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Tom of Finland – A beautiful, wearable tribute - September 8, 2014 New Fragrance Listing

Image - Wikipedia - Tom Of Finland's Room at the Foundation's house in Los Angeles 2002

To be successful in the fragrance business, your brand has to standout and French niche line Etat Libre d’Orange sure stands out. In an industry that thrives on appealing to romantic notions of scent, the Etat Libre d’Orange brand is bawdy, raunchy and droll, with blurred lines when it comes to gender designations.

Their mandate, which they call their “Declaration of Independence”, states:
At Etat Libre d’Orange, perfumers are given complete creative freedom to play with their own personal fantasies and develop original, provocative scents. In this way, we return to the ideals of perfume – its carnal energy, sensual power, and the essential, erotic expression of the body and its desire.

This credo is expressed in all aspects of the brand – from promotion and packaging to the décor of their store.

I remember being in their store at 69 rue des Archives in Paris with my husband and then 13 year-old son. At that time, the shop was full of erotic art – coffee table books open to photos of nude men, framed photos of naked men and women hung on the walls – sensuous more than shocking and all very tastefully done. Still, my son scanned the room, looked at me and said “Are you sure they sell perfume in here?” Oh, they’re such sponges at that age, aren’t they?

It makes perfect sense then that the house that produces fragrances called Secretions Magnifiques, Delicious Closet Queen, Je Suis un Homme would be chosen by the Tom of Finland Foundation to make an EdP honouring Finnish artist, Touko Laaksonen a/k/a Tom of Finland. Laaksonen’s stylized homoerotic fetish drawings of muscular  sailors, bikers, lumberjacks and construction workers profoundly influenced gay culture in the late 20th century and they have earned a place in New York's Museum of Modern Art’s  permanent collection.

I remember picking up a bottle of Tom of Finland at the Etat Libre d’Orange store. The outside of the box has matte, rubbery feel with a warning of sexually explicit content inside.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a fragrance inspired by the man whose drawings show hypersexual, half-dressed, leather-clad men enjoying themselves, but I wasn’t expecting such a wearable, beautiful, unisex fragrance.

Tom of Finland opens with aldehydes and lemon that create a gorgeous rubber accord. This is not the hot, smoky rubber smell of Bulgari Black, this a clean and enticing smell of rubber. It gets green as it blooms from birch leaves, pine, galbanum and cypress. For a while, it smells like a fresh forest to me. It soon gets leathery, spicy, warm and woody from safraleine, while pepper adds more warmth and spiciness. Safraleine has a rose facet too, that is heightened by geranium, which gives the frag a floral aspect that rounds it out perfectly. At times I get a whiff of plastic that isn’t jarring or odd because it belongs.  At the base, vanilla, tonka bean give it a cozy sweetness, while iris and vetiver give it an earthy underside. But the part I love is a salty-skin note warmed by musk and smoothed by a soft, sensuous note if suede.

The drydown is clean, green, salty and just a little sweet on me. It’s complex, unusual and beautiful and not at all animalic, edgy or raunchy. It respects the life of the man who was Tom of Finland and is a perfect olfactory homage to an artist whose work had an impact and who made a difference.

I bought two bottles of Tom of Finland that day – one for myself and one for a dear friend, who every once in a while when we get together, tells me how many compliments he receives when he wears it. “I know” I say excitedly. “Me too!”

Tom of Finland is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.