Aesthetically, Le Labo is one of the coolest brands out there. Everything they do looks hip, from the typewriter font of their labels to the industrially crushed cans that hold their candles. But Le Labo isn’t a case of style over substance – they actually have style and substance in spades, and many of their fragrances have something interesting to say. The coolness of of Le Labo has made them a brand with a cult following so it’s no surprise that their first fragrance in almost three years (refreshing when every other niche brand is launching multiple fragrances a year, let’s be real) is causing quite the stir…
That new fragrance is called Tonka 25 and it is composed by none other than Daphné Bugey, the perfumer behind the likes of AURA by MUGLER and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Botanique collection. Le Labo describes Tonka 25 as “an addictive, dark fragrance” that “evokes the smell of warm skin and resinous wood”. This is a fragrance of contrast – one that celebrates the sensual nature of exotic woods and pairs it with a gourmand twist to highlight exciting new facets.
To say that the launch of a new pillar fragrance from MUGLER is an event is quite the understatement. Since 1992 the brand has only launched a handful of fragrances (excluding their fabulous flankers, of course) and unlike many other fragrance houses, MUGLER takes their time to develop and nurture their pillars. So with so few big launches a new one from MUGLER is hotly anticipated and easily makes for the perfume event of the year! MUGLER’S last pillar fragrance was Womanity, which launched way back in 2010 and whilst it wasn’t a commercial success, it was a daring fragrance who’s sweet/savoury-marine/biscuity signature trickled down through mainstream perfumery into the likes of Calvin Klein’s Reveal and Paco Rabanne’s Olympēa.
Seven years later and MUGLER are just about to launch their fourth pillar: AURA. Like ANGEL and ALIEN, and A*MEN before it, AURA plays on Mr Mugler’s supersition, bearing the letter ‘A’ to carry the brand’s theme of addiction into the next phase. AURA was created by a dream team of perfumers; Daphné Bugey, Marie Salamagne, Amandine Marie and Jean-Christophe Hérault, and it presents an oriental twist on the green genre, reinventing it and creating an olfactory shock.
The concept behind AURA is “botanical meets animal”. It celebrates the intuitive instinct that MUGLER describes as being innately feminine in nature. The composition consists of three hearts which showcase overdoses of rhubarb leaf and a new Firmenich material called ‘Tiger Liana’. With AURA, MUGLER has sought to innovate, working closely with Firmenich to exclusively use Tiger Liana along with another material called Wolfwood – all of which comes together to create a magic aura and the next chapter in MUGLER’S extra-terrestrial odyssey.
I always find myself feeling a tiny bit cynical when a brand launches a capsule collection of exclusive fragrances at an elevated price point. One has to question what sets these scents apart from the brand’s standard fare and who they’re trying to attract that they’re not already attracting. But exclusive collections really are part and parcel of niche these days, heck they’re actually a massive part of mainstream too and any brand worth their salt has one. The best ones though, are those with a theme and a cohesive spirit, and those that offer something completely unique. This leads me nicely on to L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Natura Fabularis collection.
Following L’Artisan Parfumeur’s rebrand and relaunch in 2016, which saw the line edited and repackaged in fabulously handsome black bottles, the brand has now launched a capsule collection under the name Natura Fabularis. The concept behind the collection is simple: each scent represents an imaginary garden thought up within the mind and nose of Perfumer Daphné Bugey. In an ode to nature, each scent carries a botanical latin name in the same way that a flower of tree would, as well as a number which represents the number of modifications the composition went through until it was signed off as perfect. There are new bottles too, lovely round ones, which set Natura Fabularis aside from the angular heptagons of L’Artisan’s main collection. Oh and they have gorgeous golden bees on them too, which is a really lovely touch.
Natura Fabularis consists of six fragrances; Tenebrae, Arcana Rosa, Venenum, Violaceum, Glacialis Terra and Mirabilis. What’s important to remember when approaching these scents is that, whilst they may carry names from a botanical handbook, they are not representative of real nature. In fact, they are completely the opposite: cerebral fantasy gardens from an imagined world, one where you are the architect, groundskeeper and landscaper. All you need to do is remove the cap, take a generous spritz and enjoy a trip into L’Artisan Parfumeur’s fabulous nature.
It’s hard to think of a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ perfume duo more iconic than Jean Paul Gaultier’s flagship masculine and feminine fragrances, Le Mâle and Classique. Together they capture the cheeky, sexually-charged and contemporary spirit of fashion’s naughties designed. They changed the way we think about perfume presentation and have managed to remain undated, despite their ever-so-90s aesthetic. Today our fragrant power couple have gone under the knife with olfactory surgeons Daphne Bugey (Classique Essence de Parfum) and Quentin Bisch (Le Mâle Essence de Parfum) to be fitted with an entirely new look, and smell. Click here to check out my full review of the Jean Paul Gaultier Essence de Parfums over at Escentual.
Le Labo is one of those brands that I’ve only really had a passing interest in. On the one hand they appear to create, for the most part, good quality scents with more than your usual level of artistry (let’s face it, there are so many niche houses that don’t), whilst on the other they’ve always seemed a tad gimmicky for my tastes.
Maybe I’m just being a grump, but there’s something about their industrial aesthetic, the odd naming system (the name of the most prominent ingredient followed by the number of ingredients) and the ‘blended on the spot’ approach that narks me, almost as if they are trying just a little bit too hard to be ‘hip’. Still, none of that should get in the way of the fact that the majority of their output is solid, wearable and interesting.
This summer the brand has launched two florals – Lys 41 and Ylang 49 – a duo that they are calling “the imperfect twins”. Working with perfumers Frank Voekly (Ylang 49) and Daphné Bugey over the last three years, Le Labo have created “two new floral statements” that are likely to surprise, ensnare and entertain many a perfume-lover.