Some things should not be rushed. When Louis Vuitton, the venerable fashion house with a history steeped in fine leather goods, decided to re-enter the fragrance world, it had been seventy years since its last one. Here’s everything you need to know about – probably – the year’s biggest perfume launches…
Think of one major fashion brand that doesn’t have a fragrance. Hard, right? Unbelievable though it may seem, Louis Vuitton was on the very short list—until now. As previewed on Duty Free Hunter (see story) The house is launching not one but seven perfumes, each one based around a different flower. Here’s the backstory of each (very chic) perfume.
The launch has been a long time coming. The last time Vuitton launched a perfume was 70 years ago, in 1946; before that, the brand had created only two. No sample of any of the three exist today.
The perfumer behind the new collection is basically a rock star in the fragrance world. Jacques Cavallier Belletrud is a third-generation Grasse-born perfumer (his daughter, who is studying to become a perfumer, will make it four generations) and has developed some of the most iconic scents of our generation, including L’Eau d’Issey, Dior Addict, Jean Paul Gaultier Classique, and Stella by Stella McCartney. After 22 years of working for the fragrance and flavor company Firmenich, Cavallier Belletrud accepted the job as Louis Vuitton’s first in-house perfumer.
There are seven scents in total. “We decided right away, and very quickly, that it would be a collection,” says Cavallier Belletrud. Each scent is available in a 200-milliliter bottle, a 100-milliliter bottle, and a travel spray (which comes with four cartridges). There are also two sets: a box of all seven in miniature size (10 milliliters) and the pièce de résistance – a monogramed Louis Vuitton travel case that holds three full-size bottles from the collection.
The collection is based entirely on flowers. “We also made a decision that these fragrances would be feminine—it’s not written on the bottle that they’re for women, but they’re feminine,” says Cavallier Belletrud. “And the third choice I made was that [this collection] would be a story about flowers, because flowers to me are so delicate, so intense, so powerful, so beautiful—just like a woman—and it’s always been my longtime obsession to try to put the beauty of fresh flowers in a bottle.” There’s Rose des Vents, based entirely on roses; it actually includes three different kinds—centifolia, Bulgarian, and Turkish. Turbulences was inspired by the scent of tuberose and jasmine at dusk, an idea that came to Cavallier Belletrud after walking through his garden with his father. Dans la Peau contains jasmine and narcissus, but also pieces of natural leather from the Vuitton workshop. Apogée contains a few flowers but centers on the lily of the valley. Contre Moi is a scent born from Cavallier Belletrud’s obsession with vanilla. Matière Noire explores the balance of patchouli and white flowers. And finally, Mille Feux uses a mix of Chinese osmanthus (a white flower) and leather.
They were made using cutting-edge technology. Cavallier Belletrud used a process called CO2 extraction—originally developed to make decaffeinated coffee—to coax the headiness out of flowers such as Chinese jasmine and May rose straight from Grasse. In doing this, he was able to achieve his goal: to produce floral notes that copied the fresh, dewy quality of blooms still in the field. With this technology, “you’re not boiling the flowers as in classic extraction techniques,” says Cavallier Belletrud. Instead, the process traps the CO2 in the air and through some basic chemistry, transforms the CO2 molecules into a liquid. “You then mix that with your flowers at a very low temperature, as low as 20 degrees celsius, and you maintain the fragile, volatile elements of the flowers,” Cavallier Belletrud explains further. The perfumer likened the process and effect to heating up an expensive red wine in the microwave. “It’s still wine; it just doesn’t taste as good when you heat it up.”
The technology is exclusive to Louis Vuitton fragrances. CO2 extraction isn’t new; perfumers have been using it for years. But this is the first time a brand has ever used it on flowers from Grasse—the perfume capital of the world—and it’s only being used in these seven scents.
Speaking of Grasse, Louis Vuitton has a fancy new laboratory in the heart of perfume country. The fragrances weren’t made in any old lab. Parent company LVMH had a state-of-the-art fragrance laboratory built for Cavallier Belletrud and the perfumer for Christian Dior at the site of a former perfumery in Grasse called Les Fontaines Parfumées, named for its architectural highlight—an indoor scented fountain. Originally a leather distillery, it started manufacturing perfume in 1640. It would eventually both create and sell fragrance in the early twentieth century, but by 1960 it had stopped producing anything commercially, and in 1995, the property was bought by the town; and it eventually fell into a state of disrepair. That is, until LVMH president Bernard Arnault made a visit. “Mr. Arnault came, found the place interesting, and made an acquisition in 2013,” says Cavallier Belletrud. After undergoing major renovations, the property will now be used as Cavallier Belletrud’s creative atelier, a place for creation, training, communication, and to receive friends of the company. Equally impressive as the place’s storied history, though, are the gardens surrounding the property that Cavallier Belletrud, with the help of the landscape designer Jean Mus, planned out, which serve as inspiration for the perfumer and his colleagues. According to Cavallier Belletrud, there are over 300 different varieties of trees, flowers, and herbs packed into the 9,900-square-meter property, including jasmine, tuberose, May rose, geraniums, and lemon trees.
The bottles are refillable. Vuitton’s creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, left the the majority of the creative decisions up to Cavallier Belletrud, but his focus on environmental sustainability was something he wanted to be sure was reflected in the fragrances.
And you can only get them at Louis Vuitton boutiques As if the scents couldn’t get any more luxurious and exclusive, for the moment you’ll be able to nab them only at Louis Vuitton stores (a 100-milliliter bottle retails for $240).
Léa Seydoux is perfect. Who better to front the campaign than gorgeous French actress Léa Seydoux of Spectre (2015) and Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) fame? As the new face of LV fragrances, she will be appearing in the upcoming The Spirit of Travel – Beyond Perfume campaign; in the meantime here are some behind the scenes images…
Copyright The Duty Free Hunter 2019