Notes: French oak moss, Tunisian neroli, sweet musk, amber and vanilla
I initially approached L’Air de Rien with some trepidation. Lyn Harris created this fragrance specifically for Jane Birkin, and I feared I could never live up to Birkin’s inherent, effortless cool. And then there’s the fact that Luca Turin has referred to L’Air as ‘one of the filthiest fragrances of all time’ in Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. Well. After reading that, how could I not try it? If only to see what all the fuss is about.
Imagine my surprise then, when I first sampled L’Air de Rien and discovered that it goes on as smooth as ever. I was reminded of Parfumerie Generale’s Cadjmere, in that the texture here is soft and enveloping. In the beginning, I get sweet hay and powdered sugar. It’s pleasant and extremely wearable. Confused, I double checked my sample. Surely I had dabbed on something else by mistake! This lovely creation couldn’t possibly be the famous skank-monster, could it?
Ah, but the beginning is not everything! L’Air de Rien works sort of in reverse on my skin, in that it begins in a muted fashion, but warms up after a couple hours of wear. This is when the oakmoss and musk really blend together to work their magic. The mustiness of an old library peeks through, along with something a little bit sweaty. I was expecting something animalic, like the civet in Jicky, but that’s not what’s happens here. No, this fragrance isn’t animalic to me, it’s human. L’Air gives me the sensation of smelling perfume on someone else’s skin. It’s positively unnerving, yet I can’t stop sniffing my wrist.
L’Air de Rien never reaches ‘filthiest fragrance ever’ heights on me, but it does feel somehow indecent. It exudes such a strong sense of intimacy. I feel like I’m peering into someone else’s life: wandering through their slightly decayed house, wiping the dust off of bookshelves, opening long-since locked doors, trying on a favorite perfume. If it’s possible to have a voyeuristic perfume, this is it.
And then there’s the name to consider: L’Air de Rien or the air of nothing. Surely un petit jeu by Lyn Harris, since this scent conjures up a flood of images. However, it is true that most of the associations L’Air evokes are more to do with memories or abstractions than any concrete object. But really, the sense of old memories only makes this fragrance more compelling. L’Air is utterly unmissable, just for the experience of it. The question is: is this really something I want to smell like everyday? No. But I’ll be saving my L’Air de Rien sample for those moments when I’m feeling pensive, and am ready once again to explore the story told by this strange perfume.
And if you’d like to read more about L’Air de Rien, Gaia of The Non-Blonde has an excellent write-up here.
L’Air de Rien: $160 for 100 ml; samples and full bottles are available from Luckyscent. If you live in the UK you’ll probably have an easier time hunting down a bottle in person than those of us in the US.