Le Labo was born in Grasse, the capital of perfumery located in the French Riviera. It was raised in New York, the city where Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot opened the first lab in February 2006 on Elizabeth Street in Nolita.
As much as the name suggests, Le Labo, which means “the laboratory” in French, is a cult perfume brand that takes its inspiration from the various goings-on of a perfumer’s lab. They pay special attention to the experience surrounding their perfumes, hand-blending and bottling each perfume in- store, labeling each with a created date and location, and allowing the customers to inscribe names or personal messages on the labels. Le Labo’s fragrances have staked out a unique presence in the industry, with charmingly distinct scents like Santal 33 and Rose 31 testifying to the brand’s deep appreciation of base ingredients.
“Le Labo” creations are different, more complex and intricate than a department store perfume; they are bewitching and beguiling. Or, as Penot puts it, “just as a perfect man or a perfect woman become boring after three weeks at most, a ‘perfect’ perfume is not at all exciting.” These views mirror Penot’s fondness for Japanese culture, especially the wabi-sabi philosophy which celebrates transience and imperfection. “We don’t want to, and we don’t have to please everyone,” he continues while dipping a blotter into a tester containing their newest creation “Santal 33” – a reinterpretation of the spirit of the American West – and then giving it a slightly theatrical wave in the air. The packaging for the perfumes equals the no-nonsense approach to doing business: a classic bottle with a simple, yet heavy cap and a plain white label imprinted with an old-style typewriter font.
The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. (NYSE:EL) signed a definitive agreement to acquire Le Labo (“The Lab”), the high-end fragrance and sensory lifestyle brand with a distinct French heritage and an emphasis on fine craftsmanship and personalization in its products and services in 2014. However, the way it produces and sells each scent is quite atypical: the brand aims to create a unique sensorial experience with its “slow” approach to perfumery. In their stores, which Le Labo’s founders refer to as “labs,” there are no such things as the final, bottled fragrances ready to purchase.
“The Estée Lauder Companies is the ideal home for us and for our brand,” said Le Labo co-founders Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi. “We founded Le Labo with the guiding principle that the soul of a fragrance comes from the intention with which it is created, and the attention with which it is prepared. The Estée Lauder Companies not only understands and respects the core elements of our business, but also has the resources to help us continue to grow into a more fully expressed sensory lifestyle brand. The Company has a strong track record of growing and nurturing prestige entrepreneurial brands, and we love that they are so supportive of and committed to our vision.”
Each location is designed as a fragrance lab open to the public. The core of every collection is 15 unisex perfumes and soy-based wax candles created by some of the world’s best noses and using the most qualitative ingredients. We also offer personalized labels which makes our creations the perfect gift! In fact, each fragrance of the 18 available scents is freshly hand-blended by a perfumer once the client purchases a scent.
Each fragrance by Le Labo is a trompe l’oeil that leads the consumer down an olfactory rollercoaster. In their famous Santal 33 – made using Australian sandalwood – it’s the 33 other notes that actually make it so hallucinogenic so it smells different and unique to each individual wearer. Similarly, Campbell says the 31 other notes in Rose 31 – a flower normally said to be feminine in nature – that mark it as a very masculine fragrance.