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Eau de Parfum

Rendez-Vous! is one of the most fascinating and sensual perfumes in recent years, a collaboration between Master Perfumer and olfactive mischief maker Antoine Lie and French photographer Sonia Sieff, daughter of the legendary JeanLoup Sieff.

Sonia Sieff has the pedigree and talent for her work to be her own. Her use of light suffused skin and a sense of erotic enigma has allowed her to explore the nude in contemplative serenity. Her book Les Françaises (Rizzoli 2017) is a collection of exquisitely lit and staged portraits of female nudes. Paris, Normandy, La Champagne Gardens, women caught in eccentric glimpses, as if their very nudity is a form of clothing, worn with insouciance and charm. Sonia has an ability to capture a sense of undressed privacy while empowering the female form. Her work feels very French, very Parisian, yet also universal, no voyeurism or kink, just the bodies of women who seem comfortable and illuminated by Sieff’s awareness of skin and illumination.

Rendez-vous! is her latest collection, this time it is the male form presented in 115 images that has preoccupied her, with an intriguing gaze on the male nude photographed in atmospheric poses that we might normally associate with the female nude.

For Sieff, it is not a case of feminising her subjects but photographing them in artistic ways that play with gender portrayal. These are not sport power poses, men engrossed in office deals, running and sweating, gym bods and the often overly aggressive and off-putting desire to perpetuate stereotypes. Sonia presents up with her vision of the male nude that suggests privacy and acceptance of vulnerability. The men and their displayed flesh may be extremely eye-catching but never to the point of macho look-at-me dullness. It is more a case of “observe me through this female lens.”

Sonia has collaborated with Antoine Lie, one of the most inventive and intriguing perfumers at work today. He is prolific without ever compromising his quixotic work. Like many freelance noses, he still creates work for high street brands but is renowned for his maverick olfactive visions for smaller, more experimental and artistic brands. There is nothing heteronormative about this side of his work, nothing is taboo, ideas are flayed, concepts exalted in pursuit of singularity.

Antoine is not only a master perfumer and one of the few noses that can truly be considered an artist. His independent, leftfield perfumes clothe the skin in unique material and precision blending. He never uses anything without flesh and mind intent, and Rendez-Vous! is a powerfully intimate exposition of his work.

While there are subtle references to his unique oeuvre, Rendez-Vous! smells neoteric and erotic. It is essentially a portrait of a metallic iris; rhizome, stigma, anthers, signals, falls and petals. The initial violent overture of powder and musks smells of shattered flowers and twisted metal. The beautiful flacon is a deep burgundy colour, but the perfume is one pale bruise blues and mauve, albeit tinted with the rust red of dried blood.

The most unusual note mentioned in Rendez-Vous! is gunpowder. There is often a mingling of olfactive imaginings, the smell of gunpowder and gun smoke, which are different, but we tend to think of them as one and the same, a bitter-fumed mix of steely black pepper, singed charcoal, sometimes a whiff of brimstone, white steam and an undertone of sour green.

In Rendez-Vous! Antoine has used its associations and effects to act like a hearth fire in a blood red room filled with peonies, poached rhubarb and the romantic skin-dust bloom of orris. The gunpowder is less of a note than a mood, something to push at our memory larder and then work its magic throughout the composition. Everyone will interpret it differently.

Rhubarb has been used to add a succulent blush and tartness to Rendez-Vous! There is juiciness and an odour profile that smells of acidic strawberry, sugared saffron and rainbows. It counterpoints the lingering sky traces of fireworks implied by the gunpowder.

Sonia Sieff wanted a perfume for women that could be worn by men. This isn’t the same as unisex or shared scents that always aim for modernism but continually result in dull platitudes. All perfumes are for all people is another angle, but this too has its problems, there are scents that obviously seem feminine and others more masculine. Commercial houses and the masstige market struggle without gendered targeting. Many talk the talk, but behind the scenes, industrial briefs will be anything but rigidly guided and demographic led.

So, a perfume for women that men would wear. It is a bold statement that could come across as glib and yet another marketing trope, but it doesn’t. It suggests a sensual appropriation, something feminine that a man might covet, secretly or otherwise. As the male nudes in Rendez-Vous! present a female gaze, Sonia has avoided anything overly theatrical. Yes there is abstraction but then the perfume reflects this too, an ache, admiration at the baring of male bodies in ways that women have been seen..

Sonia and Antoine have created something ambiguous and daring but not at the expense of the male bodies being photographed. It is a thin line between thoughtful art and uncomfortable pretension. Rendez-Vous! is a hugely alluring and secretive perfume, smouldering with enigma and materials that rise and fall like piqued desire. It is difficult to think of anything else like it except perhaps buried in the DNA of Antoine’s work to date. He is asking us to rethink how materials, both natural and cyborg, function as veils of protection and intimate rapture. Sonia Sieff gives us beauty and yearning, an opportunity to gaze and consider the masculine form, while Antoine mirrors and augments the viewing with a perfect perfume that floods the senses with craven flame.


  • Gunpowder, Rhubarb
  • Peony, Orris
  • Guaiac wood, Benzoin resinoid

Perfumer: Antoine Lie, 2024

inci list: alcohol denat., fragrance (parfum), water (aqua), alpha-isomethyl ionone, coumarin, linalool, geraniol, citronellol, citral, benzyl benzoate

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