Different treatments and interpretations of leather are the focus of today’s Louis Vuitton reviews. Last time, I looked at Matière Noire, Turbulences, and Contre Moi, and now it’s the turn of Mille Feux and Dans La Peau. Like the others, they are also eau de parfums in concentration and created by Jacques Cavallier. So, let’s get straight to it.
Mille Feux translates to “A Thousand Fires”, a bold name that I find highly ironic for such a sheer and translucent scent.
On its American website, Louis Vuitton sums up Mille Feux as “fireworks” and an “emotional bombshell,” in addition to comparing it to aurora borealis. If my eyes rolled any further, they would fall out of my head. I mean, seriously, “emotional bombshell”?? For this fragrance?! One that basically copies a very well-known and popular designer scent from Tom Ford? If you ask me, LV’s marketing department needs to be dunked in iced water, and any hallucinogenic drugs that they might have used while concocting this balderdash should be removed pronto.
The full flight of ridiculous fantasy reads as follows:
An incandescent fusion of raspberry and leather creates an ode to light [.]
A golden ray, a starlit sky, the aurora borealis: light contributes to the magic of travel. To capture its incandescence, Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud sought a color to weave into this theme. On a visit to one of Louis Vuitton’s leather ateliers, he saw a craftsman transforming raspberry-colored leather into a luxurious handbag. The skin as bright as ripe fruit gave him an idea: to associate the scent of leather with that of the berry. He shaped the composition with osmanthus, a white flower with an animal and apricot scent, iris and saffron. Mille Feux is like an emotional bombshell. Fireworks.
The succinct note list is:
Leather Infusion, Raspberry, Osmanthus, Iris Concrete & Saffron.
Mille Feux opens on my skin with jammy raspberries and spicy, fiery saffron over leather that is quietly smoky. Microscopic amounts of osmanthus and a rooty iris lurk in the background, but they’re highly muffled. They’re more like suggestions, flickering threads of a largely abstract, wan, pale floralcy as opposed to solid, substantive notes, and they’re quite overshadowed by the fruity, spicy, and smoky leather.
All of it smells like Tom Ford‘s Tuscan Leather, albeit without the latter’s signature rich, dense, powerhouse forcefulness. The leather is milder and bears less birch tar; there is no thyme here, no passing suggestions of tobacco or ash; and everything is much more streamlined and minimalistic, but the overall effect still reads like Tuscan Leather in its notes and feel. As compared to some of its LV siblings, the opening of Mille Feux is practically robust and strong in aroma, at least in the first 15-20 minutes, but it’s quite sheer and quiet as compared to the original.
Mille Feux changes in incremental steps. The smokiness grows stronger quite quickly. After 20 minutes, the iris creeps out of the shadows to join the raspberry, saffron, and smoky leather on center stage, licking their edges with soft ripples of floral rootiness. The osmanthus vanishes around the same time. Roughly 90 minutes in, the raspberry temporarily gives way to the iris, retreating to the sidelines to leave a smoky, spicy leather fragrance etched with soft veins of silvered floralcy. But the raspberry doesn’t stay away for long. At the end of the second hour, it returns, trying to push the iris aside to take over as the leather’s main partner. For a short while, the iris ebbs and flows, moving from the sidelines to the forefront, albeit in ever weakening form. Then, about 3.5 hours into Mille Feux’s development, it disappears entirely and a syrupy floralcy appears that resembles jasmine much more than either of the two flowers listed in Mille Feux’s notes. It solidifies the fragrance’s resemblance to Tuscan Leather, but it’s not a major note.
From this point forth, Mille Feux is merely quietly spiced raspberry leather with minor and fluctuating amounts of indeterminate floralcy hovering on the sidelines. In its final hours, it turns into a blur of something raspberry-ish and sweet with a vestige of plushness underlying it. The latter doesn’t smell of actual leather, but it hints at something velvety that was once suede perhaps.
Mille Feux had good longevity, low projection, and initially moderate sillage that soon turned soft. Using several generous smears equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, Mille Feux opened with roughly 2 to 2.5 inches of projection, and about 4-5 inches of scent trail. It smelt stronger up close than the other Louis Vuitton fragrances, at least at first. After 45 minutes, the projection dropped to about 1 to 1.5 inches, while the sillage was 2-3. The fragrance seemed to fizzle out quite substantially by the end of the 2nd hour, losing more than half its strength, body, and intensity. Mille Feux became a skin scent about 2.75 hours into its development. What surprised me is that it clung on with great tenacity, even if it was the merest wisp coating the skin. In total, Mille Feux lasted just over 7.75 hours, even if I had to press my nose right into my arm and inhale hard to detect it from the 4th hour onwards.
On Mille Feux’s Fragrantica page, the handful of reviews thus far are mixed. One poster was extremely annoyed at the copying of another designer scent, describing it a “more expensive, feminine and fruitier Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, but of way worse quality and performance.” One woman loved it, calling it “really beautiful raspberry-leather mix suitable for preferrably nighttime or special occasions.” The third poster came midway in-between, enjoying the fragrance but disappointed over the fact that it “lasted approximately 1 hour.” I’ll let you read the comments for yourself in full if you’re interested since I have another Louis Vuitton fragrance to cover.
DANS LA PEAU:
Dans La Peau is intended to be a floral leather musk. On its U.S. website, Louis Vuitton describes it as follows:
An infusion of leather, an invitation to explore the senses[.]
Traveling often has the power to embolden desire. Dans La Peau imprints on the skin like indelible ink. An exclusive infusion of natural leather from Louis Vuitton’s workshops intertwined with accents of almost-candied apricot, jasmine from Grasse and sambac jasmine from China. Then absolute of narcissus appears, followed by a chorus of musk. Dans la Peau does not feign desire. It lays it bare.
Once again, the Detailed Features section on the page elaborates and adds to the notes, in this case with magnolia. When combined with the description quoted above, the complete note list for Dans La Peau is:
Infusion of natural leather, Apricot, Jasmin, Magnolia, Narcissus Absolute, and Musk.
Dans La Peau opens on my skin with leather that smells like animal hides that have been cured and blanched in the sun enough to refine some of their aroma and to tame the full degree of their innate tannic rawness. The result is still musky and quite smoky, but it falls midway between heavily animalic hides and the cleaner, treated, more expensive sort of leather that is used in luxury handbags.
Two other elements are also at play, although they’re so soft that I had to really strain to detect them. There is the thinnest coating of tangy apricots atop the leather, and a pinch of narcissus that smells both smoky and like dry hay.
In fact, Dans La Peau was so soft, translucent, thin, and quiet on my skin that I had to increase my standard baseline quantity that I always use of 2 good sprays or several generous, wide smears amounting to their equivalent. I kept smearing on more and more of the fragrance until I used, at a rough estimate, a bit more than three and a half sprays. It was the only way to make sense of the notes and to get a grip on what was going on beyond the musky, smoky, faintly animalic leather. With the larger quantity, the apricot and narcissus bloomed properly, the smokiness was more apparent, and a good dose of lemoniness appeared from the magnolia as well, wrapping itself around the leather after only 10 minutes. In addition, a flicker of syrupy and immensely indolic jasmine popped up on the sidelines. With the larger fragrance dosage, the sillage was finally detectable, extending about 4 inches. However, the projection was still very low, about 2.5 inches perhaps.
There were a few other complications in trying to analyse Dans La Peau and its development. First, some of the florals feel quite fused together, making it difficult to pull them apart. Second, for much of its first 45 minutes, many of the notes seemed to play musical chairs on my skin, constantly changing in their visibility, strength, or position, darting about from center stage to the background, then switching around again.
The leather does that in particular. It ebbs and flows, frequently hiding behind which ever note is at the forefront, whether it is the apricots (in the 30 minutes), the hay-like narcissus, the jasmine, or the magnolia’s increasingly powerful, citrusy, floral freshness. When I smelt Dans La Peau on the scent trail (what little there is of it) and from a distance, the leather sometimes wasn’t noticeable at all for much of the first hour. It was hidden behind other things. Up close, it was typically a base layer that smelt of leather which had morphed after 20 minutes from its opening rawness into something that smelt like expensive, plush, smoke-licked suede. It was lovely and my favourite part of Dans La Peau, but it wasn’t a central figure for the first three or four hours on my skin.
The notes may play musical chairs during the first hour, but there were a few basic trends that I noticed. When I smelt my arm up close during the first 20 minutes, Dans La Peau smelt of apricots layered with a few strands of dry, musky, narcissus hay atop a base of lovely smoky, plush suede. After that, the apricot disappeared to the edges, pushed aside by the magnolia, before it vanished completely at the end of the first hour.
I really disliked the type of magnolia used here. It was not a honeyed, velvety, gorgeously creamy floralcy, but a shrill note that smelt unnaturally fresh, green, almost watery, and immensely citrusy. I found it identical to the “head space” magnolia that was featured in Malle‘s insipid but sharp and cologne-like Eau de Magnolia. The similarity is further accentuated when loads of overly clean, overly fresh white musk join Dans La Peau after 40 minutes. At the end of the first hour, the smokiness grows stronger, either from the jasmine’s indoles, the leather, or the narcissus. The cumulative effect is a scent driven by a central tripartite accord of citrusy, fresh magnolia, dry narcissus hay, and white musk, lying atop a thin base of smoky suede and with tendrils of smokiness joining the two parts. The jasmine now hides out in the background, not noticeable in any major, direct, or clear way except for the floral muskiness and indoles that it wafts out once in a while.
I find Dans La Peau quite perplexing in its first two hours. It often felt like two different fragrances in one bottle. When I smelt it from a distance, the bouquet was like very much like a floral cologne to me, and I do mean cologne, thanks to the immense citrusy freshness and the thin body. Yet, when I smelt my arm up close, the “cologne” was juxtaposed and contrasted by smokiness and a background of warm muskiness. It’s not animalic in any real sense, but it’s definitely not clean, either. What strikes me the most is how there is almost an entirely different fragrance hidden there deep within Dan La Peau, a much prettier one of quietly smoky, plush leather-suede. That part is beautiful, but it’s completely overshadowed on my skin by the fresh, citrusy, floral musk accord.
Throughout most of Dan La Peau’s lifetime on my skin, the bouquet that wafts on the scent trail and from a distance is different than the more interesting or nuanced one that appears when I smell my arm up close. There, roughly 75-90 minutes in, the leather-suede really blooms, smelling like the thick, plush, smoky material in one of LV’s new, pristine handbags or leather items. It tries to seep up to compete with the lemony magnolia and white musk up in the top layer and it succeeds once in a while, but not often. From a distance, Dans La Peau continues to smell like a fresh floral cologne, albeit one infused with increasingly noticeable tendrils of smokiness.
The flowers themselves change after 90 minutes. The jasmine re-emerges, banishing the narcissus to the background and joining the lemony magnolia on center stage. However, everything is blurry and increasingly abstract, smelling of an indeterminate, clean floralcy rather than a solid, clearly delineated, real jasmine or magnolia note. It’s as though all proper, identifying characteristics have been airbrushed away, except for the magnolia’s citrusy side which remains constant. The cumulative effect at the start of the 3rd hour reminds me of Hermes Cuir d’Ange, except this is slightly smokier, it has way more clean musk, and its now abstract floralcy skews more towards the citrusy magnolia-ish side than to hawthorn or violets.
Dans La Peau remains that way until its drydown phase begins roughly 6 hours into its development. The floral bouquet turns velvety, and finally resembles the lightly honeyed, very creamy aspects of magnolia as opposed to its earlier green, sharp, thin, citrusy floralcy. There is no longer any leather, smoke, or warm muskiness, but the cleanness remains. So does a certain plushness, and it occasionally bears a certain suede-like textural feel. In its last hour and dying moments, that plushness is all that’s left.
The numbers for Dans La Peau are somewhat similar to those of Mille Feux. However, I had to use a significantly greater quantity of scent in my first test to get those numbers. With the smeared equivalent of 3.5 sprays from an actual bottle, Dans La Peau opened with about 2 to 2.5 inches of projection and about 4 inches of sillage. After 75 minutes, the projection dropped to 1 to 1.5 inches, and the sillage was about 3. It became a skin scent after 3.25 hours, and lasted 8.5 hours in total. When I tested Dans La Peau with my standard baseline quantity (the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle), I had difficulty detecting the fragrance’s nuances due to its softness on my skin. After 15 minutes, I had to my nose almost right up to my arm, and the sillage was nonexistent unless I moved my arm repeatedly around my head. With the regular dosage amount, Dans La Peau became a skin scent after 2 hours, and lasted just shy of 5.75 hours in total.
On Fragrantica, there are only two comments listed there at the time of this post, and both are mixed in nature. Each person seems to like some aspect of Dans La Peau, but had issues that made them hesitate. For one commentator, it was how the tasteful, discreet leather began to “disintegrate” after only 1 hour, replaced mostly by jasmine and clean musk. For the other, it was a mix of things, from the floral apricot opening that she found to be “medicinal” and “a bit of a cacophony” to the fragrance’s overall price point. She wasn’t sure she it was worth it, but she was also haunted by the “leather lingerie” that eventually developed on her skin.
ALL IN ALL:
I explained my thoughts and feelings about the LV fragrances in detail at the end of the reviews for Matiere Noire, Turbulences, and Contre Moi, along with the reasons why I think that their pricing scheme can’t be shrugged off given the type of compositions presented and their performance.
If you’ve only just found this review or are reading the posts separately months from now, let me summarize another part briefly: in my opinion, the LV fragrances replicate mainstream scents (particularly the big designer bestsellers) with barely improved quality, weaker performance, but higher prices. They’ve done so for various reasons. According to a Reuters business article, LV is targeting the middle-income shopper due to its poor sales in the luxury section, competing with the likes of Kilian. In my opinion, Jo Malone and Hermes are a closer fit for the demographic tastes that they’re after.
Then, it added something else that I thought was interesting: “Some industry analysts said Louis Vuitton took its time with the launch partly out of concern the move could exacerbate its ubiquity problem – the result of having opened too many shops, which dented its perceived exclusivity.” Well, that explains the much ballyhooed “four years” that the fragrances allegedly took to make and that so many gushing, worshipful fashion magazine keep bleating about in their articles about the new collection, because it certainly couldn’t have been the quest for originality and truly luxurious quality. None of these fragrances are so complex or innovative that they would require four long years of detailed, exhaustive development!
They’re also quite boring, in my opinion. Contrary to Vogue‘s PR-influenced opinion, I didn’t find any of the Louis Vuitton fragrances to be so “devastatingly chic” that it would “send [me] to fragrance heaven.” Devastatingly disappointing, maybe. A total yawn, definitely. Having said that, each of the fragrances covered here today had some nice bits, Dans La Peau in particular. I thought its leather was more elegant and interesting than the very typical, conventional one in Mille Feux, and it felt like a more polished scent generally.
However, like their LV siblings, I think both fragrances fall short when taken as a whole, from start to finish, and when all factors are considered. None of them are terrible, but they’re deeply flawed. And, once again, it’s hard for me to shake the thought that there are better versions of these fragrances out there. In the case of the two reviewed today, that would be Tuscan Leather and Hermes’ Cuir d’Ange, respectively.
Try Mille Feux and Dans La Peau for yourself if you’re interested, but I would suggest keeping your expectations low.