A half-decade in the making, Louis Vuitton’s Les Parfumsfor men pays tribute to the fashion house’s fervor for travel.
By ADAM HURLY
Photography SEBASTIEN ZANELLA
Travel arouses the senses. This is the reason many fragrances are inspired by far-off lands and off-road excursions: Wanderlust simply colors the memory. The most fantastic moments from any journey remain the most vivid in our minds. Thus, the most deeply inspired and best-researched scents make a big impression on their recipient.
Jacques Cavallier Belletrud, the Master Perfumer behind Louis Vuitton’s fragrances, took five years to create a new line of men’s fragrances for the fashion house. Recalling visits and sourcing raw materials from five continents, with stops in Calabria, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nigeria, and more, he carefully marries one sensation to another—and often in stark contrast to one another. Our minds travel with his, to a specific time and place, to experience the emotions he felt when each light bulb flicked on.
Cavallier Belletrud conjures all of Louis Vuitton’s fragrances at Les Fontaines Parfumées in Provence, France, where the memories of his semi-annual fragrance voyages settle into his senses. These five fragrances, simply known as “Les Parfums”, are the first men’s fragrances bottled for the fashion house. The bottles are created by legendary industrial designer Marc Newsom, and are fresh on the tail of the eight women’s fragrances that Cavallier Belletrud has created for the storied French house since 2012.
Travel has always been at the heart of Louis Vuitton. Les Parfums, is positioned in the same way: these five fragrances are each breathtaking journeys that inspire self-revelation and a boundless, pioneering spirit.
“All my trips to discover ingredients are experiences which are necessary for refilling my emotional library,” he says, before quoting Michael Edwards, author of Fragrances of the World and Perfume Legends: “‘New places, new scents, and new impressions inspire artists, musicians, perfumers; they always did, they always shall. Fragrance and travel make great companions…What they have in common is dreams.’”
And so he dreamt up Les Parfums:“I wanted to pay homage to the adventurer on a journey of self-discovery and invoke the energy of his skin. The aim was to compose fragrances that captured the energy of this historic moment yet remain timeless.”
Noting a recent shift in men’s fashion, he says that these fragrances follow a similar trajectory: “The perfume market is full of all the stereotypes of masculinity. I wanted to break this because I believe men are ready to use their perfumes as women do: with more sophistication. Nowadays, men dare to wear colorful clothes. They are more disruptive, less classical, but still chic. Clothes and accessories are more and more creative. I think it is time for men’s perfumes to be in the same mood.” He also sees them as scents that women would love to smell on men, but also might want to wear themselves, adding that gender is not as important as it once was in perfumery. “In my opinion, smell has no sex. For the women’s collection, I noticed that a lot of men bought our fragrances for women but also for themselves.” He suspects the same will happen with these five: Women will wear them proudly.
Cavallier Belletrud says he wants men to understand that a unique perfume adds a dimension to one’s own persona. “Creating a perfume awakens one’s most hidden thoughts, deepest recollections, it questions the most intimate and profound part of our personality,” he says of the five fragrances.
First, there’s L’Immensité, a ginger and amber blend. It evokes boundlessness, and uses Nigerian ginger roots and Spanish labdanum.
Next, Nouveau Mondeis a meeting point of the Middle East, a mix of oud from Assam in Bangladesh and cocoa from Ivory Coast, inspired by his visit to Guatemala.
Orage, is an ode to patchouli and the ebb and flow of a tranquil sea. To achieve this, Cavallier Belletrud combines the patchouli with notes of iris.
Au Hasardcenters on sandalwood from Sri Lanka. Cavallier Belletrud pairs it with cardamom from Guatemala, to focus on the contrast between woody and spicy.
Lastly, Sur la Routewas inspired by a trip to Calabria, Italy. “On the road, I discovered some citron with a fantastic smell,” he explains. Cavallier Belletrud blends the acidity of bergamot with leathery, spicy, and vanilla-tinged Peruvian balsam wood oil, which actually comes from El Salvador, not Peru.
Even the shaded color palette of these fragrances is as intentional as each ingredient: stormy gray, desert sand, cashmere beige, watery green. Together they’re harmonious, and would stand uniformly beside the brand’s eight feminine scents. And now, with a collection of 13 scents at Louis Vuitton, one of Cavallier Belletrud’s top priorities—while continually researching new scents—is to maintain relationships with the growers in each market. Doing so ensures that the ingredients for each scent are of top quality from one season to the next. Also, this means that he doesn’t have to fly to El Salvador every few months to walk five hours into the forest, climb midway up the trunk, and extract the resin himself. Even then, his job is more perpetually hands-on then one might expect: At the Calabria, Italy farm where he gets bergamot, “the fruit variesever so slightly from one orchard to the next,” he explains. “As with winegrowing, you find subtle differences in citrus trees depending on their exposure to sunlight and wind. Some bergamot is fruity; others are more unpolished or more incisive. Comparing harvests allows me to choose the one whose quality is best suited to a formula.” If he and his growers stay synchronized, the scent remains the same from one batch to the next.
Be it a repeat trip or initial expedition, Cavallier Belletrud cherishes this process, especially since it fuels his creativity. Hearing him describe his travels paints a clear understanding of why his scents are so inspired, and why he fits so comfortably in the Maison Louis Vuitton:“After a journey like this, you’re never quite the same. Experiencing the scent of Peruvian balsam in its natural environment is a memory that stays with you forever.”
With no destination ever being the last, these scents become the essence of exploration, arousing curiosity and boundless potential: the truest spiritof travel.