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Designer Q&A: Etienne de Swardt

Meet Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre de Orange, the French fragrance house renowned the world over for its alternative outlook; bold perfume personas and unabashed creativity. We talk to the man behind the brand about his inspirations, exceptional imagination and the launch of the new and exclusive fragrance, ‘Hermann’.




What are your earliest memories of scents, and what fragrant flashbacks do they evoke?

Santal from New Caledonia, a place where everything starts and everything ends - far away in the South Pacific, the Ballad of the south sea... a childhood place with a touch of Jicky and Shalimar.


What does your brand stand for; what are its values?

Etat Libre d'Orange could be said "the road less traveled of the perfume industry". The idea behind it is to create for the sake of creation, without constraints or taboos, with no focus groups, no consumer testing.  I wanted to be true to myself, a kind of "existentialism" spirit. The concept was a free and independent state in the perfume world.  Etat Libre d’Orange would challenge the industry with its irreverence for industry norms; to extend the boundaries, cross the lines, and still have fun.  Etat Libre d’Orange would be more than a fragrance brand – it would be a state of mind.


Where do you find inspiration for your work?

So many things!  Music, cinema, comic books.  Places, people. Philosophy. The road the less travelled... blah blah blah!


Can you talk us through the creation of a fragrance - from initial concept to realisation?

I’ll come up with a concept; then, with the team at Etat Libre d’Orange, we brainstorm, and search for a few words, a line, a description that captures the essence of the fragrance and its story.  We reach for something witty, memorable, words that create an image, a vision and then formulations that are intricate, abstract, innovative.


Who are your fragrances designed for?

People who embody seduction and sensuality in their daily life crusade; people who share our attitude – don't play by the rules, eccentric, fundamental, existentialist, opportunist, impostor, beautiful, remarkable... people like Nijinsky, Diaghilev, Rock Hudson, Edna Mode of The Incredibles, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo in black and white smoking a cigarette.


What fragrance(s) do you wear and why?

The Cologne, simple, humble and fresh... Elusive or silent seduction and then you let go!


What should be our main considerations when choosing a fragrance?

Consider a perfume like a Ray Bradbury novel, something like a formidable capacity to remember, "thank you for the memory" and then gone with the wind... "an instant in the wind", a little plus to commemorate life and sensuality.


Your fragrances have somewhat forthright and provocative names and influences, do you think scents should make a statement about the wearer?

Unity, beauty and conflict - our magical trio statement. And a gentle touch of sabotage oblige!


We’re so excited about the new exclusive launch of Hermann at The Conran Shop. Could you tell us a little about the conception of this fragrance?

Arfff, disillusion but still alive and then there is a new hope, star wars oblige! More seriously, I was raised with 19th century poetry as my mother and grandmother were French literature teachers and Victor Hugo was quite often read, and I remember the ride of Hermann from the late 70s - 'Riding in the Forest/Riders on the Storm/Lord of the Rings'... gothic and dark but somewhere a light to stay a believer.


'Hermann' by Etat Libre d’Orange is exclusive to The Conran Shop, and available online and in store.