Perfume interview with Etienne de Swardt, the founder of Etat Libre d’Orange perfumes 


Etat Libre d’Orange is a completely unique niche perfume brand. What makes it different is not only its aspect of unpredictability and humor but also the quality that reflects boundless creativity when it comes to fragrances. Their creations are both chaotic and harmonious, but always fun.


Enjoy the interview with Etienne de Swardt, the man who stands behind this famous company, and whose curiosity is the leading star to  Etat Libre d’Orange.


What is the defining characteristic or quality that sets Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances from the rest of the niche perfume industry? 

ELO’s mantra is “At the end, we die so let’s be fundamentally frivolous, cynical and dramatic.” and the rest are only anecdotes. Too short for an answer, you want more? More what? More “ecstasy, jealousy, comedy of love, tragedy, harmony, and fantasy my dear… Like the Cary Grants and Kellys once before”, Alphaville is the melody of the 80s, but young people really can’t remember it.  


So, yes, ELO was forged throughout and by the 80s. Add a glimpse of the dark romantic 19th century of Musset and Rimbaud and what else? Maybe some Serious Moonlight of David Bowie? The vanity of Rock Hudson in the picture where he is shaking hands with Michael Jackson, both kings “gone with the wind”, because vanity does not make us eternal. :) 


And then Circulez y a rien à voir, and I just can’t forget Sinnerman, a beautiful song by Nina Simone (which inspired me to create a perfume She was an anomaly), the scents of a puppy Wizsla or Weimaraner, especially their inner paws, eternal enigmatic beauty of Edward Lawrence, his quest in the Nefud desert to Aqaba and the sublime aesthetic vision of David Lean. 


And as final fragments of ELO’s definition, I shall say the poetry of Charles Peguy on the Chateaux de Loire and the architecture of the Cathedral of Chartres, a monument that can save a living form from despair. Forget the rest of human history, the above is enough.


What is a beautiful perfume, and what is a good perfume? Is it one of the same or?

When asked to explain the difference between porn and erotic, the artist Tom of Finland said: “There is no line, it’s integrated”. As long as the perfume extends the memory of beauty and love, it is decent and deserves a bravo as a warrior of passion in a spray. :)


Do you dream of perfumes and can you remember some that you “dreamt” of? 

Prada’s Infusion d’Iris, or “the memory of a lady”. But I hate that so-called self singularity where invent ourselves as pathetic copies of Marcel Proust’s brilliant mind. Let’s melt ourselves into the vast ocean of universality as one single person of the fraternity. But this quote could damage the industry of fragrances which was built and encouraged on the “vanity fair”, so pardon my nonsense. :)


Are there limits in what we can imagine or do in perfumery? And if there are, who creates them, nature itself...our mind, culture?

At ELO we have been proclaiming for fourteen years that concrete poetry precedes the formulation. So as they are unlimited in fantasy our perfumes are organic consequences of unlimited nature so they are unlimited. Fantasy is the very essence of ELO and it’s limitless and vast like the Nefud desert. :)


Having in mind your famous perfume Secretions Magnifiques that contradicts many traditional notions about perfumes, what is your definition or concept of perfume?

Existentialism was my world in 2006, and it’s still the movement that has a great impact on me. I wanted to isolate, to walk the road less traveled, one step aside from the crowd, and then get lost in the translation to feel alive and take a new perspective on things. We bow to Laca, Freud, (and Gary Larson of course) and we value our inner child strongly embroidered in the living fragile adult. 


I know that you, as well as niche brands, don’t use celebrities for promotional purposes. But if you had to choose some celebrity to be  “the face” of Secretions Magnifiques, who would that be?

A dead one, of course. The departed are always magnificent, sublimated by their death. Also, they don’t talk, can’t sue you, don’t ascertain… So one name and one name only ALFRED DE MUSSET - vain, unshaved selfie, telling you that with just 1,5 euros in your pocket you can control mankind and built a scent empire instead of just a state of Orange.


What 3 fragrances would you recommend to someone that never tried ELO, as some sort of introduction to the brand?

Hermann, Hermann, and Hermann. And if you need five, I would say  The Afternoon of a Faun (Nijinsky, the eternal best) and Experimentum Crucis (Newton, the eternal best, too).


Before you started ELO, what was your favorite perfume?

You really want me to paraphrase Marcel Proust, and turn pathetic with my madeleine :) Ok, Givenchy Gentleman.


What makes fragrances from the Orange Extraordinaire collection so special? What is the idea behind the collection, and why should fans of ELO try them, besides the fact that they are fans?

Timeless moments go with timeless intentions and then you can die happy and satisfied. Try Crucis and its poetry of the rainbow, where you will be diffracting light on your skin. Try Spice and 500 Years, to give the rose as the knight of the renaissance.


How future smells through the eyes of ELO?

Like the inside of CRACKER JACK, LA FIN DU MONDE, my dear. From ecology to virology, all our systems are collapsing, so, yes, LA FIN DU MONDE is the answer to your final question. No more, no less.


You can read the original interview here.