Pathos in past selves (and I Am Trash by Etat Libre d’Orange)


Every movie, every novel, memoir, biography, etc… tells a story of people’s lives up to a point in time, even if it went through the arc and reached a tidy denouement. “And they lived happily ever after” is cheating—robbing the characters of a potential sequel or spinoff.

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
—Orson Welles


If we find ourselves detached, or at least distanced enough, over time from how we were in a given period in the past, then aren’t those old selves in essence characters? And as we can probably still relate to them, because of the kind of understanding that can be attained only by direct experience, surely we can be moved by them. The memory of them is pathos.

Isn’t that a part of the appeal of reminiscing? (Incidentally, there seems to be a bit of sentimentality going around for artefacts of times that seemed simpler…)


I Am Trash (or Les Fleurs du Dechet) by Etat Libre d’Orange is “the first luxury perfume created by upcycling; by using trashed ingredients to create something truly beautiful.” A statement against waste, it lists as main notes: leftover apple essence, exhausted rose petals, upcycled Atlas cedarwood, bitter orange, and Gariguette strawberry. The marketing blurb also mentions “already distilled sandalwood chips.”

This perfume sprays on to skin with an oily sheen, which is counterintuitive for a juice from materials with a second life squeezed out of them. It feels thicker and thus more substantial. It smells satisfyingly fruity-sweet, more tropical than gourmand, not cloying at all.

My first thought was orange and mango. A dense, ripe mango in the summer is one of my favorite things, unabashed and bountiful in its perfect sweetness. At least I got one of two correct—there is orange. I’m not familiar with Gariguette strawberries, but once I know they’re there, I can smell them, and now I want some. These definitely won’t need any sugar sprinkled on them.

(Side note: the French expression sucrer les fraises, though literally “sugar the strawberries,” means to have trembling hands in the context of old age. It’s also the title of one of my favorite songs by La Grande Sophie, about the futility of our stubborn wills against the relentless ticking of the clock toward the end of life—a song to which I cannot sing along without feeling my throat start to tighten.)

I never perceive the apple explicitly. Perhaps, like in a good loaf or vegan kimchi, it does its job of sweetening and earns a mention in the rolling credits, but not on the movie poster.

The rose and woods are present, but they seem to be subdued, hiding behind the sheen of fruitiness. It all works, though, and it’s well blended, with no dissonance or sharp edges. I want to keep smelling it.

Like our memories, however, it soon starts to fade. True to its essence (pun intended), I Am Trash weakens perceptibly within a few hours. It doesn’t stay on a blotter overnight, either, unlike some of the other perfumes in The (Almost) Complete Collection discovery set. It gets to the point quickly and doesn’t belabor it.

I Am Trash is a pleasant fruity-floral, unpretentious and uncomplicated. If I could indulge in my metaphor of nostalgia for another moment, this perfume is like the current self in some aspects, namely those that no longer have the richness of first discovery, but have instead the benefit of being able to do things better by applying the “wisdom” gained from the first go-round(s).


Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.






4 thoughts on “Pathos in past selves (and I Am Trash by Etat Libre d’Orange)

  1. My reading this review can be attested only to the beauty of your texts. I’ve never went beyond reading the name of this perfume before – and now I can confirm that the concept seems to be even less appealing to me than the name. This is one of the cases when I’d refuse even a free sample.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s