Le Labo

I’ve never had a confident understanding of the currents and obsessions in the fragrance business. In fact, my knowledge verges on the comic. I spent a couple of years as a teenager imbued with the misguided idea that perfumes had to be strong to be good and proceeded to buy with an irresistible enthusiasm anything which featured in fashion magazines at the time: Anaïs Anaïs, Loulou, Poison, Opium (this is the moment when my quest for olfactory satisfaction should have gone back to basics) and a personal favourite even today the 1981 creation Giorgio Beverly Hills. At the age of 15, after having amassed a small collection of grossly expensive bottles, I suddenly came across an exotic new concept while talking to a “cool” older friend: these powerful eighties scents would not transform me into a supermodel or Vic in La Boum, it would not bring wild teenage love. Finding my way uncertainly through a world of heady and provocative smells was brought to an abrupt end. I decided to not let my young mind be corrupted by clever marketing ploys any longer and went back to basics. The smell of soap and a clean teeshirt.
The fragrance clichés of the eighties put me off building an intimate relationship with a scent for a long time. I have nothing against stereotypes but the formula used in those days was almost too predictable and theatrical. And School is now a memorable landscape of l’Eau d’Issey. Did anyone not wear it?
My renewed love for perfumes has been very gradual. Funnily enough, Giorgio Beverly Hills has been the only constant remaining from the learning years. Despite being very heavy, used in extremely small quantities it is delicious. All you need is a vague soupçon of the stuff. About 12 years ago I discovered l’Eau d’Hadrien by Annick Goutal and Route du Thé by Barneys New York. Two extraordinarily beautiful smells which I have not ceased to wear. Fierce opposites to those intoxicatingly bad 80’s references listed above. Four years ago, I also fell in love with Annick Goutal’s Noël. It’s only available as a room spray but that has not stopped me from wearing it as a perfume (I don’t apply it directly to the skin but on clothes).
The perfume business, like anything driven by fashion, is cyclical and it seems to be the turn of more niche names to be successful. I don’t quite comprehend the fragrance industry and I’m fiercely loyal to the few smells I’ve now been wearing for years but I recently discovered Le Labo and everything in my olfactory life has been changing again. The simple unadorned displays and subtle bottles immediately seduced me. The sense of authenticity created by the brand’s environment surprised me and made an impact. Convinced that I would remain indifferent to the fragrances (now that I have my own distinctive smell since the disastrous eighties) I proceeded to open bottles. The third I tested was called Bergamote 22. Well, guess what happened… I had overlooked the potency of a smell. It was an emotional and enthralling feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like the smoky-voiced seduction of a jazz singer. It was love. I bought my first bottle from Liberty and it’s been my latest greatest hit for more than a year.
I recently attended a Le Labo workshop held by the wonderfully charismatic Edouard Roschi, one of the founders, who accurately captured and described the extraordinarily difficult world of fragrances. Despite the lucidity of his words and scientific explanations I realised that a deep understanding is not what I was looking for. I don’t want to philosophise about smells. I like the mystery and irrational unconscious reactions to perfumes. I think I’m genuinely happy in my ignorance and inability to recognise certain notes. I like a purely instinctive response!

A huge thank you to Gaëlle, Edouard Roschi and Mélanie

Picture taken by me

Le Labo


Anonymous said...

LOVE le labo. anthropologie just did a collaboration with them! check it out on anthropologie.com under "fragrance". xoxo


I love the way you described your experience with fragrance. It rings true, as I'm just falling in love with fragrances now. It occurred to me that fragrance is this entire sensory experience that I hadn't touched until recently!! It's also strange in a way, that it's the only art form that can't at all be conveyed through the internet or via the media...it's the only one that you still need to experience in person. I've been meaning to do a post on this for a while, you've reminded me why!

I just ordered a ton of samples from the perfumed court (I'm not sure where you are, but they're fabulous for samples in the US)- several Le Labo scents were among them. I'm excited! Lauren

tea said...

hahaha je rigole comme une banane... l'eau d'Issey, LA BOUM indeed, anais anais...
I'm so tempted to try your discovery (damn i miss Liberty!) i'm with you here, i gave up trying to find my smell a while back - the scent i desperately want but yet have never found would be some sort of a mix between a white Rose and an "old" poudrier...


Caroline, No. said...

I love Bois Farine by L'Artisan Parfumeur, really warm and sandalwoody. It's great for wrapping yourself up in on freezing misty London days. (Like today!)

rouli said...



July Stars said...

Keepfeeling: I've heard about the Anthropologie collaboration but I wonder whether the London store will stock it. I have to check it out. I'm interested to find out what sort of scent they've created! Huge kiss, beautiful!

In(decorous) taste: I'm in London and here it's almost always impossible to get samples of fragrances . In Paris, where my parents live, you seem to be showered with little scented gifts as soon as you purchase a perfume or beauty product. A great marketing ploy but it works.

Tea: I wish someone would create customised fragrances. It would be a fascinating experience. I'd like to rediscover the smell of primary school... Hey, if you miss Liberty, un voyage s'impose! I'm waiting for you!

Caroline: I've never smelt Bois Farine or even been to l'Artisan Parfumeur. I'm still a novice when it comes to fragrances and I need to expand my horizons! Is it similar to Diptyque's Feu de Bois candle?

Rouli: Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just bought the Anthro/Le Labo scent in "Chant de Bois". I want to bathe in it.

susie_bubble said...

It's such a complex relationship - person and scent - took me a while to get to my devotion to all Byredo scents (especially the Fantastic Man one) and Escentric Molecules...

Liberty London Girl said...

I've always wanted to go to a Le Labo workshop and am very envious, esp now you have described it so alluringly. LLGxx

kate said...

your blog is very veryyyy cool !
i love!
and the pictures are really coool ;.)


Anonymous said...

Found your blog and love it!
Can you purchase Le labo in the UK?

Jacinda Barrett said...

I loved Le Labo when I visited their store/workroom in NYC a few weeks ago. I have recently ditched my favorite fragrances (I was a long time fan of gardenia by chanel) and have opted for natural oils and making my own mix of them to whatever I'm feeling that day. I have the basic scents separate and just apply them over the top of each.