You or Someone Like You

Los Angeles. In this, the city of fallen angels, fantasy rules. In On the Road, Jack Kerouac wrote, “LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities.” It’s the city described by Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall as the city where “the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” But they come, the dreamers, for the sunshine and the possibilities, to this land of opportunity, where hope springs eternal. Whatever they’re searching for — happiness, love, money, fame — the temptations lure them deeper and deeper into this concrete paradise.

Inspired by Chandler Burr’s novel of the same name, You Or Someone Like You is invigorating, evasive and beautiful. Set in the city of fallen angels, the fragrance blurs the line between fantasy and reality: the natural and man made aspects of L.A. architecture (both living and inanimate) converge here. If you’re after that new fangled mode of perfume, wherein a lush yet impenetrable surface (enumerating endless anachronisms) alchemizes skin, this is the cutting edge. There is, as Burr suggests, something distinctly botanical about Your Or Someone Like You: a crisp, aqueous stalk of cactus, the fresh air fragrance of unscented desert grasses, something sweetly floral but innocent, a blossom confined--by the exhaust, concrete, metal, modern architecture and bright, high blue skies that surround it. There is a surgical precision to You Or Someone Like You, but graciously there is nothing literally medical about it: rather, this scent implies the impossibility (or possibility) of the self in a city whose economy runs on transformation (and anonymity). As Burr suggests, if you need to know the precise notes, You Or Someone Like You is not for you. This scent encapsulates the malleability of a specific L.A. identity that is all about the privilege to see or be seen, at will.

“A few years ago I wrote a novel called You Or Someone Like You set in Los Angeles. Its central character is a woman, Anne Rosenbaum, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband, Howard, a movie studio executive. Like so many of the homes up the fantastical curves and canyons of the Hills they look down on LA’s Downtown skyscrapers and the concrete ribbon of the 101 freeway, across Mid-Wilshire and Robertson, the glass towers of Century City, and, on clear days, over the 405 to Santa Monica and the placid, blue Pacific. And always the palm trees, imported and planted in LA in the early 20th century, ‘just as I am an import,’ Anne observes, ‘now indigenous.’ Anne is English, born in Hammermith, London.

As many have observed, Los Angeles is not a city. It is a state of mind. A strange amalgam of places and languages. Los Angeles is rivers of cement highways and infinite strips of asphalt, traffic, and despite or because of it all one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth, a natural beauty made by nature and molded by people, cobalt sky and the greens and tans of the desert parks, ocean fog, the white and delicate pale yellow jasmine and honeysuckle flowers that grow up parking signs reading ‘Permit Parking Only Violators Will Be Towed.’

This scent is very specific. When Etienne de Swardt approached me about creative directing a fragrance whose name would be the title of my novel, I told my perfumer, Caroline Sabas, that we were creating the fragrance Anne would wear. She is also very specific. Coolly crisply English, covered in but untouched by the silver, materialistic movie industry, literary, somewhat removed.

You Or Someone Like You is not the ‘scent of LA’ or ‘the smell of the Hollywood Hills captured.’ It is not one of those olfactory synecdoches. It is, on the other hand, stylistically and in its technical construction what a Los Angeles woman would wear in my view. Caroline and I discussed this at each step during the creation process. It is contemporary, 21st century. It is LA, whatever that means, though in part it means the norms a scent would follow in a meeting at one of the agencies near Wilshire, at a studio, at a lunch in Bel Air or dinner off Beverly Drive. (The raw materials are completely irrelevant. The work is the work. If you need to know what it’s made of, don’t wear it; YOU is not for you.)

My fictional Anne wears it; so presumably do thousands of other women. It represents her only in the way all such choices represent us. What it will be to you is for you to decide, obviously.”

— Chandler Burr
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