I thought of APOM again this week, when Etat Libre D'Orange announced the upcoming release of a scent inspired by Tilda Swinton. What a perfect match, I thought. Swinton has always worked with smaller directors on compellingly oddball projects. By choosing her, Etat Libre D'Orange has advanced a celebrity sensibility they initiated with Rossy Di Palma: one that celebrates the unique rather than capitalize on the cliched. I pulled out my bottle of Divin' Enfant, forgotten behind more recent purchases. In contrast to APOM, it seemed even better than I remembered, so lush and dense and full of things to admire.
Listen, don't look at me. I can't smell the alleged marshmallow in Divin'. It doesn't even smell particularly sugary to me, no sweeter than orange blossom itself. People who discuss it on the web tend to engage in a debate about how much of an infant Enfant is. There's supposed to be a tantrum in there, so which dominates: the precious little thing or the monster child? I'm not sure I see the point of that, though I'm guessing this is an argument having to do with how sweet it seems to some. I'm not sure I smell rose, amber, leather, or musk, either, but it's all very well blended, emphasizing the orange blossom without dominating it. I've never thought of orange blossom as particularly innocent. I do smell a nicely judged addition of tobacco, and an interesting counterpoint of mocha, anyway.
Where APOM is rather flat and inert on my skin, Divin'Enfant sings. It has personality, a lot of presence. Whether that presence is adult or juvenile isn't something I've wasted much time pondering. I wear the hell out of it. Enfant has what I'm starting to recognize is a trademark Etat quality: it feels rich and playful without making these things seem like polar opposites. The line merges high and low in fascinating ways, and I think Etat is ultimately far more populist than Maison Kurkdjian, which seems to think that people who can't afford their perfumes but can afford their cleaning liquids will see this as a real bargain and an aspirational gateway. Etat makes one size for all. Aside from the celebrity fragrances, everything is priced the same.
At a time when a small bottle of Chanel costs you between sixty and eighty, seventy five for a niche perfume is about as close to a bargain as you can expect for a luxury item. What you are promised for this is, more often than not, a damn good bottle of perfume. Funny how people dismiss Etat's sense of humor; inappropriate, they say. In bad taste. Out to shock for shock's sake. What could be more ridiculously inappropriate than offering someone who can't afford your perfume a bottle of overpriced cleaning solvent. Only the well off can smell good, by this logic. The rest of us are offered a lovely bucket of mop water. Surely this is more offensive than a cartoon penis. Etat's "sense of humor" makes a practice of poking fun at such B.S., and I can't thank them enough.
I think people are mistaken in viewing this as shock value. Let's be honest. These days, shocking is a great bottle of perfume, as good as its hype.