Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Le Labo
Interview with me as PerfumeCritic's Brazilian contributor, and Le Labo's very own Fabrice Le Labo. Fabrice and I discuss their fragrant dreams, the mass globalization of the perfume industry and possible new Le Labo locations.
Cris: Hi Fabrice, it is a real pleasure to be talking with you for PerfumeCritic, interviewed and acessible to many perfume lovers like me and telling us about the luxurious niche of Le Labo Fragrances. First of all thank you very much for accepting my invitation. You are always welcome to share your expertise and great kindness. I am confident that our readers will be delighted by your experience, passion and knowledge about the real art of making exclusive and exquisite perfume. Let's start with some background information on you and your perfume-oriented work. How did the idea to launch Le Labo fragrances come to you? How has Le Labo become so different and exclusive?
Fabrice: We are two founders, Eddie Roschi and I, and a bunch of friends behind us who were the first to believe in the idea. Basically, Le Labo is born of long discussions between Eddie and I trying to reinvent perfumery. We always wanted to bring more authenticity, experience, creation and spirit to the perfume world...mainly because of our frustrations of seeing perfumes becoming fast consumer goods when we were seeing them as works of art. A minor art, but an art.
So Le Labo distinguishes itself by several elements: First, we have the best perfumers in the world creating with us, with the best ingredients available on the market. Second, we are the only brand in the world with no stock, making the perfumes to order, fresh ( which is our statement about the fragility of our creations). Third, we personalize the labels, with the name of the person who is going to wear it, which just shows our respect for human beings...we don't treat you as a consumer, but as a perfume lover we care for. And mainly, Le Labo differentiates itself by its spirit. We focus on creation and we hope for business, not the opposite. Which explains why we decide to remain small, keeping the focus on quality, deciding to be great instead of being big. At the end of 2008, we will be distributed in less than 10 places in the world.
C: How are the perfumes created? Is there some special preparation (or should I say art of perfume making)? How are the perfumers involved?
F: Le Labo is about freshly hand made, not custom made. So there are 2 processes. The creation itself, and the making, which happens at 2 different moments. The creation of the perfumes is done by Eddie and I in collaboration with talented perfumers. That's how we created our 10 iconic creations.
Once these exist, they are set. We do not modify them anymore. What we do, we keep the essential oil concentrate in our lab fridge, until the moment a client orders one of them. Then comes the moment of the making, what we call formulation: Our lab technician would actually mix the essential oils with the distilled water and alcohol in front of the person, to order.
It helps to be sure that the perfume has not been damaged by the light and the heat.... and the person to be sure that her/his perfume is not 4 years old...
C: Great, this process is so fantastic. By the way, what is the relationship between Grasse, France and Le Labo's ideas?
F: Grasse is more a symbol to us. First, we have been trained in perfumery there. Second, the first idea of Le Labo happened when we were there...and third, most of our fragrance house suppliers are from there....
C: ould you describe your vision or concept of Le Labo's development, something like "Evolution" in the next 5 years, for example? Do you think the commercial success will seduce Le Labo and allow it to become more accessible around the world?
F: Our dream is to share our passion with the whole world and in the same time, we know that we need to remain small to do a great job and to keep our creations special. This is why you will never find our perfumes on the shelves of a department store next to you, but ultimately, we would love to have a lab in every big city of each continent or country to share our convictions about high end perfumery.
C: Wow, you are welcome to open a lab in Brazil, closer to me, of course... a dream that comes true... Well, what are the olfcative dreams of Fabrice Le Labo? Tell me your scent dreams.
F: To be honest, my olfactive dream came true....My olfactive dream was to create a line of perfumes that would make the life of people more wonderful, and bring something special to their lives....When we receive letters or email thanking us for what we are doing, it has the sweet smell of accomplishment.
C: Let´s imagine that you are a fortune-teller and you can see the future. How will the perfume industry look in next 5 years? Do you think that new niche maisons will appear? And what about the mass productions of perfumery?
F: Well, I think there is no doubt that the mass production of perfumery is going to intensify... everybody is saying that this logic is going to see an end in 5 years but it keeps going...and knowing who are the decision makers in the main perfume giants, I don't see why it would stop...I think we need to acknowledge this as a fact and stop bitching about it: 99% of the perfume market is mass marketed and it works. It is making happy billions of consumers in the world.
C: Yes, I totally agree with you.
F: And there are indeed brands who are trying other kinds of business models, niche brands, with different successes. The thing is I see this niche market becoming overcrowed very soon too... but the players being way smaller and way weaker financially, lots of brands will have to give up. It is a very hard business and only very very qualtitative and different perfumes will survive on this niche market. So to answer your question, the perfume market is going to be even more separated, between the mass and the niche, where only a very few brands will be able to survive.
C: One of the Le Labo's best seller is Rose 31, a rich fragrance made up of many different essences. Which is the fragrance concept behind this sophisticated blend of materials?
F: A Rose wearable by a man... so it has been shaped around wood, spices and muscs... a miracle in a bottle.
C: All perfume aficionados have more than one favourite fragrance. If you could score your favourite perfumes, the best of all, what would be the top 5 of your list?
F: won't name ours, as a principle of indenpendence... so here is my list:
- Chanel 19
- Ambre Sultan
- Armani Prive Ambre soie.
- Khiels musc
C: Once I read in Labo website that " In a world where luxury are mass-produced and sold in places that look like supermarkets, where advertising campaigns try to fool consumers into thinking are unique even tough their "one of a kind" fragrances are worn by millions across the globe, we believe there is another solution". Fabrice, I really agree with you about the mass market nature of the perfume industry and the sensation that perfumes are done with a lack of creativeness in a continuous way. However, since your fragrances are made-to-order and are sold at a niche price, do you think that Le Labo contributes to a better understanding of perfumery, especially when compared to this mass industry?
F: Well, I hear 2 questions here - the made to order, and a need for clarity for our prices. My answer is the following: Yes, the made to order is part of our answer to the mass market nature of the industry. Beside the relevancy of not storing fragile perfume bottles in a warehouse without caring when they will be sold and used, the made to order quality helps us to focus on the service, on the care, on the advice, on the experience...which is completely denied in mass perfumery where the only goal is to sell a maximum number of bottles without caring HOW.
I could complete my answer also by an indirect consequence of the freshly hand made concept: Le Labo can't expand itself in a very big number of places because of the whole complexity of the lab setting. It is a way to make sure that our clients will always feel special, different, wearing the less distributed perfume brand in the world.
click the pic to visit LeLaboFragrances.com
About the price, I would have to go into the economics of Le Labo, into the whole business model... but to simplify, I am pretty confident that it makes sense for anyone that because we spend 10 to 30 times more money in the fragrance than a normal brand, the retail price is necessarily more expensive....Yet, I would like to note that is only about 2 to 3 times more expensive than a normal perfume because we do not spend a cent in marketing or advertising... what you pay is what you get. So relatively, YES, our price is revolutionary. It would be way higher if we would function like a normal perfume company.
C: I think that Le Labo fragrances bring a balance between the handmade art of perfumery ( past) and the idea of new creative ways in making perfumes (present and future), the old and the new, the tradition and the modernity. Do you think that Le Labo has these contrasts? Does a perfume need to be produced on a perspective of blending opposite ideas to be a real "art" in a bottle?
F: Yes, thank you for acknowledging that...the old and the new, the past and the future, Grasse/New York... this tension is everywhere in our work. Even in terms of design...This is a statement...a perfume does not need to be that way to be a great creation...but this statement is one of the ways we like to define our style...with the aware choice of imperfections in our formulas...we are bored with "perfect perfumes"....
C: Tell us your plans of opening new Le Labo stores.
F: Well Los Angeles just opened...and we are now looking into London for next year. We have a great contact in San Paolo... Someone we like a lot and who fell in love with our NY store and who wants to help us open there but we still wonder if it is the right choice... Eddie grew up in San Paolo and I am sure he would be excited to open there even more than me... but the timing seems too early... we'll see.
C: I wish you open a Le Labo store in my SP city ( I was born there) , of course it will be a success.
Fabrice, Thanks for your interview. As a good aficionada for perfumes, I confess that Le Labo's olfactory universe is a target, a dream. Readers, this world is made of over 40 natural perfume essences...I feel these aromas in my Le Labo-scented-Dreams...Please do not wake me up.
F: I won't Cris... Reality is only for people with a lack of imagination...Smell you soon.
Contributor Article by Cristiane Gonçalves aka Cris Rosa Negra, published as original source Magazine PerfumeCritic.com