’ve had very mixed emotions – from the initial scoffing at such pretentiousness to being merely amused by such silliness. Whichever it might be, it’s an original concept, albeit annoying, but what matters in the end is the fragrance (even if it has to have a kinky name). Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances are free-spirited and self-sufficient, so to speak, not begging to be liked, yet possessing a certain power of both appeal and disgust. Out of the eleven scents I’ve tried (there’re two more added recently), I must say only a few are wearable, and only a couple are full-bottle-worthy.
Secretions Magnifiques (Magnificent Secretions) – iodine accord, iris, milk, cocoa, sandalwood, opoponax. A truly disturbing perfume. I wouldn’t even call it perfume, actually. The smell of blood, body fluids, raw flesh, and whatever’s left in your imagination.
Vraie Blonde (Real Blonde) – aldehydes, champagne, rose, peach, white pepper, myrrh, patchouli, suede. A fizzy salty drink. I’d like to say it smells like champagne but instead it’s more along the lines of pickle juice. Borderline wearable. It does indeed conjure up “excess of luxury, the flashiness of casinos, women in sheath dresses and Marilyn naked under a mink coat”.
Je Suis Un Homme (I Am A Man) – bergamot, bitter orange, lemon, laurel, cinammon, clove, cognac, leather, patchouli. This cognac-like scent “suits men who assert themselves… and women who assume their masculine side, ready to launch the offensive without being scared of reversing roles”. With such excellent notes, it doesn’t seem assertive enough and is a little jarring.
Encens et Bubblegum (Incense and Bubblegum) – peach, strawberry, vanilla, lily of the valley, orange blossom, musk, incense. Just as the name suggests, the fragrance is quite absurd. “For all the Madonnas in the world”, the scent is said to combine the sacred and the mischievous – she “chews bubble gum at a church”. Alas, there’s too much mischievous (i.e., peach and strawberry) and not enough of sacred to make it appealing (assuming it’s even possible!).
Putain des Palaces (Hotel Slut) – rose, violet, leather, lily of the valley, mandarin, ginger, rice powder, amber. My favorite of the line, it’s a voluptuous, dark, powdery rose and violet blend, accentuated by soft leather. It has presence, it has sillage, it’s one of a kind.
Jasmin et Cigarette (Jasmine and Cigarette) – jasmine, tobacco, hay, apricot, tonka beans, turmeric, cedar, amber, musk. Inspired by images of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich “smoking a cigarette in a smoky black and white ambiance”, the scent is more about jasmine than cigarettes. The tobacco and hay add a hazy touch. A very wearable jasmine and my second favorite.
Eloge du Traite (Praise of a Traitor) – pine, bay leaf, mugwort, cumin, geranium, jasmine, patchouli, leather, musk. “A tribute to all the Judas of this world” – hmm, can this be appealing? It is not. Heavy on pine and patchouli, the scent seems harsh and unbalanced.
Rien (Nothing) – incense, rose, leather, iris, labdanum, oakmoss, styrax, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes. A “modern Dorian Gray”, it vacillates between the ugly and the appealing. It’s a rather dense but smooth mix of leather and resins. I’ve gone back and forth on this one and still not sure.
Nombril Immense (Belly Button) – patchouli, Peru balsam, vetiver, black pepper, opoponax, bergamot, carrot seeds, ambrette. “An invitation to introspection”, the scent is centered around precious patchouli. The crisp vetiver and arid black pepper add a masculine touch. Overall, an interesting take on patchouli, albeit not outstanding.
Antiheros (Anti Hero) – lavender, musk, woods. This lavender scent “fights very ordinary battles”. It’s pretty much all it is – fresh, invigorating lavender.
Divin’Enfant (Child Divine) – orange blossom, rose, amber, musk, leather, tobacco. The scent contrasts innocent top notes of sweet, vanillic orange blossom with temper tantrums of the bottom notes – coffee, leather, and tobacco. It’s an odd mix and doesn’t really work well together.
Etat Libre d’Orange scents are available at Henri Bendel’s in New York.
Image source: www.etatlibredorange.com
39 comments February 8th, 2007