When talking about niche perfumery brands that are “out of the box”, unusual and often exceptional, one name comes to my mind: Etat Libre D’Orange. Their fragrances have the rare ability to transport you in bright and dark places, all with the same perfume.
The creator of this brand, Etienne de Swardt, is not afraid to dig deep into human emotions, not all of them positive and cheerful. Our olfactive memory is a tricky mistress, pulling out secrets of the past or dreaming of the future when we least expect it.
In his early years of creative enthusiasm, Etienne came up with a very fancy idea and he released Oh My Dog! and Oh My Cat!, both being luxury fragrances for pets. This playful, funny, and unexpected take on perfumery brought him the buzz of fame and everybody knew it was only the beginning. He, then, went on and established the new brand, Etat Libre D’Orange stating that “it takes a dangerous man to make a dangerous perfume”.
As striking as this idea is, we cannot help but wonder what exactly a “dangerous perfume” is. One might argue that, in this case, danger is another way of being bold, a more distinct way of daring greatly, assuming a sort of “leap of faith” into an industry that is already overflowing with brands and new releases every 2 minutes.
Dangerous might also be the kind of fragrance that captures your imagination, sticks to your soul, and becomes your “alter ego” or one that has a name so strange it makes you change your mind about the traditional, poetic appeal of classic perfumery.
Dangerous could be a fragrance that challenges your senses, forces you to reconsider the old ways of perfumery, and pushes you into unchartered territory, with a combination of ingredients meant to blow your mind and throw you into the arms of total bliss.
After testing several perfumes of this brand, I had the impression that there is almost an “intellectual” dimension to them because you can feel that the very moment they land on your skin they start a sort of dialogue with you, they greet and tease you, then they slow down and let your mind absorb them in peace. In the end, they wake up to a new dynamic of joy, with you as the main player.
Some of the fragrances are already in the virtual “hall of fame” such as “Experimentum Crucis”, created by the fabulous perfumer Quentin Bisch, a cypre inspired by Isaac Newton’s experiments, a fragrance born out of legend, with precious fragrant substances. The same perfumer came up in 2016 with another gem, “Attaquer le Soleil - Marquis de Sade”, a woody fragrance with a fascinating historical story behind it.
“Spice must flow” is a spicy-oriental fragrance, released in 2019 and created by Mathilde Bijaoui. This perfume is a praise to the merchants in order to remember their open roads of spice and silk. Cardamom, cinnamon, and patchouli give this scent a unique, powerful projection for those brave enough to wear it.
The famous Antoine Lie contributed with a floral-sweet fragrance, “Divin Enfant”, as enchanting as an angelic child. In the words of the brand, “after the gentle top notes of orange blossom and marshmallow, breaks the unexpected accord of coffee, leather and cold tobacco, a shrilling symbol of our sleepless nights.”
The same Antoine Lie joined by Antoine Maisondieu created “Eau de protection”, a floral-spicy scent with a bewitching heart of Turkish Rose Absolute, Jasmine, and Heliotrope. This is a fragrance for rose lovers, a firm declaration from the “queen of flowers”.
In 2020, Etat Libre D’Orange released “Exit the King”, which just happens to be my favorite scent from this brand. A floral cypre with “an immaculate blend of flowers, foam & moss” that immediately conquered my heart. Created by Cecile Matton and Ralf Schwieger, “a perfume to dream of entropy”, is a complex story of love and science, and it completely took me by surprise.
These are just a few of their perfumes, in no particular order, there are many others worth mentioning but I want to give you the opportunity to discover them as well as finding more information about the brand, in the following interview with the General Manager of the brand, Mr. Olivier Mariotti.
Interview with Mr. Olivier Mariotti, General Manager of Etat Libre d'Orange
Q: I know that you have been in the cosmetic and perfumery business for many years, working for different prestigious brands. How long have you been working for this brand and why did you choose to join their team?
In 2011 Etienne de Swardt, the founder of Etat Libre d’Orange, and a long-time friend asked me to assist him in gathering investors to bring more resources to the brand launched in 2006 and help him set the strategies for the year to come and put the wheel in motion.
Q: Reading about ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE we get the impression that there are many things that are different about the way you create your fragrances. What are the characteristics that set this brand apart from the other hundreds of niche perfumery brands?
We are not perfume makers, we are storytellers, and there’s a deep honesty in everything we do which probably does the trick and the point of difference in the creation process, for the perfumers we address and towards the public at the end.
Q: The pandemic has affected every aspect of the economy and implicitly all aspects of our lives. How did it affect your brand, and which are some of your coping mechanisms to overcome the difficult periods?
Business wise it was for us a real booster, suddenly a lot of curious people around the planet who found themselves grounded, eager for new experiences and with the mean to achieve them.
We adapted digitally very quick, in several formats, countries, and languages;
We now operate brand-dedicated retail platforms in China, North America, and the rest of the world, we also invested heavily and worked closely with our partners around the globe to establish a strong foothold in international and national social media.
Q: Your brand works with different and brilliant perfumers such as Antoine Lie, Quentin Bisch, Nathalie Feisthauer, Christine Nagel, Daniela Andrier, Mathilde Bijaoui, Cecile Matton, Shyamala Maisondieu to name just a few of them. How do you select them, what is the process you follow when deciding who will oversee the creation of a new fragrance?
It's really Etienne’s field, it is all about the connection of the minds, and the reaction of the perfumer to the story we propose. We entertain a privileged relationship with Givaudan and Mane and their perfumers.
Q: The brand is famous for the unconventional names of the fragrances (Fat electrician, I am trash, La fin du monde, Putain des palaces, Secretions magnifique, She was an anomaly, The ghost in the shell, Jasmin et cigarette, Hermann a mes cotes me paraissait une ombre). I am sure that this is more than a marketing stunt. How do you come up with these names?
What is amazing is that some 16 years later we keep on being able to bring an innovative proposal to our audience; it is also in the DNA of the brand, it is more a teamwork today, on the basis of Etienne’s inspiration and concept work, than the fulgurant cry out of the early days of the brand.
Q: We know that no matter how impressive the presentation and the story behind a perfume are, in the end, what counts most is the actual juice, the composition, the balance, and the originality. What kind of ingredients is the brand using and what do you think about the “battle” between natural versus synthetic ingredients?
I’m going to have an alternative opinion as we do not really pay attention to this.
…or we do, in an extreme way, for example when we nurtured with “I am Trash - Les fleurs du dechet” the concept of upcycling that you now find across all the industry and in other product segments.
The rest of the time, we’re looking at the alchemy between a text and a formulation proposal.
Of course, there’s some tuning, but we try as much as possible to let the perfumer free in his creation process, as we liberated him, having provided a rich background concept, and a budget-less mission. So, the cost of the formulation tells the story of its content quality…
Q: Tell us something about the system of distribution, in which countries do you sell your fragrances?
We’re very proud to be available in 82 countries so far and in some 900 doors, on all continents.
Q: What do you think about the current state of the perfume industry and what is the future of ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE within this industry? Can you disclose some of the future plans of the brand?
Wanting to break free from an industry dictates some 16 years ago, was the foundation of the creation of our fragrant revolution, so we stir our own ship across all waters and all weathers if we want to stay true to the founding principles of the brand.
But without giving too much away, there should be soon other ELdO boutiques worldwide in key cities, a French Parisian poetry-inspired launch in April, and more home fragrance developments towards the end of 2023.