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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.

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The purpose of these olfactory deconstructions (see Iris and Vetiver) is to understand a raw material used in perfumery by dissecting it into its many facets. By experiencing the many nuances, one starts to gain an appreciation for how it is used within a wider composition and how it can be utilised to create interesting and novel effects. Such is the magic of perfumery – where one distinct material can bring so much more to a fragrance than its odour profile, shifting and changing as it tessellates with other notes to create things that are more than the sum of their parts.

Today’s deconstruction is a widely used material: patchouli. I chose patchouli because it’s a material found in so many fragrances, many of which utilise it as a supporting act as opposed to the star that takes top billing. I also picked it because it’s a tricky note to love, due largely to its associations with head shops and hippies, not to mention how abrasive it can be as a smell. But patchouli is so much more than a new age oil, it’s actually a fascinating and multifaceted material that deserves a lot of attention – and today we are going to give it that attention!

Crowning Glory: Iconic Niche Brands
Crowning Glory: Iconic Niche Brands

The perfume community is very protective. All you need to do is search the subjects of European regulations, IFRA and reformulations on any fragrance forum to get an idea of just how protective perfume lovers are, and I’m right there with them. Heritage should be looked after, but at the same time, I think we all have to appreciate the fact that the world, and the industry for that matter, are ever-evolving. Things change, whether that’s because certain materials stop being available, regulations restrict their use, or because brands change hands. Change is inevitable but does that mean we have to accept it?

One of the topics that receives constant criticism is the fact that independent niche houses are being snapped up at rapid pace by big houses. So far we’ve seen Estée Lauder acquire By Kilian, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, whilst Puig have acquired Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur. Most recently LVMH bought Maison Francis Kurkdjian and this certainly set the tongues of the perfume community wagging, and rightly so, because it’s a big deal (although MFK has always been positioned as more ‘luxe’ than niche). More often that not, people view these acquisitions as brands selling out or a pre-cursor to their spirit, and beloved fragrances being crushed by corporate greed.  But are they really a bad thing? Or are they just a reminder that, first and foremost, perfume is a business?

Fashion, Fumes & Furs
Fashion, Fumes & Furs

It came down to yours truly to pick the theme for this edition of the group blog post between myself, Olfactoria’s Travels, Persolaise, Fragrant Moments and Eyeliner on a Cat. For me this task was simple, I knew straight away that I wanted to talk about the relationship between fragrance and fashion, and more importantly I wanted to see just what my fragrant brothers and sisters would make of the correlation.

For years the worlds of perfume and couture have collided to create a wealth of classics and a whole heap of dreck. Houses like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Dior are as famous for their perfumes as they are for their fashions, with the former serving as an accessible way for one to own just a small piece of one’s favourite luxury brand.

One’s favourite fashion trend is most definitely animal print. There is just something so wonderfully wild about such bold, beastly prints and furs (all faux of course) in fashion and when one wishes to make a statement there is no greater choice than a measured dose of shocking animal print.

This post takes a look at one’s pick of the best ‘Animal Print Perfumes’ – those fragrances that perfectly capture the spirit of the boldest of prints. Whether it be the spots of the royal leopard, the stripes of the elegant zebra or the scales of the deadly black mamba, this post celebrates the collision of fashion and fragrance in the most utterly outrageous of styles.

[Please head on over to Persolaise, Olfactoria’s Travels, Fragrant Moments and Eyeliner on a Cat to read their takes on fashion and fragrance]

Ylang 49 and Lys 41
“The Imperfect Twins” – Ylang 49 and Lys 41

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.

Le Labo is a line that I’ve not paid much attention to, possibly because I’ve heard mixed things about the fragrances but also because the whole idea seems a little ‘gimmicky’ to me.

For those of you not familiar with the line, the basic idea is that each fragrance takes it’s name from its main component and its number from the number of ingredients used; so we can assume that Rose 31’s main component is rose (duh) and it contains a total of 31 ingredients. All Le Labo Fragrances are mixed to order at the Le Labo counter and the labels are personalised to include details such as the customer’s name and the store it was mixed in.

Rose 31 is marketed as a masculine and seems to be one of the most popular Le Labo fragrances, now that I have my hands on a bottle It seems a good opportunity to see what all of the fuss is about.