Don’t I Know You From Someplace?

william-bouguereauThe other day I received a sample of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Rien.  A good deal has been written about this perfume which has been considered toxic and difficult and so forth and so on.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Rien is just a good old leather chypre, genus Banditus, species Cabochardus.

My sample of Rien came from the lovely Sigrun at Rigtigparfym, and although I had read about it from time to time, I had never come across the scent before.  The brouhaha online about it does strike me as overblown.  Rien is no more difficult to carry off than Absolue Pour le Soir, the other Cabochard wannabe I’ve encountered in the last six months or so.  However, one thing about these polarizing scents that I do note, besides their obvious descent from Cabochard, is how blatant references to sexuality were in the perfumed past, and how muted they are now. 

It’s a very odd cultural phenomenon that we are living through these days.  References to sex on television are plentiful and reasonably varied, marriage is now an equal opportunity institution, but at the same time there seems to be a coyness on the part of the public to references that are not either sanitized or g-stringed by humor. It’s rather like the padded bras now available that obliterate nipples from view while inflating the wearer’s size. Sexy, yes, but not graphic or realistic about it; cartoon sexy, the CG animated territory of X-rated uncanny valley.

Perhaps the same trend has invaded perfumery, fragrances are no longer up front about sex. Old Cabochard, old Tabu, and old Femme, to cite three of the most obvious strollers up and down the boulevards of Parisian perfumery, were selling something quite blatantly.  They asked you what they smelled like, but truthfully, and wink, wink, neither you nor the perfume were in any doubt about the matter.  Ambroxan in this context does not make the same connection with my (no doubt) overly animalic brain.

To use another example, Rien or Absolue may sidle up to me  and inquire flirtatiously what they remind me of, but my answer is usually, “chemicals”, and there’s nothing sexy about that. This is a problem for animalics in general.  They work best with a large number of naturals in them.  Take the naturals out, and the pheromones go out right after them.

So, does Rien smell sexy?

No. It smells like a tailor’s establishment to me. Men have passed through, and been fitted, but there is no suggestion of misconduct on anyone’s part.  This is not a case of What The Tailor Saw, it’s entirely proper and even in a way, starchy, whereas nothing of the sort was true of old Cabochard, that slattern goddess with her unfiltered Gitanes.

What Rien does achieve is some longevity on skin. In contrast to another short lived chypre from the line, Afternoon of a Faun, Rien does actually stick around for three hours or so – but shouldn’t it have the fullness, the sheer naughtiness in place?  Rien is well named. Absolutely rien has been going on around here!

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8 thoughts on “Don’t I Know You From Someplace?

  1. :)

    Absolue Pour le Soir is one of a few perfumes that I strongly dislike (it smells just awful for my nose) so I should probably skip this upscale locker room scent.

    • Had a sample very nicely given to me by the SA at Bergdorf’s but ultimately passed it on.
      You really need some testosterone to pull that one off!

  2. I liked Absolue Pour Le Soir quite a bit and thought it quite seductive. And, to my nose, it didn’t smell synthetic or filled with chemicals. If a bottle were to fall into my lap, I would wear it, though it wouldn’t be every day as it’s not a very versatile scent. Just thought I’d throw out a different side from someone who is a hardcore Orientalist in taste preferences. :)

    • Francis Kurkdjian’s got a reputation for controversial scents. Glad you liked it though, and you’re not alone, the majority of posters on Basenotes seem to like it as well. Maybe, being the non orientalist that I am, I just don’t geddit.

  3. Haha, I love to hear your take on Rien! For me, it goes crazy with my skin chemistry, which in this case is not bad but it does smells kind of eye brow-lifting :)

    I’ve hardly started on your samples as I’ve had the most stubborn cold ever, leaving me with half the sense of scent from normal. Because of this cold, putting on anything precious has been feeling like a waste, but finally it’s getting better so now I’ll start trying yours out as well :D

    • You never know how a perfume works on different skins. It’s amazing, and truth to tell, if I hadn’t smelled old chypres like Cabochard I probably would LOVE Rien.

      What I am liking a lot from Etat Libre is Vraie Blonde. Go figure, the brightest, champagne-iest thing ever!

      Sorry to hear about your cold, and hope this is absolutely, positively the last one of the season for you.

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