L'Antimatière is one of the three scents from a triptyque of perfumes created by nose Isabelle Doyen for a new perfume brand called Les Nez: Parfums d'Auteurs (The Noses: Authors' Perfumes), which was established in the fall of 2006.
Isabelle Doyen is also the in-house perfumer for the house of Annick Goutal where she created perfumes noted for their beauty and originality sometimes but not for their avant-garde or l'art-pour-l'art characteristics. Les Nez reveals her more modernistic, daring, and experimental side.
Stefan Zweig and Jorge Luis Borges, I have been told by the founder of Les Nez, were the literary supports of their brainstorming sessions for the perfumery project.
The person behind the concept of the new label is René Schifferlé, a businessman and fragrance collector from Switzerland with a demanding sense of the creative possibilities offered by today's perfumery, who decided one day that the vacuum he perceived to exist needed to be filled with certain perfumes of the future that were, he felt, simply "missing" from the market...
I like the use he makes of the expression "A rebours" to characterize his vision; he says that he wanted to design perfumes that were "à rebours" (against the grain) of big corporation and the mainstream market. A Rebours would have been a beautiful name for L'Antimatière (Anti-Matter). Like Huysmans' novel A Rebours which bears the subtitle "a novel without a plot" L'Antimatière seemingly appears to be a perfume without a scent.
In the correspondence I exchanged with Schifferlé, it becomes apparent that an evolution ocurred, one that went slowly from a sense of preeminence attached to his own personal vision to an interest for the personal vision of the perfumer herself. The project thus evolved from a classic patron-perfumer relationship to one that he says was influenced by the model developed by Frederic Malle for Les Editons des Parfums. Malle puts the accent on a clear-cut idea of authorship of the perfume while helping - just like a book editor would - his "authors" develop their ideas and inspiration.
L'Antimatière is the perfume from the line that Schifferlé says is the one that is most representative of the project. It is probably the most difficult one to access initially. It is a perfume to which some persons are anosmic from beginning to end. L'Antimatière to me appears initially to be extremely minimalist in its writing and casually-said, zen-like, yet it deploys over time a richness of sensations that is almost baroque by contrast when you finally make contact, somehow, with it.
The Les Nez fragrances all bear an enigmatic stramp, due to the very economical information provided on the notes as well as their symbolic or abstract names, and none more so than L'Antimatière (Anti-Matter) seems to exemplify that impression. In spite of this aloofness, I have come to consider L'Antimatière as one of the most personal scents I know of, that is, one that is capable of creating an immediate feeling of intimacy, of memories half-forgotten, diffuse, yet for ever seemingly lurking in the backgrounds of our consciousnesses, ready to resurface.
It is a perfume, which after I was able to "tame" it, make it mine, I felt an impulse to spray the inside of my bag with such is its capacity to foster a sense of subtle, refined, indeterminate, yet very marked intimacy. It smells like the inside of a leather bag, a familiar coat, a favorite scarf, half-abandoned well-used gloves, a presence and the sum of one's experience of life. It smells as if for years and years this perfume had scented familiar objects around you. It could perhaps even be the smell of your house or the smell of your mother, your child, or your love, such is the lack of contours of this fragrance, a fact which is truly remarkable and perhaps very close to the "oceanic" feeling we experience as children to use a Freudian terminology. I am not surprised to learn that it took ten years or so to create this perfume; it feels lived in and reduced to an essential meaningful form that seems to anticipate our deep desire for it.
The avowed project for Les Nez was to create a fragrance that would offer no head notes - the ones that are usually the first ones to be recognized by the fragrance wearer - and to have notes make their entries only thirty minutes later, or so. Only my first experience of the fragrance corresponded to that artistic program because after I had started recognizing the scent of L'Antimatière, I could smell it exuding from the bottle with all its different facets.
My very first take on it was " I smell nothing". But now, curiously, I smell all sorts of things. However, I do not know of what it smells like exactly. One way to look at it would be to see it as an extremely subdued leather and skin scent, but it must be noted that it is more interesting to consider it as a scent that is almost a non-scent or that is the scent of everything lingering with a remnant of something after time would have slowly passed on it. In this manner, my hand now smells like the skin of someone who is used to wearing a certain perfume that is now lingering on it, just like perfumes do when we wear them repeatedly, except I sprayed my hand with L'Antimatière half an hour ago.
It now smells like this: alcohol (obviously) - herbal - crystallized anjelica/anjelica - rhubarb - leather - hay - tobacco - aniseed - animalic/musky - we know there is an infusion of ambergris - manure - hay - indefinite - fatty - slightly peppery. It smells both leathery and fresh, minty even but all sensations are very much toned down because it is a very subtle scent. It is also softly sweet, but not sugary at all. It is sweet like some herbs smell naturally sweet. I originally perceived it as a cold leather scent, but which felt at the same time paradoxically very warm and sensual.
L'Antimatière in the end is a very elegant perfume and for those who can smell it, offers all the trappings of a roaringly successful confidential cult scent. René Schifferlé told me an illuminating anecdote whereby a friend of his was convinced she detected his scent (L'Antimatière) one day that she was shopping at a place where he usually also goes shopping so that she started looking around for him. In fact they had met there a week earlier, BUT he was not there the day she started looking for him, yet she was convinced that she was sensing his presence.
This puts a novel twist on the concept of sillage. L'Antimatière leaves an invisible trace and a very persistent one at that either on our psyche or immediate physical perception. We will leave the last words to the nose:
"An invisible ink that leaves a trace,
Foreseen rather than felt,
Like a creased bed linen scent wandering along your curves..."