Perfumery’s popularity is certainly at its zenith. Now more than ever men are upping their ‘scent game’ with a range of fragrances to choose from, whether it be seasonal, occasional or for almost any plausible reason. Since designer brands started extending their lines of offerings with masstige perfumes, armed with canny marketing ploys, bold package design and celebrity endorsed advertising campaigns (mainly in the 1990s), there is something deeply admirable about a brand that strives to create a product that is authentic, keeps it simple and offers an emotional connection to their range. So, allow me to introduce you to Le Labo — meaning “The Lab” — the prosopopoeia of downtown New York cool.
Founded by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi in 2006, the duo quickly found their niche in the perfumery market and opened their first store in New York that year (they now have four in the city). They tell me that their motto is, “Focus on creation, hope for business.” Penot then elaborates, “We are not obsessed by creating best sellers, we are obsessed by moving people. Sometimes we fail, sometimes it works. But, success is a by-product of creating something that means something, yet you never consider it before it eventually happens.” That may come across as a risky mentality, but they clearly have an arsenal of goods that back up the motto-come-business-ethos.
“Our labs [stores] are like an entertainment park for the nose, and the perfume you bring home is a souvenir”, Penot explains. Unlike many of their competitors, Le Labo refrain from selling pre-blended perfume. All Le Labo perfumes are made-to-order and are left right up to the last moment before combining the essential oils, alcohol and water — you’re not witnessing a creation of perfume per se, rather the blending of one, which is an experience that you won’t witness to in a regular store or concessionary. Roschi jumps in to inform me that the Le Labo technicians “follow the same strict protocol when compounding a perfume, therefore, the concentration does not vary from one location to the other or, from one bottle to the other, they cannot change the formula. As we have four locations in New York, we can say that a parts of our fragrances are produced, or more precisely compounded, in New York.”
What Le Labo are in fact doing is reconnecting consumers with the lost art of perfumery creation, adding an understanding of the highly skilled and trained craft to the end-consumer’s conscience, and thus growing their loyal following. You might think that that’s the most important set of skills a laboratory technician embodies, the smelling techniques and essential oil knowledge, yet Penot reveals that “the most important part of their job is not being experts in the perfumes themselves, it is to be capable of true empathy, and deep psychology, and to be able to connect deeply with our clients.”