Code of Artistic Conduct | Feature ArticleFitzroy, VIC, Australia
We are not obsessed with creating best sellers; we are obsessed by moving people. Sometimes we fail; sometimes it works; when we succeed, when the magic happens, success is a natural consequence to it.
Occupying a corner spot on Gertrude Street in the alternative inner city side of Fitzroy is the newly opened boutique fragrance store – LE LABO. Founded by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi in 2006, LE LABO established itself as a revolutionary brand with strong authentic values and bespoke scents. Known for its modern, unisex perfumes and the use of extraordinary ingredients (jasmine, tuberose, ambrette, and patchouli, just to name a few), the duo created exclusive fragrances through dedicated craftsmanship. From the humble flagship store on Elizabeth Street in Nolita in New York, the brand is still a niche one, available at 35 locations worldwide and launching on average a single fragrance each year.
With their trademark black steel shelving and light pendants and lamps, vintage furniture and distressed wall finishes, LE LABO is centered around the acceptance of transience and imperfection, but in fact all elements are carefully considered to achieve the overall distinctive look and feel. The design language follows characteristics of the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, highlighting a sense of melancholy where nothing is finished or perfect.
Beyond the understated grey façade of the Melbourne store and large framed windows, are the aesthetically beautiful interiors and lingering scents of woody, spicy and sweet notes. There is an intrinsic serenity, cleanliness and functionality with neat alignment of fine fragrances, home creations and brown packaging boxes. A mini interactive laboratory is tucked in the back end of the store, framed glass fronts and black steel where all the magic happens. It’s a space where staff formulate, refill and personalise fragrance in unique style, custom printing 23 characters of choice, and creating original and one of a kind experience for customers.
The palette is predominantly black and white, maintaining a level of sophistication with vintage credenza desk and distressed leather furniture populating the space. From the masculine timber flooring and exposed rustic beams that run through the entire length of the ceiling to the textured wallpaper and chipped white subway tiles, the space is a celebration of ingenious roughness, simplicity and intimacy that customers can connect with.
We were lucky enough to have the staff at LE LABO Melbourne store get in touch with the founders to speak to us about the store interior and product philosophy.
Q: We noticed the common theme of distressed wall finishes across all the stores. What are the main influences behind the interiors?
“Our main source of inspiration or “code of artistic conduct” if you will, is our close connection to the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, centered on the acceptance of imperfection and impermanence, of things incomplete. We seek the beauty that finds its niche in irregularity, in “roughness”, a result of the integrity and voluntary simplicity of the process that we guide the craftsmen (the perfumer) through.”
Q: There is a lab within the store where all the magic of fresh formulation happens. Can you tell us more about it and the personalisation process offered to customers?
“At Le Labo, we freshly compound each bottle of one’s choice from our existing collection in front of the client.
Our perfumes are made-to-order and the essential oil concentrates remain separate from the alcohol right up to the moment of purchase. Then, the lab technicians proceed to the final formulation of the perfume; oil concentrate + alcohol (+ water).
Our teams 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 3 locations in New York, we can say that a part of our fragrances are produced or more precisely compounded in NY.
We don’t customize scents because creating a fine fragrance is very costly (at the very least a few thousands of dollars) and is also very time-consuming (several months to several years). However, I confirm that we personalize our perfumes’ label, with the message or the name of your choice (up to 23 characters), which makes them unique!”
Q: It is not a typical commercial fragrance. What would you say is the purpose of the brand?
“We just happened to meet a need for authenticity and emotional connection that traditional brands were denying, not because they did not care but because they didn’t think they needed to. In modern fashion, you might not need that, and that’s maybe why designer fragrances failed to connect deeply with today’s people – in the craft of perfumery there is no other way: you can’t create a perfume that matter if you are emotionally disconnected from the creation process… In that case, our initial motto “focus on creation and hope for business” is still relevant today.
We are not obsessed by creating best sellers; we are obsessed by moving people. Sometimes we failed; sometimes it works; when we succeed to do so, when the magic happens, success is a natural consequence to it. Success is a by-product of creating something that means something but you never consider it before it eventually happens…
In every perfume we create, we leave a part of ourselves in the bottle – I think people can feel that – There is a mystical element to that, which “smart reasonable business people” who are in charge of traditional brands can’t really grasp – the resulted soul of the perfume is our competitive advantage – It is very demanding emotionally on a day to day basis but there is no other life we wish we had…”
Q: What are the most popular scents and what advice do you give customers when selecting their first Le Labo?
Santal 33: woodsy
Rose 31: spicy
“The only question you should ask yourself is how special you feel when you are wearing this particular fragrance. The smell itself should give you an edge… if it doesn’t it is not the right one.
I heard a guy the other day at our store in NYC saying that a girl went on a second date with him just because of his Le Labo perfume – you’re welcome.”
The space breathes intention and passion. And one can only applaud the duo behind the brand for keeping focus on making fragrances so unique they cannot be copied. And interiors so carefully detailed and thought through, promoting an interactive experience and soulful ethics.