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How one brand is rewriting the fragrance rule book
With mission statements like “We believe celebrities should pay full price” and “We believe that there are too many bottles of perfume and not enough soulful fragrances,” Le Labo is clearly not your average fragrance house. The company, which blends and labels its perfumes while you wait, is building a legacy through its authentic approach to luxury craftsmanship.
ELLE Canada: What lives at the heart of Le Labo that makes it special?
Fabrice Penot, co-founder of Le Labo: “The intention behind what we do is to make people’s lives more wonderful through perfumery – to create perfume with a certain depth, spatiality and deep emotional connection. Everything is done by hand: Our candles are poured one by one, and our perfumes are made to order. That patience and care is important to us. Finally, and this is a little more ‘New Agey,’ there is a belief in magic. We spend our lives trying to catch and create that.”
EC Your anti-business approach is well known. [The brand has no marketing department or PR agents.] That takes confidence.
F.P. “We’re building a legacy, and we have time. We can’t cherish craftsmanship or make things the way we do by being impatient. Craftsmanship is about time: learning a skill and getting better at it. It’s a lifestyle. If you rush it, you kill the whole idea. Ninety percent of my job is to protect that spirit.”
EC You have many bestselling fragrances, like Rose 31, which is used for the amenities in Fairmont hotels across Canada, and the cult favourite Santal 33, a smoky, woody aromatic scent. What makes Santal 33 special?
F.P. “The magic I was talking about…sometimes it just sticks. Santal’s a special fragrance that you haven’t smelled before, so you feel special wearing it. It gives an impression of well-being. Sometimes when a perfume is too ‘creative,’ it makes you uncomfortable.”
EC Fragrance elicits such strong reactions in people. It’s always fascinating to hear someone say they don’t wear or like perfume.
F.P. “It’s like saying ‘I don’t believe in sex.’” [Laughs]