NEW YORK — A new fragrance marketer called Le Labo here wants to challenge the notion of mass-produced fragrances.
Le Labo, a boutique opened at 233 Elizabeth Street in the NoLIta section of downtown Manhattan by two former L’Oréal executives last month, is based on the concept of putting the finishing touches on the manufacture of fragrances each time a scent is purchased at the shop.
When customers buy one of Le Labo’s 11 scents, a maturated essential oil blend is mixed with alcohol and water to create a finished fragrance. The process is designed to take about 10 minutes, ample time for visitors to browse shelves of raw ingredients in the 600-square-foot shop, as well as jars of iris and vetiver root, cedarwood, oak moss and juniper berries.
Le Labo, part laboratory and part museum, is the brainchild of Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi. The two formerly worked in international marketing for Giorgio Armani fragrances; Penot worked on the Privé brand and Roschi worked on the Emporio Armani scents.
Le Labo hopes to bring consumers closer to perfumery by deconstructing the various steps of fragrance production. Even the name of each Le Labo scent reflects its structure. For instance, each moniker contains a number — like Rose 31, Iris 39 and Vetiver 46 — that denotes the number of individual ingredients in the scent’s essential oil blend.
“People ask about the raw ingredients, the differences in musks,” Roschi said during an interview at the store last week. “It’s a way to initiate people into the art of smelling.”
Added Penot, “We want to bring back the spirit of fragrance making.”
The space is a mix of black, silver, brown and white motifs. A store associate who mixes scents amid graduated cylinders, bottles, closures, droppers and a scale, wears a white lab coat. White tiles line the walls on one side of the shop, which features a black steel bar, oak stools and an oak floor. The opposite wall, which is covered with a layer of tin decorated with a baroque design reminiscent of fleur-de-lis, displays finished fragrances as well as tester bottles.
Scents are finished at the shop to prevent any breakdown that might occur in a completed formulation, Roschi noted. “We don’t see the point of letting it sit on the shelf for six months,” he said. “It oxidizes.” He noted oils are kept refrigerated until they are mixed with the alcohol and water.
Each scent is built around raw ingredients processed in Grasse, France. The maturated oils are composed by one of eight perfumers, all of whom work for fragrance suppliers: Alberto Morillas, Annick Menardo, Daphne Bugey, Maurice Roucel, Frank Voelkl, Françoise Caron, Michel Almairac and Mark Buxton.
Of Le Labo’s 11 finished scents, three are for women, three are for men, four are unisex — including one for babies — and there’s a home fragrance.
Fragrances are available in five sizes: 15 ml. for $45, 50 ml. for $115, 100 ml. for $180, a half liter for $600 and one full liter for $900. There are also solid scents, 10 ml. for $80; body lotions, 240 ml. for $55, and bath oils, 120 ml. for $55. In the home fragrance category, candles go for $55 each and sprays go for $70 each.
The shop also offers bespoke scents, a process that takes about three to six months and costs $40,000. Industry sources estimate Le Labo could do sales of $1.5 million in its first year.