In a world filled with countless shelves of mass-produced luxury perfumes, Le Labo is a refreshing approach to this age-old tradition. The duo behind the Labo have already become a phenomenon in the world of perfumery, transforming the way scents are perceived, sold and consumed — one bottle at a time.
Our olfactory sense can distinguish among hundreds of substances intimately related to our emotions, memories and creativity. Since the beginning of recorded history, perfumery has played an important role in the way we express ourselves, helping us become more attractive — more fascinating. Each natural ingredient can affect our mood differently, and in some cases, they can have healing properties.
Perfume making is a very laborious process: it begins when the ingredients are grown, cultivated or obtained around the world and taken to the manufacturing center; there, their essential oils are extracted through steam distillation, solvent extraction, enfleurage, maceration, or expression; the essences are then carefully blended by expert “noses”; finally, the perfume is left to age for several months to ensure the correct scent is achieved. It was not until the industrial revolution, when synthetic chemicals were created, that perfumes became a mass-marketed commodity.
Le Labo was founded in 2006 by Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot, two kindred spirits who met while working in the corporate world creating Giorgio Armani perfumes. They came together with the goal of bringing perfumery back to its roots, when each scent was hand-crafted and mixed specially for its wearer — instead of a mass-produced object of consumption. Their first shop, in the heart of New York’s NoLIta neighborhood, is reminiscent of a perfumer’s lab. There, they offer a space where people can access the art of perfume while discovering and testing their 10 unique scents.
The raw ingredients of each of these scents have been processed in Grasse (Southern France), and developed in collaboration with the world’s top 8 “noses”, or perfumists. They invite their patrons to come in, take a seat on their vintage stools at their laboratory (Labo means lab in french), and inspire each one of their scents until they find the right one for themselves.
Once the client takes their pick, the technician personally mixes the ingredients in front of their eyes. Essential oils start their natural deterioration process when they are mixed with alcohol and water — and at Le Labo it only starts once the perfume becomes yours. Each bottle is personalized with your name (or the person you’re giving it to), the name of the technician that mixed it, the location it was mixed in, and its expiration date. Bespoke scents are also available upon request, for the sum of $40,000.
Each scent is named after its main ingredient — Rose 31, Santal 33, Vetiver 46, Neroli 36, Fleur d’Orange 27, Oud 27, Patchouli 24, Jasmin 17 and Iris 39 — the number that follows is the number of essences accessorizing the main scent.
Rose 31 is interestingly one of Le Labo’s most popular scents for men. Not typically used as the base for a male aroma, the graceful accent of the Centifolia rose is exquisitely combined with masculine ingredients such as amber, musk, cedar wood and cumin.
Their take on the packaging and marketing of the perfumes is also a detail to be noticed. Coming from the advertising and corporate worlds, Roschi and Penot grew tired of seeing the importance being put in the bottle instead of the content. Simple, unpretentious, scientific with a vintage touch are the key words to describe Le Labo’s corporate image — the labels, the corrugated cardboard they use to pack the bottles in, and their shop’s interiors all breath a very coherent and perfectly designed rustic air.
I have always been fascinated by the sense of smell and its effects on our physical and mental state. One of my earliest olfactory memories is of a bakery shop when I was around 3 years old. The sweet and comforting smell of freshly baked bread will always have a special place in my sensory memory.
Perfumery has been one of my lifelong passions — a craft I truly hope to learn and develop in the near future. In my mind’s nose, I already know what the essence of BiniChic is like. Would you like to find out?