Imagination is something that first arises in our childhood and carries itself over to our current state of age. It dares us to dream, to connect with our surroundings, and to create new memories. It’s the same imagination and creativity of Jacques Cavallier Belletrud, Louis Vuitton’s master perfumer, that helped shape the unique scent of the house’s newest men’s fragrance. Aptly titled “Imagination”, the new perfume created in Belletrud’s atelier at Les Fontaines Parfumées in Grasse hits all the notes of a memorable smell. Constructed with Calabrian bergamot, orange, and Sicilian cedar and enhanced with Tunisian neroli and Nigerian ginger, the delicate yet powerful fragrance redefines what a man’s fragrance could be like.
As the fragrance makes its grand debut this week, I hopped on Zoom with Belletrud to discuss the new scent and I’m met with the impressive visual of every single fragrance made for Louis Vuitton under the direction of Jaques.
Kevin Ponce: Well, this is certainly fragrance heaven! How many bottles do you have on your desk right now?
Jacques Cavallier Belletrud: Well, quite a lot! (*laughs*) I need to have all these bottles and [see] the triumphs on my desk.
Kevin Ponce: I have a bottle of ‘Imagination’ right here and it looks almost like captured water. I’m also truly amazed that the scent is labeled for men.
JCB: I’ve chosen to put it in the masculine range because this is, for the first time in my life, a product that I was creating without having the idea that it was for a man or woman. When I was wearing the trials of the scent, a lot of women were asking me ‘What is your perfume? It’s so good’. The perfume is really something different in the market and from what I’ve created for Louis Vuitton.
Kevin Ponce: How long did the creation process take to make this unique scent?
JCB: It took five years to create this fragrance. I had the idea in my mind but I wasn’t able to realize it from a physical point of view—it was a fantasy, something that I could reach in my mind. Until one day, I wrote the formula on my computer and I knew it was a good one.
KP: You speak about this fragrance being different from others on the market—what are some characteristics about the scent that truly sets it apart?
JCB: The men’s market is more classical than we think and I wanted to break this trend by bringing something really different. The freshness and sensuality, with practically nothing in the middle, was possible to create without it being heavy, sugary, or too dry. The ambergris base is something very strong, clean, precise, and but also the ingredients I used are natural and very high quality—the perfume is really expressing something new without the cliches.
KP: How did you come up with the name ‘Imagination’ for the scent?
JCB: Sometimes, men are lacking in imagination. (*laughs*)
KP: Oh, don’t I know it!
JCB: Imagination is the most powerful thing and it’s the first stage of everything. It’s where you are totally free to experiment and to protect yourself while making you more confident. Imagination is something very human that everyone is able to do. The name was really important as ‘imagination’ is good in English and French, and is an international name with a strong meaning.
KP: Having tested and worn the scent around, what does the fragrance make you feel and what does it exude to the world?
JCB: It’s full of joy—it’s like a firework explosion of citrus, bergamot. It feels like when the sun comes through your house in the morning, a beautiful New York sky in the summertime, truly like a magic lamp. You’ll notice something sparkling, which is coming from the neroli who is playing a game of sophistication in the top notes and opening the perfume. For the first time for men, this fragrance is like a caress on the body. It’s not something making you uncomfortable because it’s too strong, but it’s something delicate with a strong personality.
KP: The scent is as fabulous as all of that! Who can you see wearing it?
JCB: For me, a good fragrance for men [becomes] his signature—when you smell this perfume, you smell your man. I was dreaming that the fragrance could be stolen by the woman of the man. Perfumes are more than just a commodity, it becomes part of your personality and it expresses the secret parts of what you are and what you want to express to the world. So escaping from the cliche of [it being for] the perfect man for the perfect situation, this perfume is expressing the charm and fragility of feelings, which is something very human.
KP: To take you back a bit, you grew up in Grasse, France, which is the fragrance haven of the world. What was it like growing up in a household where fragrances were so prominent in the family?
JCB: Everything was perfume-oriented at home, of course. My father and grandfather were perfumers, my mother was the assistant of the most famous French nose in Grasse. So everybody was discussing the raw materials, crops of the roses, lily of the valley. I have heard this language even before speaking this language, even before understanding what they were talking about. When my mother was applying rose water on my face every morning or when I visited the Jasmine fields with my father and I was completely drunk from the scents, these are all strong memories and souvenirs. So being in the city of perfume and natural materials made me a perfumer like how one becomes an actor in Hollywood. My father told me that ‘one day you will smell the water you drink’, and I’m doing it now. It’s just a mindset of being curious about everything that is producing emotions and then translating those emotions into perfume.
KP: From your first fragrance for Louis Vuitton to your latest, how has your nose for scents evolved throughout the years?
JCB: As a creator, your mind is always evolving because the brand of Louis Vuitton is so active and creative which pushes me to be connected to the DNA of the Maison. Since the beginning, I’ve changed my style slightly because my standards have become those of Louis Vuitton but one thing that I will never compromise is on quality.