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she began to work for the company. Knowledge is an important component of the Le Labo brand, and they take great pride in ‘educating customers on the art of perfume’. Many of us have a limited knowledge of perfume, perhaps the majority of that derives from the film adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s novel, ‘Perfume’, where the fundamentals (the French city of Grasse) the aesthetics (the perfumer’s equipment) and the lexicon (‘nose’ and the varying ‘notes’ of a scent) associated with the process of perfume making, were powerfully communicated through the film’s narrative. As part of Le Labo’s commitment to perfume education, they stock ‘The Olfactionary’ – a box containing forty, 2.5ml bottles of natural essences that serves as a sort of ‘training tool’ to teach about the art of perfume making. The kit, priced at £295, sold out at Liberty over the Christmas period: a clear indication that people are keen to learn about fragrance. Le Labo specialises in perfumes for the body that take two guises –the conventional spray form and a balm, which is a concentrated perfume that releases scent, gradually- as well as home fragrances and candles. There are ten perfumes in total –including ‘Bergamote 22’, ‘Jasmin 17’ and ‘Ambrette 9’, each of which is built around a primary natural essence processed in Grasse, forming the base of a composition. Le Labo also produces an exclusive scent for each city in which it resides, for example, ‘Tuberose 40’ for New York and ‘Vanille 44’ for Paris. The ‘London fragrance’ is set to launch at Liberty in September 2008. Each of the perfumes are named after their principal essence and the number of ingredients combined to make them. Some perfumes can be composed of hundreds of ingredients but a higher number does not determine better quality: Le Labo favour short formulae and ask their perfumers to be as concise as possible in their creations. I set Flavia a task: to determine what kind of fragrance is going to be right for me. I explain my main reason for visiting Le Labo: the need for a fragrance that lasts a long time but at the same time, isn’t too overpowering. Apparently, all of the perfumes I’ve been wearing are Eau de Toilette which means they only have around 4-8% concentration (Comme des Garçons’ ‘Parfums’ logo is incredibly deceptive). One of Le Labo’s unique selling points is the fact that all the fragrances have a high concentration of 22%-25%. Many modern perfumes use low-quality raw materials, whereas Le Labo opts for

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higher quality, natural oils. These two factors explain the higher price points for the perfumes: £80 for 50ml and £120 for 100ml. Customers aren’t advised to try all of the fragrances so I rely on Flavia’s expertise to point me in the direction of which fragrances I should like, determined by the perfumes I currently wear. The list – ‘Jasalmer’ from the Comme des Garçons ‘Incense’ range, ‘Philosykos’ by Diptyque and ‘Flowers’ by Kenzo- eventually brings us to ‘Vetiver 46’ and ‘Iris 39’. Flavia instructs me to try the fragrances on my pulse points, highlighting the fact that natural reflex to rub the two wrists together actually ‘breaks the molecules of the fragrance’. I notice that the smell begins to alter as it begins to soak into my skin: apparently there are three phases of a fragrance’s life, and the initial impression can be quite sharp as a result of its alcohol content. Despite having names I’m familiar with, the Le Labo formulations are surprisingly different: the ‘Vetiver 46’ is close to the fragrances I know and love, but this version feels more sophisticated, sensuous and exudes just the right amount of ‘masculinity’ that I seek out in a fragrance. The ‘Iris 39’ is fresh and intriguing and like nothing I’ve tried before, but it feels a little summery for my current mood. ‘Vetiver 46’ has the highest number of ingredients out of all of the Le Labo fragrances, its main ones being Sandalwood (a synthetic version of Indian Sandalwood which is farmed unsustainably), Pepper, Labdanum, Cedar, and Incense. Flavia encourages me to explore other company’s versions of Vetiver: Comme des Garçons’ Eau de Cologne ‘Vettiveru’ (a low concentration of 2-5%) fades incredibly quickly and Creed’s ‘Vetiver’ has a, strange, artificial green tint to imitate its grassy derivative (none of the Le Labo fragrances’ colours are altered). Neither compare favourably. Le Labo’s unique ‘handmade’ approach, where fragrance products are freshly weighed to order in front of you, is by far, its strongest selling point. The fragrance formula –the essential oil concentrates and alcohol, kept separately in a refrigerator- are formulated and bottled in front of the customer. The Le Labo environment complements this ‘experience’. Each of the Le Labo outlets are set up like a laboratory (a reference to the surroundings in which Roschi and Penot first met) with a counter and scientific equipment. But it is not completely clinical - the space encourages customers to explore and discover with

Issue 1: The Fashion Almanac  

A Graphic and Textual Exploration of the Fashion World

Issue 1: The Fashion Almanac  

A Graphic and Textual Exploration of the Fashion World

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