Maison Louis Vuitton has announced the launch of three new eaux de parfums that capture the spirit of Los Angeles’ seemingly eternal summertime. Fittingly named ‘Sun Song’, ‘Cactus Garden’ and ‘Afternoon Swim’, the trio of fragrances whisper secrets of the City of Angels. Think the morning surf in Malibu, roof-down trips out to Palm Springs, beers clinking in Venice.

Each scent is represented visually by Hollywood-adjacent local Alex Israel, who’s poetic collaboration with Bret Easton Ellis (Gagosian, 2016) spotlights his well-documented Los Angeles credentials. Israel has applied three versions of original compositions to the packaging design, pairing fragrance with emblematic artwork to reflect the scent’s architecture. ‘Sun Song’ is dressed in Summer, an oversized, burnt-yellow sunglass lens, taken from Israel’s 2015 ‘Lens’ series; the box for ‘Cactus Garden’ features Desperado (2015), an installation that pays homage to the rugged Californian landscape. ‘Afternoon Swim’ surfs on New Waves, a painting in which breakers surge towards the Pacific Ocean, inspired by Israel’s 2018 Hong Kong exhibition of the same name.

Israel has long admired the Maison’s commitment to artistic collaboration, and nods to Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama and Jeff Koons as some of his favourite collaborators. ‘I think I really came to understand the company’s commitment to the arts when I visited the LV Foundation in Paris,’ he adds. ‘I was completely blown away by the rooftop garden, and the risks that the company allowed Frank Gehry to take in creating that space.’

LV Fragrance launch, ’Cactus Garden’ with packaging
Louis Vuitton’s ‘Cactus Garden’ and packaging

There’s a filmic nature to each one of the packaging designs – Israel launched his first feature-length film SPF-18 in 2017 – and he cites inspirations as diverse as the seminal 1966 surf movie The Endless Summer to Clueless. ‘Making a painting or a sculpture entails bringing an object in the world. But making a movie entails creating an entire world, into which you could bring an object.’ The same, arguably, can be said for fragrance design. ‘Every scent can evoke experiences of one’s past, specific places and moments. This uncanny, deja-vu that fragrances evoke can certainly open up one’s thinking, and refocus one’s creative energy.’

There’s olfactory justification for the collection’s LA-emphasis, courtesy of master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud. Constantly seeking innovation, Belletrud had to coin an entirely new phrase to capture the feeling of the collection, illustrating its very particular alliance between high citrus notes and the depth of flowers. ‘I call this collection “Cologne Perfumes”,’ he explains. ‘In the fragrance market, if Colognes are fresh they’re not long lasting which can be a little frustrating. I was dreaming of creating a cologne collection with endless freshness and persistence.’

This unique combination is perhaps best demonstrated in ‘Cactus Garden’, which is verdant, blending freshly sliced cucumber with bitter and powerful Calabrian bergamot, topped-out by a sharp hit of lemongrass. It’s a frisson in an exotic garden. ‘Sun Song’, meanwhile, dances sweetly with orange blossom, and ‘Afternoon Swim’ is like a palate cleanser, with notes of orange, mandarin and bergamot. §