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For Le Labo founders Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot, inspiration struck from the simplest of sources: the literal definition of fragrance, as put forth on the International Fragrance Association’s Web site. IFRA states the role of a scent is “to improve the quality of life by underlining the personality, attractiveness and well-being of those who wear it.”

This story first appeared in the May 30, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It might sound crazy,” said Roschi, “but after seven years in the perfume industry, we had never heard this.”

That idea informed every aspect of Le Labo’s creation, from its packaging (simple and understated) to its habitat (stores that function as a “perfume lab, an amusement park for the nose,” said Penot) to its ethos. “We don’t launch a perfume because our marketing plan demands it,” said Penot. “We cherish craftsmanship. Man-made versus industrialization. There is fast food and there is slow food. We are the slow perfumery.”

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Maintaining that integrity has been central to the success of the brand, which today is sold in about 35 doors, including 10 of its own stores, the most recent of which opened in Hong Kong. “It’s about having trust in yourself, having the confidence that [success] will happen and not seeking reassurance with committees or quantitative research,” said Roschi. “We truly believe that if creation was a country, it would not be a democracy.”

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The founder’s philosophy also led to the ideation of its unique business model, which involves formulating each product at the point of purchase, thus doing away with finished-goods inventory. “True creativity creates profit,” said Roschi. “This is where the wholeness of our concept marries our obsession for creativity, meaning and profitability. Failing to meet one out of three for us would be failing everywhere.”

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