Who: Etienne de Swardt, founder of perfume house Etat Libre d’Orange. We love the quirky nature of this brand, with its witty fragrance names (Fat Electrician, anyone?) and delicious compositions. We caught up with the charmingly erudite Etienne at the launch of his latest fragrance to find out more.
Today I’m wearing You or Someone Like You, it’s a very fresh scent, perfect for all gardeners but if you really need to know what’s in it, it’s probably not for you. It’s part of the decision we took with author and olfactory curator Chandler Burr when we were creating it together. We didn’t want to reveal what’s in it because it’s a piece of art.
Anyway, you can pick up pretty quickly it’s a rose, with a nice bouquet of mint. It’s Chandler’s vision of Los Angeles and it’s dedicated to a woman who does not exist, because she’s the heroine of Chandler’s novel, You Or Someone Like You, which is the inspiration for the scent.
Etat Libre d’Orange is quite eclectic in the way we exist. The best description of us is that we’re like a Gary Larson cartoon. When I was about to get married, my father’s advice to me was “All the philosophy in life you need, you can find in Gary Larson’s cartoons”.
So, at the beginning of our first business plan I put a Gary Larson cartoon, the one with a dog on the psychiatrist’s couch who says ‘It’s the mail man that scares me”. We stand somewhere in between imposter and sincerity as a brand. We back everything we do with lots of research, but we also say everything is nonsense.
The great, great grandson of the Marquis de Sade came to the store and said he loved our perfumes, and wanted to do something with us. He was setting up an exhibition at the Musée D’Orsay, called Attaquer Le Soleil, I said I loved the name and I was very happy to let him do what ever he wanted with the perfumer to create a scent, but I absolutely wanted the name to be Attaquier Le Soleil.
I was raised by my mother who was very much into words. It’s fun and easy to engage people with words, now I use perfume to harpoon people like she used words, but now the poetry is in the formulation. I think it’s the reason we’re not boring like so many other perfume brands, we take that side step to look at the psychology of creation. and then take the road less traveled.
I wear fragrance on my neck, just two simple spritzes. I don’t want to do an attitude thing and have loads on.