Weekly Fumes: Rien by Etat Libre d’Orange

John Preston

So the joke with the French enfant terrible of the fragrance world, Etat Libre d’Orange, is that Rien, translated as ‘nothing’, is anything but. It tickles them to imagine that if a passerby, catching a whiff of this beastly scene-stealer, were to ask the wearer ‘What is that?!’, the response would be an innocent sounding ‘Nothing!’

Rien smells like a classic perfume, possibly something created in 1920 and which has now been shut down due to those horrid EU regulations. Cleverly, though, ELd’O have made a leather fragrance that falls somewhere in between the opulent Grande Dame of Cuir de Russie and the butch bathhouse of Antaeus. Both of these Chanels are leather-bound masterpieces in their own right but Rien succeeds in being less gendered and more skewed towards the contemporary. It smells modern but is rooted in its own rich history.

When applied, Rien is heady and outrageous: a dark new leather that has a purple fruit intensity and a smoky incense buried beneath it. When a friend who I gave a sample to recently wore it on a night out, I remarked that he smelt like a new and expensive handbag that a sales assistant had spilt grape Kool-Aid into a few weeks before they sold it. It’s magnificent and difficult, and if you’re a scent wallflower don’t even think of applying a dot of this juice.

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Rien lasts all day and all night too. If you don’t like it then you may very well have to lump it, and even after a shower a faint skin scent can still linger. On me there is little development from the original leather and berry accords that dominate from the off, although it does lighten very slightly and becomes warmer as the hours pass. After such time it is then possible to make out the rose note that’s included and that certainly makes sense in the composition as a whole but initially is hard to isolate.

Rien has a big sillage and if your colleagues aren’t up for it then you’re going to make their day miserable.

In an age of mass-marketed and polite ‘his and her’ designer smells, Etat Libre d’Orange have the audacity and talent to create powerhouses such as Rien with its big, bold and bare-faced beauty. A new classic then, and if you really think you’re tough enough then try the new extreme version released earlier this year: Rien Intense Incense!

Rien by Etat Libre D’orange. 50 ml at £70, 100ml at £105

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.