We interviewed Etienne de Swardt of niche fragrance house Etat Libre d’Orange. As expected, he very much epitomises the brand he founded: alternative; audacious and wildly creative. Read on to discover more about the man behind this exuberant fragrance house and its newest release The Ghost in the Shell…
What led you to a career in the fragrance industry?
An improbable collision with beautiful minds and people of the scent industry during my early 20s. I did not plan the 27 years voyage in scent but the vast narrative ocean of the perfume industry came as a blessing.
Can you explain more around the origin of the Etat Libre d’Orange brand name? How did it come to be?
It means Orange Free State. I was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1970, raised few years in the free state of Orange near Bloemfontein where my family belongs. I was looking for a name that could tell the end of diktat, the freedom to perfumers, the call of the wild, the veld and the irreverence... So, ELO was the natural answer plus in French the rhythmic sound is sweet and mysterious.
“Perfume is dead, long live perfume!” - What does ELO motto represent?
Cry freedom, to rebel, to exist at last, to walk the road the less travelled, to explore new frontiers with no taboo just the sense of burlesque, comedy, and tragedy all in bottle to entertain with panache and frivolity our pitiful human condition. So far, the best anti despair antidote in 100ml instead of 10 mgr; we offer a better life prescription to seduce and feel alive.
The Ghost in the Shell just arrived in Australia. What makes it unique and different to the other ELO fragrances?
This perfume is the future, it comes from the 20th century, it tells the alliance of bio tech and naturals to illustrate our formidable paradoxes, the paradox of mankind always trapped mid distance between utopia and dystopia. This perfume is the legacy of a priest and a scientist aka Pierre Teilhard de Chardin delivered here in a bottle, Teilhard de Chardin was the first to proclaim that the future of all our civilisations will be through the deep alliance of man and the machine; "the ghost in the shell" illustrated by Masamune Shiro is the epitome of cyber punk. This perfume was missing to fulfil the 20th century into our 21st and then amplify with just a fray our capacity to interconnect together and unite in of single people of love for scent.
What fragrance are you most proud of?
Hermann and The Afternoon of a Faun. Poetry speaks deep in those two, connected from past lives, romantic lives, blending dark knight and demiurge in antique forests of nymphes and despair. The battlefield of love against tragedy of flesh.
If you could only wear one Etat Libre D’Orange fragrance forever what would you select and why?
I must stay coherent therefore I shall say Hermann and The Afternoon of a Faun but secretly without telling anybody I would be taking two or three other bottles such as The Ghost in the Shell, Experimentum Crucis and Fat Electrician.
Paris is famous for being the most romantic and cultural city in the world. Can you share your ultimate guide in Paris?
First enjoy a visit to our flagship store at 69 rue des Archives in the Marais to sniff the deep spirit of Paris, both the naughty and the noble. Then walk the banks of the Seine from east to west like the race of the sun (Paris city of light) and keep walking west with your lover till the Pont Mirabeau. On the bridge just above the Seine that passes beneath your feet give a proper kiss to your lover to outsmart time eternally.
Many of your fragrances are collaborations with artists, actors, writers, and celebrities like Rossy de Palma, Tilda Swinton, and Chandler Burr. What has been your most memorable collaboration to date? Any future collaborations in the pipeline?
Different each of them, memorable all of them. I will invite the Pacific ocean for the next collaboration.
What Etat Libre d’Orange Fragrance are you working on currently? Any details you can share?
Something about surfing the change where blue is the new green, but not rushing for the obvious something malicious and ironic.