There’s something about the way the air smells in LA.
While the streets of the UK tend to offer up strains of petrol, petrichor and spilt beer, the City Of Angels – with its dry subtropical climate and lush coastal locale – provides a contrastingly rich bouquet.
Stroll down Santa Monica Beach and you’ll be bathed in an olfactory wave of brine and sunbaked sand. Hike into the hills above Bel Air and you’ll be rewarded with wild mimosa and sage. Head down Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice and, well, you’ll be assaulted with a massive wave of weed smoke... but, hey, it’s all legit here now. The latest fragrance offering from Louis Vuitton is inspired by the aforementioned aromatic menagerie (Abbot Kinney portion notwithstanding).
Consisting of three new colognes – citrusy Sun Song, green Cactus Garden and marine Afternoon Swim – the collection has been conceived by LV’s in-house perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud as a paean to Cali’s first city. “LA is the influence behind this project, because it’s a magical part of the world, similar to Grasse in France,” Cavallier-Belletrud told me when we met in LA’s mid-city district. “My inspiration has been driven by contrast. Here, in LA, as in Grasse, you have the sea and the mountains. And here, the desert. The contrast is desirable, creatively speaking,” he continued. “I use all the raw ingredients I want. Expense is not an issue, which means that I have no excuse for making bad perfumes!”
Accordingly, each scent in the new range has a distinct, elegant profile with an overriding summery theme. Sun Song, for instance, is a symphony of neroli, orange oil and lemon and smells like a sophisticated Strepsil. “This one is close to my heart. It comes from my childhood and the Mediterranean,” said Cavallier-Belletrud. “The dosage of this cologne is 12 per cent. Usually colognes are around 1.5 to eight per cent, meaning this one is more like an eau de parfum.” Cactus Garden, on the other hand, pays earthy tribute to the cactaceae family: “I thought of one ingredient for this fragrance, namely mate absolute, which smells smokey, like tea and hay.” The final scent in the collection, my personal favourite, is Afternoon Swim. Reminiscent of the aquatic fragrances of the late Nineties it is like eating a watermelon and feta salad at Shutters On The Beach. “You can smell the fruits and the citrus notes in this scent. The first is orange from Ischia. Then you have mandarin from Sicily. It’s an incredible raw material: floral, fruity and aromatic,” said Cavallier-
One of the most exciting things about this launch, superlative juices aside, is that the packaging for each fragrance has been designed by LA-based artist Alex Israel. Best known for his bright, poppy artworks inspired by the city he calls home, Israel has afforded each scent a unique personality. For Afternoon Swim, the box comes complete with a cartoon take on Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Of Kanagawa”; while Cactus Garden features a giant saguaro cactus. For Sun Song, the box is adorned with a graphic pair of sunglasses – an Israel speciality. “For this project I took three different works from the world I’ve created to match up with these scents,” Israel told me. “It was very easy to do as the scents are all inspired by Los Angeles, just like my work. It was a very natural collaboration, which made perfect sense when I sat down with the team and smelled the fragrances. It’s two worlds colliding, all inspired by this place. It’s the best city in the world!”
The new colognes collection by Louis Vuitton are available now for £185 each, Louisvuitton.com