The origins of Eris date back to 2013 when Barbara published a critically acclaimed book, Scent and Subversion: Decoding A Century of Provocative Scent, a detailed tapestry of chronological perfume history. She was already well versed in olfactive ephemera and the obsessive nature of scent lovers through her blog, the well-regarded Yesterday’s Perfumes, that focussed predominately on the erotic grandeur and esoteric drama of vintage perfumes. Her book is fascinating, filled with information on known , rare, kitsch perfumes and brave new work of scent mavericks and experimentalists.
Her concept is that perfume has been both marker and mirror to the ages passing, reflecting fashion, morality, history and social upheaval. This odiferous lens may be trivial to some but for many, scent is a vital part of daily life. Utilised as armour, weapon, means of seduction, comfort, memento mori and psychological repository of things witnessed, inhaled, kissed and touched.
Barbara first encountered Antoine through his perfumes and was so taken with one particular composition she considered truly groundbreaking, that she interviewed him about its creation for the 'Scent Visionaries' section of her book. Lie is the French Master Perfumer who encapsulates the epithet enfant terrible in the most perfect scented way. He was born in Strasbourg where he gained a degree in chemistry, a fact that glitters and nebulises through his work. The Givaudan School in Grasse beckoned, and he moved to study with gifted noses Jean Carles and Jean Guichard. Leaving Givaudan in 2011, he worked with Japanese fragrance and flavours company Takasago. Lie is now an independent perfumer with his own company, ALOE, Antoine Lie Olfactive Experience. In his online manifesto he declares:
‘I want to explore olfactory worlds that no one has ever thought of… I have always had a foothold in the world of alternative perfumes, having a visceral need for freedom of artistic expression. Now that I am outside of the industrial perfumery system, I want to invest in projects that are part of this new era of more embodied, authentic fragrance design.’
Lie has demonstrated this with a handful of truly extraordinary compositions over the years including the metallic biofluids of Sécretions Magnifiques and back-room nostalgia of Tom of Finland for follow maverick Etienne de Schwardt at Etat Libre d’Orange. The baroque religiosity of Daphne for Comme des Garçons is a pungent tribute to the strange couture chameleon Daphne Guinness and White, that Lie made for Jan Ewoud Vos’ Puredistance line glows like scented white rose dust. He has a unique ability to inhabit materials and innovate whilst understanding the specifics of the perfumed legacy he is a part of. He was the perfect perfumer for Barbara Herman to meet at that junction in her life.
With Eris Parfums Barbara and Antoine have sown seeds of aromatic discord among the tsunami of new launches that appear with swaggering determination. Perfume is big dollar business but while brands need to make money, Barbara is driven by an artistic desire to demonstrate the relevance of perfumery and how it has developed alongside art, fashion, sexual morality, queer and female histories.
The Eris Parfums collection is a potent mix of yesteryear and Lie’s unique ability to subvert with technical erudition. Even within the names there is a knowingness, a coding of sorts, communicating Cocteau, Buñuel, Catherine Deneuve, René Gruau, Kenneth Anger and the redefining of gender. The perfumes use classic tropes of Dietrich-leaning leathers and bittergreen chyprés, narcotic florals swirl like drug-induced lovers and addictively conceived musk formulations lacquer the skin with Guy Bourdin gloss and desire.
Barbara and Antoine have created an anthology of scented sin that pays homage to Barbara’s obsession with vintage odours but also allows one of the most creative perfumers in the business to layer the future beneath. Eris Parfums are not pastiche but a way of interpreting the past without resorting to clichés and facsimiles. A meaningful and beautiful brand that is worth taking time to explore.
©TSF May 2022