Perfume Review and a Rant: Etat Libre d'Orange Vraie Blond
Before I review Vraie Blond, the last aldehyde of this aldehydic week, please allow me to rant
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Parfum est mort, proclaim Etat Libre d’Orange and very modestly proceed to declare that their collection is “clearly a small revolution in the formatted world of perfumes guided by profitability and consumer tests”. Firstly, any line that speaks about itself in revolutionary terms sets my eyes a-rolling. Because frankly, those who talk about “revolution” the most are the ones that deliver the least. The real olfactory revolutionaries are quietly creating truly original, quality scents without making much fuss about their “mission”. It also makes me laugh when lines like Etat boast the fact that they do not use marketing ploys to sell their scents. “Revolutionary” statements and the very bragging about the lack of marketing are just as much of a marketing technique as the usual pretty girl posters we see everywhere. Secondly, when I smell some of Etat’s scents, I find myself ruing the fact that “consumer tests” were not employed. Perhaps some things that the potential customers would have undoubtedly had to say about the fragrances, might have burst the bubble in which the creators of the line seem to exist. For example, a potential customer might have questioned the necessity of creating a “perfume” like Secretions Magnifique. In his email, Tom once called Secretions Magnifique the smell of a mobster washed out of the Hudson river and that to me perfectly sums up this hideous concoction of blood, sperm and fish. Why would a company create a “perfume” that smells like a floater? The only answer that comes to mind is- because they can. But just because science became so advanced that practically any smell can now be replicated, it doesn’t mean that all the smells out there should find their way into perfume, and just because the owners have funds so unlimited that they can make their every perverse idea come into life, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exercise common sense and have a modicum of taste. Yes, there is the “I Hate Perfume” trend in perfumery and perfumers are looking for new and unusual ways to express themselves, but…between true originality and shallow outrageousness lies a world of a difference.
And that brings me to the point of Etat’s advertising images. The line declares itself to be “free from every taboo” and advocates wearing “sexuality like a second skin (…) like a dare”. What with cartoon penises and pubic hair, the mentality of the tres liberated brand seems to me to be reminiscent of that of teenage boys (I hope the boys of 12-14 who have never drew a penis on the wall of the school toilet and then giggled all the way home, feeling very proud about their rebelliousness will forgive my sweeping generalization). In our fairly open-minded day and age, do the creators of Etat still feel so awfully repressed by the rigid moral code that they have to shout about being free from all taboos and shove their sexuality in everyone’s faces? And if they really, really have to, must it be done in such a juvenile, tacky manner?
Etat’s belief that their fragrances are marvels of “olfactory eroticism” seems to me to be touchingly misguided. They say that their perfumes are for “those who no longer want to merge with the mass but who on the contrary want to rediscover perfume of seduction”. What do teenage boys even know about seduction? Please! When I smell Putain de Palaces, Rien, and Nombril Immense, not to mention Vierges de Toreros and Eau de Floater, I don’t feel seduced, I feel assaulted. Many perfumes in the line suffer from the Too Much of a Good Thing disease. Putain, Nombril and, most sadly, Rien (which on paper sounded very “me”) smell too robust, too forceful, like they have too many notes, like the perfumer excitedly threw together all the ingredients he liked and forgot to self-edit…They smell like they were carved out with an axe, as opposed to being intricately sculpted with a finer instrument. Encens et Bubblegum, while, to me, not actually unlikable, smells too simplistic, too Demeter-like in the literal olfactory translation of its title. The same applies to Divin’Enfant. Je Suis Homme and Antiheros, although absolutely wearable and even pleasant, are rather unoriginal and unexciting. I very much liked Eloge du Traitre, but I feel it is imperative for people at Etat to know that Caron called to say they want their Yatagan formula back ... I would sum up my impressions of Etat Libre d’Orange scents and the whole attitude of the line by quoting the fabulous Nina Garcia: Aesthetically Not Pleasing.
There were two scents that I found to be neither repulsive nor too derivative. Revolutionary miracles of modern perfumery they are not, but I would happily wear them. I will talk about Jasmine et Cigarette next week. Today’s perfume is
According to the primitive teenage imaginings of the boys at Etat, a real blond has “a full-fledged décolleté, shapely hips and a sensuous catlike walk” (can’t you just see them drooling while writing the description?). Her “perfectly curvaceous body in a sequined lamé dress” is “a Technicolor vision of the American dream”. So she is basically a hussy with no taste in clothes. Luckily, the scent is not nearly as vulgar as the creators want to make it sound. In fact, it is a very pleasant fragrance that speaks to me about youthful prettiness and innocence rather than of tired, crude sensuality.
On a blotter, the crystalline quality and the sparkly effect of the aldehydic top notes are more apparent. On my skin, the scent has a softer, “fluffier”, “thicker” feel. It is a little candy of a scent, redolent of sweet peaches and velvety myrrh. In the middle stage, a “downy” sort of smell that I take to be vanilla mixed with heliotrope emerges, it has a slight almond undertone, which I could do without but which doesn’t bother me much. The drydown is fluffier still and does smell of the promised suede, but the note could have been a little stronger. All in all, the scent is pretty, smiley, playful and very wearable. It is not particularly interesting, but compared to the rest of the line, it is surprisingly tasteful and lovely. I don’t need a whole bottle, that sweet heliotrope-like accord makes Vraie Blond the kind of scent of which I will tire very quickly, but a decant may be in order.
Vraie Blond, and most of the other Etat Libre d’Orange scents are available at Henry Bendel, $65.00 for 50ml. (At least the line is objective enough about their scents not to overprice them. And on that final caustic note- Dixi!)
Labels: Etat Libre d'Orange