It all began about eight years ago, on a cold winter evening, when Roland Mouret and his CEO Mark Langthorne came to the Etat Libre d’Orange offices, just above the boutique at 69 rue des Archives, Paris. They wanted to talk about a perfume with Etienne de Swardt, our creative director.
Roland was a fan. He wore our perfume, and in a British newspaper article entitled “Little Black Book: Roland Mouret,” he wrote about us: “A unique parfum company that produces the best exclusive scents with a twist.”
On that evening, we talked fashion and fragrance and the possibility of creating a perfume for Roland’s brand. And since we were drinking champagne, incredibly brilliant ideas emerged from the discussion. We were all very excited.
But in the days to come, when we were sober and realistic, we all realized that the time wasn’t right. Etat Libre d’Orange had just completed a collaboration for Tom of Finland, and we were about to embark on another with Tilda Swinton. Following his phenomenal success with the Galaxy dress, Roland was creating more iconic dresses that would become equally celebrated: the Moon, Pigalle, Titanium, and many others.
But we never forgot that remarkable evening and the ideas that came out of it. And it seemed inevitable that we would come back together. We had so much in common! For both of us, collaborations were appealing challenges. Roland created collections for the Gap and Banana Republic. Etat Libre d’Orange has worked with the Tom of Finland foundation, with Tilda Swinton on Like This, with Rossy de Palma on Eau de Protection, with Mx Justin Vivian Bond on The Afternoon of a Faun. We collaborated to create Attaquer Le Soleil Marquis de Sade, and teamed up with perfume critic Chandler Burr to develop You or Someone Like You. We both believe in a bold aesthetic, provocation, sensuality. We want our creations to enable clients to define themselves or become someone else. Roland drapes bodies — we drape skin. We use the same words: fusion, structure, magic, eroticism. We both have high profile fans. Roland talks about dressing to undress — and what better way is there to reveal the full power of a fragrance? Not to mention the fact that both our brands are creatively directed by hot, tempestuous Frenchmen.
Etat Libre d’Orange and Roland Mouret. We’re made for each other. Together, we have merged our philosophies, our attitudes and our identities, and created Une Amourette.
— Etat Libre d’Orange
Une Amourette is a no-holds-barred fragrance. It is not for everybody. It’s divisive. It will corrupt the fragrance category with its subversive positioning. It’s a scent that makes and leaves its mark. It is worn first at the pulse point between the thighs. As she moves, walks, crosses her legs…the warmth and friction release an intoxicating burst of fragrance catching the attention of the most primitive sense: smell. Une Amourette transcends gender. It is neither feminine nor masculine but it connects with the innate desire to take control, to be unique… And when two bodies come together, the alchemy of skin on skin and scent on skin is unleashed, and the full power of the fragrance is revealed.
— Roland Mouret
Once I had met Roland Mouret, I began to imagine a very sophisticated and dark perfume, black and red. Patchouli and Indole are the backbones in this woody/animal floral. The head notes are brightly opened with Neroli, while Resinoide Iris, Akigalawood and Resinoide Incense form the foundation of this story.
It is a night of pale moonlight, a night toward the end of the 20th century, a night when the old world is ending and the new one is beginning. It is a night when one trembles to boldly lower the sacred cross against the heart, to aid in the passage to fatherhood. So, as a crucifix, that night I pick up Hyperion, a novel by Dan Simmons. This is a masterful science fiction saga that celebrates the infinite legend of the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was a 20th-century researcher, paleontologist, theologian and philosopher. And I read, pacified, until the reflections of the dawn, until the first golden rays of the East. I read the future of man, the celebration of transhumanism and the qualitative leap of humanity enhanced by machine. I have rarely loved a book this much, I have rarely loved a thinker this much.
I read that night what a man thought he saw in the tombs of time.
I am a lover of words in the service of materials when they come together to make poetry in the bottom of our bottles; thus, a few years ago, I bring up the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to one of the last living vestiges of the triumphant 20th century, and I ask him: - "Then Teilhard de Chardin, precursor of genius?" A look, a silence and for the answer four unexpected words, four words whispered by my father: "GHOST IN THE SHELL". This is the act of birth that makes the spirit of perfume. The rest is poetry to live on the skin.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died in 1955, but his spirit continues to travel. This fragrance extends it through an alliance with the Japanese artist Shirow Masamune to transcend the spirit of Earth.
By mixing biotech and natural materials, this perfume silently celebrates the wake of the future and also whispers of a day to come, by providence or chance, when humanity is reunited and organized. A day when all consciousness is summoned by the infosphere to constitute a superior being and pass from the inert to the living. As the molecules assemble to make the living, we will then make a qualitative leap that becomes the starting point and arrival of transhumanism.
This perfume is the future. It comes to us from the 20th century.
Ghost in the Shell, a perfume that speaks of the human phenomenon and its paradox, a perfume to wear on oneself ab libitum, at one’s pleasure. A perfume as a propagation towards the other, that makes you the axis and the arrow of evolution; modern, indeed! From the bottom of the matter, rise up.
In One Thousand and One Nights, there is this wonderful expression for addressing a loved one: to say “soul of my soul,” signifying the emptiness of living without one's love.
I remember Aladdin's warm voice - crackling out of a record player on a 45 rpm - speaking to Badroulboudour. He calls her "my princess, soul of my soul." I was 7 years old at the time, and I asked my mother for the meaning of soul.
She replied, "There is no single definition. It is an invisible presence that links us to the divine, a little like the Vanilla trail of the perfume that you want to follow. The soul travels to infinity in space and time and connects us to the whole. It is a fragment of that which is beautiful and perfect in each of us, that returns us to heaven and remains on earth when we disappear. Perfume continues the presence of this fragment, and the soul proceeds in the same way."
A few years later, through the sustained reading of One Thousand and One Nights, I learned that the relationship to the body is nothing without a relationship to the soul, though for some, sensuality seemed to be an excellent substitute for the soul. To embrace each other could be an innovative way of instilling in each other a drop of the white and cosmic soul that flowed into the primordial ocean before the world came into being.
We have here a perfume that speaks of the fire-god of Persia and the gods of India, the worship of offerings, Mesopotamia, milk and clarified butter to honor the gods. And to remember, by a wake in the air, the foaming whiteness of the soul that comes from everything. Here, perfume is soul, soul is perfume. A creamy explosion, where musk intermingles with iris butter and transmits the powerful balm of vanilla, followed by the friction of Tonka against benzoin.
In On the Road, Jack Kerouac wrote, “LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities.” It’s the city described by Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall as the city where “the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”
But they come, the dreamers, for the sunshine and the possibilities, to this land of opportunity, where hope springs eternal. Whatever they’re searching for — happiness, love, money, fame — the temptations lure them deeper and deeper into this concrete paradise.
Does Los Angeles have a scent? It’s impossible to say. But Chandler Burr knows Los Angeles. And Chandler Burr knows perfume. So we decided to collaborate on a fragrance that an LA woman might wear. And we gave it the name of Chandler’s novel, set in Los Angeles.
And you dreamers, with your dreams — you might flourish, you might wither, but you don’t give up. You keep coming, or you think about coming, and sometimes you stay.
Because someday, someone just might be looking for you, pointing at you, wanting you. Or someone like you.
“A few years ago I wrote a novel called You Or Someone Like You set in Los Angeles. Its central character is a woman, Anne Rosenbaum, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband, Howard, a movie studio executive. Like so many of the homes up the fantastical curves and canyons of the Hills they look down on LA’s Downtown skyscrapers and the concrete ribbon of the 101 freeway, across Mid-Wilshire and Robertson, the glass towers of Century City, and, on clear days, over the 405 to Santa Monica and the placid, blue Pacific. And always the palm trees, imported and planted in LA in the early 20th century, ‘just as I am an import,’ Anne observes, ‘now indigenous.’ Anne is English, born in Hammersmith, London.
“As many have observed, Los Angeles is not a city. It is a state of mind. A strange amalgam of places and languages. Los Angeles is rivers of cement highways and infinite strips of asphalt, traffic, and despite or because of it all one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth, a natural beauty made by nature and molded by people, cobalt sky and the greens and tans of the desert parks, ocean fog, the white and delicate pale yellow jasmine and honeysuckle flowers that grow up parking signs reading ‘Permit Parking Only Violators Will Be Towed.’
“This scent is very specific. When Etienne de Swardt approached me about creative directing a fragrance whose name would be the title of my novel, I told my perfumer, Caroline Sabas, that we were creating the fragrance Anne would wear. She is also very specific. Coolly crisply English, covered in but untouched by the silver, materialistic movie industry, literary, somewhat removed.
“You Or Someone Like You is not the ‘scent of LA’ or ‘the smell of the Hollywood Hills captured.’ It is not one of those olfactory synecdoches. It is, on the other hand, stylistically and in its technical construction what a Los Angeles woman would wear in my view. Caroline and I discussed this at each step during the creation process. It is contemporary, 21st century. It is LA, whatever that means, though in part it means the norms a scent would follow in a meeting at one of the agencies near Wilshire, at a studio, at a lunch in Bel Air or dinner off Beverly Drive. (The raw materials are completely irrelevant. The work is the work. If you need to know what it’s made of, don’t wear it; You is not for you.)
“My fictional Anne wears it; so presumably do thousands of other women. It represents her only in the way all such choices represent us. What it will be to you is for you to decide, obviously.”
— Chandler Burr
You or Someone Like You is a welcoming fragrance: neither off-putting nor strange. It is a contemporary creation built around timeless materials.
It embodies the women of LA — someone like Anne Rosenbaum: cool and crisp; once foreign but now indigenous; very exposed to Hollywood’s silver screen dreams yet untouched by its materialistic machinery. Anne finds comfort in literature, and the garden of her home, which nestles in the hills overlooking downtown LA.
The scent represents her only in the way all such choices represent us. It can be concrete, like a beautiful green rose. Yet, it can be abstract, just like an Erik Satie composition for it is a puzzle so mysterious that it is difficult to unravel.
The perfume invigorates the senses with its fresh, inviting appeal. One feels good wearing it.
By virtue of my mother, I am the son of a forgotten coast, far away in New Caledonia. At the mouth of the Ngoye live the Borindi, who have known since the twilight of the gods the great principle of harmony with Mother Nature: to take from her no more than is necessary while preserving for tomorrow. They understand the future of mankind, and in the shade of the niaouli tree and jacarandas in bloom, they guide our first steps into this new direction for Etat Libre d’Orange.
In the early years of this new millennium, when my children were young and I was a hopeful thirty-year-old, I took them to see an animated film called Titan AE. I learned by heart the introduction, which went something like this:
“Once in a while, man unlocks a secret so profound that it can change the universe: fire, electricity, atom splitting. At the dawn of the 21st century, we invented the Titan program . . . ”
There is a jumble of romantic and titanic science fiction poetry that emerges from the slow, sure, and inevitable rocking of wastewaters in the industrial cycle. We want to make this perfume a messenger, in service not only to the survival of the species which results from seduction, but above all in service to the planet where our own miasmas must reflect beauty.
We believe that a new post-religious “jihad” is approaching, coming from an often disillusioned and polluting West, and echoing a new animistic era. Those who have committed crimes against the environment are repenting, and democracies are acknowledging nature as the sacred focal point, meant to be shared. The beliefs of the primitive and ancient tribes are back, and demand our full allegiance. This perfume will carry a universal message: that which is dirty must reflect the beautiful, “…and wash me clean of the bluish wine stains and the splashes of vomit, Carrying away both rudder and anchor.” (Arthur Rimbaud, The Drunken Boat.)
Les Fleurs du Déchet represents a passage to the adulthood of Sécrétions Magnifiques. It is a counter-revolution for Etat Libre d’Orange, still noisy and disruptive, but ultimately functional.
Givaudan, Ogilvy and Etat Libre d’Orange have created a three-fold company in the service of Mother Nature, to offer her a bouquet of forgiveness and let everyone know – loudly and quickly – that soon it will be too late.
Dear world: Do not throw anything away because at the bottom of our trash lies the fermented distillation of great love. The garbage trucks hold flowers that can still bleed, the peels and rinds that can still give. The noxious exhalations have honey notes that can merge with the earth. And there are so many floating concretions, the trash that is thrown into the sea, and the natural waste, the ambergris, mystical symbols, the attitudes of primitive tribes – these must now be reprocessed.
To paraphrase and distort Alan Paton: Cry, my beloved planet, for the unborn child; let him not love the earth too deeply, for it is slipping away.
So before it’s too late, let us (s)pray to the god of waste, our dear lord of leftovers.
End of sermon. This is a messianic fragrance (in natural spray, of course.)
Top notes: Apple Essence upcycling, Bitter Orange upcycling, Green Tangerine upcycling Heart notes: Rose Absolute upcycling, Iso E Super upcycling, Gariguette Strawberry upcycling Base notes: Cedarwood Atlas upcycling, Sandalore upcycling, Akigalawood upcycling