The long-awaited fragrances from French luxury house Louis Vuitton are here, elevating the art and science of perfumery.
IT is a strategy by most luxury fashion houses that fragrances are entry-level items which newcomers first purchase before going headlong into the brands.
While pooling money for that coveted leather handbag, the spray of a fragrance from the same house will feed a customer’s aspiration of luxury.
To top that off, fragrances are sold on beauty floors, making them more accessible to a diverse group of clientele than just limited to those who would enter the glass doors of luxury boutiques.
So when Louis Vuitton, in 2012, hired master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud to work with the company, words were abuzz that the French fashion house, famed for its trunks and monogram bags are treading the same path.
Hardly. If anything, the Louis Vuitton Parfums is elevating the olfactory industry onto an artisanal level that a series of seven perfumes were only launched four years after Belletrud was hired, a sign that until it is right, the company isn’t selling any scent.
Comparable to Chanel’s Les Exclusifs, another French label’s luxurious olfactory playground, these perfumes have distinctive smell not found in other brands.
A native of Grasse, the birthplace of both perfume and leatherwork, Belletrud spent months travelling the five continents in search of unexpected emotions — the kind you feel when you breathe the fragrance of exotic and rare materials.
There are seven fragrances altogether and none of them, not even the Rose des Vents, the lightest of them all, can be described as airy, the way most commercial fragrances smell.
Then there are the intoxicating Turbulences, like a mix of leather and tobacco, the ecstasy of a first night with Dans la Peau and the mindful immersion in nature with Apogée.
Contre Moi is “self-revealing” and Matiere Noire is an exploration of a darker side. Mille Feux is another easier perfume, if you dislike anything too complex.
I find the scents intriguing, enticing and intellectual that they require some thought and understanding before you settle on what you like or dislike. The scent changes drastically from the moment you spray them on until they set and the heart notes may even take you by surprise.
SOME KIND OF MAGIC
Belletrud says he started working on the scents when he first arrived at Louis Vuitton in 2012.
“I didn’t want perfume ingredients that to me seemed too trite. I wanted to tell real stories on the skin. Fresh flower scenarios unfurled in my head. I wanted this delicacy to be embodied in each composition,”
He says he was looking for olfactory movement, freshness, and transparency. “Perfume is like Aladdin's lamp: once it’s opened, it should produce some form of magic,”
To get to that magical point, he went looking for ingredients that could help him tell the stories he wanted to tell.
“In China, I discovered magnolia, osmanthus and a truly astonishing sambac jasmine. In Grasse, I had carbon dioxide extractions done with local jasmine and May roses — that’s a first in the perfume industry,”
“As for the leather infusions, I used in certain compositions that were made-to-measure using Louis Vuitton's emblematic natural leather, or reworked like fine jewelry.
“In any case, having the best raw materials in one’s palette does not guarantee a great creation. What I wanted in particular was to make use of their beauty to create surprise, not confusion,” he says.
Despite the conversation about unisex fragrances, Belletrud has chosen to dedicate these first seven creations to women, testing them on his wife and eldest daughter first before production.
“Without women, the perfume industry wouldn’t exist. One can always consider that smells are genderless and everything is unisex. But I had a wonderful time imagining each of these creations on a woman’s skin,”
“I believe strongly in femininity, although not the kind that is relegated to the usual clichés. I wanted to offer women a collection that was dedicated to them, with strong emotions, just for them,” he says.
He says working on seven fragrances simultaneously allowed him to create conversations among compositions. “One provided respite from another when I was overcome by doubt,”
“And it gave me great freedom because it let me tell seven different stories without trying to bring all women together in a single perfume. This adventure made me even more inventive and allowed me to push the creative boundaries of my approach to perfume.
The perfume bottle is created by designer Marc Newson with clean lines devoid of any embellishment. There is only black lettering on transparent glass. Even the brand name engraved on the glass is discreet.
Each of the seven Louis Vuitton perfumes is available in: 200ml, 100ml, travel bottle with four cartridges of 7.5ml and a box of seven 10ml miniatures.