Etat Libre d’Orange RIEN Fragrance Review (Antoine Lie) 2006 – review first published in Cafleurebon
“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”
One of my favorite commercials, back from 2000, for Sony’s PlayStation 2, was called “the flea circus”. In a cold, lab light setting, a voice narrates the flea training experiment: the fleas were placed inside the jar and the lid was sealed shut. They were left undisturbed for three days, then, when the jar was open, the fleas would not jump out. The experiment showed that the fleas will never jump higher than the level set by the lid, their behavior being set for the rest of their lives, and when these fleas would reproduce, their offsprings will automatically follow their example. Then the voice would prompt us to “escape the circus and live beyond the limits of the imaginary lid”.
Etat Libre d’Orange was one of the pioneers of the niche houses, who managed, through innovative concepts and a fearless approach to push the lid of customer’s expectations regarding what artistic perfumery can bring to the table.
A note from the brand: “Do not believe what you first see… under the demureness of the name, the spicy savour of blackcurrant bays and the musky notes of blonde suede. Rien is a second skin perfume, a perfume that clings to the body and perseveres in the mind. Like venial sin on the verge of becoming mortal, irresistible and resolutely pervasive. As light as mohair and as precious as cashmere, the fragrance envelops skin with a powdered caress. It has the meticulous elegance and hypnotic beauty of a modern Dorian Gray, in a feminine/masculine version.
An entrancing fragrance that leaves an unforgettable imprint. Utter charm, utterly charismatic. The vanilla/opium accord of the drydown reinforces the addiction. Rien is an essential.” A perfumer’s confession
The connection to Dorian Gray immediately springs to my mind Mr. Wilde’s words: “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” I think the same can be (loudly) said about fragrances. Rien (nothing in French) is so far away from anything intimate, quiet, demure or skin-scent that I have always read the name as an ironic response to the “what are you wearing” question. Rien is a nocturnal beast with cushioned steps, eyes reflecting in darkness, fogged breath held in, long muscles sprang in tensed anticipation. That is, until (or IF) you tame the beast.
Some are Born to sweet delight. Some are Born to Endless Nights. On my skin, Rien paints a low contrast, benighted picture of things that bloom with joys of a dark hemisphere. Irreverent, personal, introspective, complex, with a nod to past classics and a wink to modern, urban vices, Rien is a polarising fragrance that you either love or hate.
Like a young vampire that has feasted on his elders, there is an undercurrent of old-world nostalgia flowing in Rien’s bloodstream, that brings to my mind the bitterly seductive old leather note of Piguet’s Bandit, and an overall elegant tailoring of a vintage pattern in the mixture of non-austere incense, dark green oakmoss and unapologetically feral animalic notes.
Wearing this redingote with a rigid backstitch, Rien smirks and flashes us with a surprisingly modern-leaning-futuristic dry-down. Feels like traveling forward in time, to a post-pandemic roaring ’30 (2030’s that, is), somewhere in the basement of an industrial dance club, hidden deep below a neon-lit Berlin. Warm latex, smoke machines, sweet-smelling rubber toys, faux leather whip tassels, and a tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition of artificial cleaners wafting right on top of the human-animalic low hanging cloud.
Echoing from the speakers, behind closed doors, a classical tune from almost half a century ago comes into the DJ’s rotation. The crowd cheers.
“It’s always tease, tease, tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day it’s fine and next it’s black
So if you want me off your back
Well, come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?”
Top notes: Black Pepper, Safraleine (Saffron & Leather Accord), Incense essence Orpur®
Heart notes: Leather, Iris Absolute, Cistus Absolute
Base notes: Patchouli essence Orpur®, Vetiver essence Orpur®, Treemoss
Disclosure: Bottle kindly provided by Eldo, opinions are my own
If you like Etat Libre d’Orange RIEN, also try: Min New York Moon Dust