The smells of L.A. come to life in Louis Vuitton fragrance

City of Stars perfume bottle, for Image magazine, issue 10 - What does a summer night in LA smell like?

(Zen Sekizawa / For The Times)

This story is part of Image #10, “Clearness,” a vivid document of how LA radiates in its own right. Read the full issue here.

It’s the same every time I leave and come back. A ritual felt necessary. As soon as I see the downtown skyline – drive north on 110, or south on 5 – I’ll roll down all my car windows, take a deep breath The best thing I’ve done all day and uttered the words: “Smells like LA”

What exactly did I smell? Scent and sense of place are connected. Los Angeles is a vast expanse of diverse geographies, microclimates, neighborhoods, businesses, cultures; The city smells of so many different things, at different times, in different places, with different people. One’s home may have a particular scent; Usually it goes unnoticed day in and day out, but some days – when one comes back from a long time away, when a friend walks through the door for the first time – the smell makes its own. There is something different about the atmosphere.

It is not simply cleaning products or candles; Smells can trigger specific memories, ideas, conversations, experiences. Today, when I lit the Nag Champa incense, my eyes watered – not just from the smoke. The scent takes me back to Gardena, to the apartment I shared with my best friend eight years ago, and the memory of my own first, heartbreaking first, first feeling of self. do. It’s hard for me to pinpoint, but there it is: the smell of the house.

LA, as a city, has its own version – this smell reminds us where we are.

If you were going to create an LA perfume that lives on in memory and experience, the top note would probably include someone’s thunderbolt of love on a windless day when the air is hot and thick, leaving smoke surrounds you like a hug; mezcal smoke in your breath as you’re engaged in your fourth deep conversation of the night; still water at Echo Park Lake.

Heart notes will be jasmine from high-season walks with your dog through East Hollywood after sunset; summer fire; freshly cut flowers – or more specifically, stepping out of an early morning barn party, the sun barely coming out, and walking home through the Flower District. There will be a mix of Suavitel coming out of the 24-hour coin laundromat on Adams and stuff from the LA Birria van parked right in front of it.

At base: flow from Phillips Bar-B-Que on Crenshaw; cigarette smoke in your friend’s hair as you hug them goodbye after the rampage; the remnants of veggie tacos on your fingertips from the Crazy Tacos truck sometimes parked at 9 and Main; Korean-style late-night barbecue; The polarizing stench of Le Labo Santal 33.

Of course, not all LA smells are associated with rose-colored memories that evoke a messy night in your 20s. More and more of this city’s stench – the dunghills of the city center; car assault on the highway; rotten, wet trash cans lining the curb; chalk dust of various construction sites; The stench of rotting covered the Dominguez Canal last year, which residents liken to “the stench of death” – all of which function as warning signs of danger.

You wouldn’t choose to carry the scent of urban ruin, decay, or environmental extravagance or racism. And you probably don’t want to smell like you just grilled out at Dodger Stadium. But you can choose a scent that makes you feel like you belong in the story of somewhere. Maybe you want to wear a scent that helps you improve somewhere as you see fit. Or maybe there’s a return-worthy feeling that you might want to wear forever.

Louis Vuitton’s new fragrance, City of Stars, is the latest attempt to upgrade the city of Los Angeles – the idea of ​​it and what it inspires. It doesn’t smell like structural errors. It also doesn’t smell like a romantic night of bad decisions. There was no taste of bacon sausage rolls with grilled onions and peppers, no trace of burnt air from the fireworks. The energy of the City of Stars is more aspirational, idealized, more purified, but nonetheless essential. Produced scents like perfume can also connect us to the present. And City of Stars keeps you aware of a moment – and most importantly, it serves as a reminder that it’s fleeting.

On the skin – at least on my skin – City of Stars reacts to the body’s chemical output naturally. It develops and plays out the same way a day or night in LA should: surprise. The scent starts out as one thing and matures until it’s completely another scent. There are many variations to choose from on the palate: five citrus notes of blood orange, lemon, red mandarin, bergamot and lemon with Tiaré flower and sandalwood. The fragrance draws you in with a sweet and feminine luminosity (from citrus and floral), then over time reveals other layers (musks and sandalwood) dense, foundational and almost refined. God.

Youth, or the illusion of a life unfettered by adult responsibilities, has a nudge of its own. It feels celebratory and hopeful, mainly because there’s so much ahead of you, so much more to experience. In this way, City of Stars captures that romantic craving – lingering in the parking lot after a date because you don’t want it to end, heading to later moments because you’re not ready to return to the world. real but. Let’s celebrate the night, the City of Stars said. Or rather, as its creator, Louis Vuitton master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud, explains, “Let’s be together forever like this”.

The City of Stars box features a lone palm tree in the Hollywood Hills. The time of day is probably evening – the sunset is brilliant, the lights of the city twinkling. The cylindrical bottle has a cork top and reflects the ombre gradient of the sky: diffuse magenta, burnt orange, blue and purple melt into each other. POV is clearly one of motion; vision through your windshield as if you were driving into Hollywood from Mid-City.

The packaging, designed by LA native artist Alex Israel, showcases sophisticated elegance and a $30 craft cocktail, flashy art party and “clean girl aesthetic.” by TikTok (neutral colors, polished cakes, minimal jewelry). It’s less Hollywood Boulevard and more Hollywood.

LA is the emotional code for authenticity and awesomeness, for sure. Many people come here looking for that feeling, along with a sense of limitlessness, freedom, nostalgia and romance. Louis Vuitton reminds us: “In a vibrant Los Angeles, City of Stars recounts a night of promise, of wild emotion and soft sensuality of darkness transforming into the first light of morning. ” This promise is part of the reason why wearing City of Stars is so appealing.

When I got my hands on it, I wore it every day for weeks. I apply lotion first, then spray perfume on my pulse points and hair. Sometimes I spray it in my studio apartment, in my car. I make my friends smell it on me, then spray it on them. I have tried to weave fragrance into my life so deeply that I forgot it was there; I am only reminded of its presence when someone compliments it, noting that I smell differently than I did a month ago.

But do I smell like Los Angeles? To my nose, I have never evoked the sweltering warmth of laundries, the delicious intoxication of pubs and the sweet death of car smoke – perhaps for the better – but my anointing Perfume everywhere created a strange effect: I began to associate City of Stars with all of this. The scent of LA has overpowered my scent. I smell like my experience in this city. The City of Stars complemented the image of my immediate existence – the Craftsmen’s houses that I see every day in my street, the hand-painted signs that I stop to take pictures of, The moody colored light caught my attention as it bounced out of a downtown high-rise window.

And it doesn’t make me feel like I’m living in another city, that’s definitely what the perfume promises to people who don’t live here. When I wear the City of Stars shirt, I feel as connected to LA as I always have been. Maybe an LA perfume becomes an LA perfume when someone living in LA wears it.

More stories from Images The smells of L.A. come to life in Louis Vuitton fragrance

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