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October 25, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Louis Vuitton Parfums

Text by Wyanet Vaz

And that you can refill them!

‘Travel is not a destination, it’s a feeling,’ says Louis Vuitton, as they discreetly conjure up a new love affair — ‘a journey that begins on bare skin’. Grasse, the world capital of perfume hidden in Côte d’Azur, is home to the historical Les Fontaines Parfumées or ‘the scented fountains’ (recently adopted as the olfactory centre of LVMH), where seven intoxicating scents, collectively christened Les Parfums Louis Vuitton, feature a blend of overwhelming ouds and familiar florals.

The fleeting memories of travel are pinned down in the form of fragrant notes by perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud, who joined Louis Vuitton in 2012. ‘A fragrance is like Aladdin’s lamp: once it’s opened, it should produce some form of magic’, which is why after four years and 80 different concoctions, Cavallier-Belletrud hand-picked seven fine fragrances. ‘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, depicting olfactory movement, freshness, and transparency.’

Curious blends with intriguing names like Mille Feux (‘a thousand lights’) and Dans la Peau (‘under the skin’) are a serious addition to the Louis Vuitton universe. The last of their fragrances faded in 1940, leaving behind dried memories of Heures d’Absence and Je, Tu, Il. The 70-year-long wait has brought with it particularly indulgent, cleverly curated scents and a sense of euphoria that reminds us of the resurgence of the Petit Malle, even Alicia Vikander grooving with the new Twist.

Each scent has been infused with an emotional narrative. Turbulences is a beautiful play on the fear of flying, or love at first sight. In fact, the idea came to Cavallier-Belletrud one August evening as he was walking to the gate of his garden with his father. Struck by the profusion of fragrant white petals, he was unable to entangle the heady tuberose from the sweet jasmine. This memory has been bottled with additions of Chinese magnolia and May rose.

A chorus of the most sensuous roses — Bulgarian, May and Turkish — unites to form Roses des Vents (‘roses in the wind’). Light as the summer sky and smooth as silk, this brew helms a new olfactory innovation that is exclusive to the storied fashion house. While the age-old tradition is to juice out essential oils with alcohol, Cavallier-Belletrud used a carbon dioxide extraction of fresh flowers. The result is almost like smelling a blooming bouquet in the middle of a flower field in Grasse.

In France, Labour Day or May Day is known as the Fête du Muguet, when locals greet each other with a small bouquet of lilies of the valley — a flower that is believed to evoke good graces from the gods. Apogée (‘the highest point’) is a scent inspired by this tradition, telling the story of the radiant lily with hints of Chinese magnolia and jasmine. Contre Moi (‘close to me’) is a blissful union of two varieties of vanilla — pods from Madagascar and orchids from Indonesia. On the dark side, there is Matière Noire (‘black matter’), a mysterious blend cloaked in shadows of oud and patchouli. Oud, which sells for a higher price than gold, adds to the intrinsic value of this collection — a welcome investment in the land of niche perfumery.

A scent that is close to the heart of the French maison is Mille Feux. It is said that during his visit to the Louis Vuitton leather ateliers, Cavallier-Belletrud saw a craftsman transform raspberry-coloured leather into a bag. Using the signature beige leather that traditionally covers the handles and straps of their trunks, a made-to-measure infusion was invented. The gentle scent that is more floral than musky is now beautifully paired with accords of raspberry. This leather fusion appears once again in Dans la Peau — a woody fusion of apricot, Chinese magnolia and jasmine.

In the early 1920s, visitors would come to refill their bottles with the fragrant waters from the fountains at Les Fontaines Parfumées. Reviving this old gesture, Louis Vuitton lets you refill the new perfume bottles at any of their stores. The crystal flacon, created by industrial designer Marc Newson, fits right in with the brand’s iconic luggage, rendered with clean lines and an LV-emblazoned cap.

Like prized heirloom pieces that are passed down through generations, Les Parfums Louis Vuitton bring alive memories and not just ingredients. After all, when the mind latches on to notes in a fragrance, they turn into a time machine. And you can always go back.

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