French perfumer Antoine Lie has been lauded for his bold, experimental, romantic, and even punk compositions in a career spanning decades. His perfumes have garnered him numerous international awards and a dedicated fan base eager for his next addictive fragrance.
When I was working on Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (Lyons Press, 2013), I ended the book with interviews with scent visionaries. Of course, Antoine Lie was among them. For me, his compositions managed to be beautiful but also boundary-pushing and thought-provoking, the opposite of the “easy listening music” perfumes the market had been inundated with. It’s no surprise, then, that his credo is: “I want to explore olfactory worlds that no one has ever thought of.”
I was thrilled Antoine was interested in creating perfumes for ERIS PARFUMS, and from his first animalic floral trio for ERIS, La Belle et la Bête (Ma Bête, Night Flower, Belle de Jour), a postmodern homage to the erotic and bold scents of the past, to his genderfluid compositions celebrating the contemporary gender revolution, Mx. and Mxxx., to a collection we’re working on now, it’s been an honor to have him translate ERIS’s DNA of unconventional beauty and subversive glamour into perfume.
Here’s the first part of a 2-part interview with Antoine — the first I’ve done since Scent and Subversion!
How would you define the style of your perfumes? Is there a common thread, regardless of the category or brand, or whether it’s niche or mainstream?
ANTOINE: I like to explore, so I wouldn’t say I have a compositional technique I return to that gives my work a recognizable style. Every project is different and requires different thinking and elaboration. If there’s a common thread out of all the categories and brands, it’s that I want to provide a singular signature or meaning for each of them. It might remind you of something, it might be inspired by something, but I want it to have a signature that fits the project I’m working on. I want to try to reveal something different, either with the formulation, with the ingredients used, or with a new technology. I’m also interested in working in unorthodox spaces and with unexpected brands.
What does it mean to you to be an independent perfumer? What's great about it? What is challenging?
ANTOINE: Being independent means I can work the way I want with brands I want, with people I want, and with projects that fit my values and vision. It’s equivalent to getting back my creative freedom. That’s key for me because industrial perfumery wasn’t giving me this opportunity anymore. The only risk of being independent is that you are on your own financially, but that’s part of the game.
I really feel relief as well because working for big companies can put you in a fake situation about your role and your real value. You know that you’re in a golden cage working in a system that is self-centered and self-congratulatory, avoiding disturbing and necessary questions that might challenge their real goal: to use more data, to produce more, to sell more, just to get more profit. But I broke free from that specific way of working. Now, I try to work with innovative brands, small brands with values: The product comes first, the image complements it. I’m looking for projects from people who are more in love with perfume than with the business.