Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interview with a Niche Perfume Brand Owner: Fabrice Penot of Le Labo

My interview with co-founder of Le Labo, Fabrice Penot, has been uploaded on Fragrantica. I had given a glimpse (and an exclusive) a few days ago when he kindly answered my question on whether perfumery is an art or craft, but the length of the interview has more popular questions, juicier bits on perfume launches and clever quips by Penot himself, such as the following inimitable reply to critics.
" is pretty disappointing to see critics who have a public voice getting stuck in this rhetoric of, "Hey! Rose 31 does not smell like Rose so I don't like it" and witness them not being able to be just moved by the smell itself. I am not saying Rose 31 should move everyone, I am saying if you are a serious critic, there should be a better argument for or against this perfume than the relevancy of its name. Would you respect a movie critic who would say, 'Yeah, I don't understand all the fuss about Reservoir Dogs, I did not hear any barking in it?' "
Go read!


  1. Anonymous22:21

    Read the interview on Fragrantica. Excellent as usual. Big grin at "Would you respect a movie critic who would say, 'Yeah, I don't understand all the fuss about Reservoir Dogs, I did not hear any barking in it?' "

    -- Lindaloo

  2. Mimi G23:04

    Read it - it's a great article ! Made me go look longingly at the Le Labo website ......

  3. Great interview!

    I am not sure which critic(s) they are referring to. For instance, Luca Turin, who finds the naming amusing, always judges the smell itself, not the name.

    I think you had a point with your question. By using a "surrealist" approach to naming, they are, willingly or not, playing with customers' expectations. Their example isn't appropriate - nobody expected dogs in said movie. A better example would be a movie labelled "Romantic comedy" that turned out to be a police thriller; clearly, there is some expectation twisting in this case.

    One could imagine that Rose and Santal are the best sellers, probably they are the easiest and smoothest of the line (and the only one for which they made a laundry detergent). I am hypothesizing that Vetiver would be a big seller too if it had a different name (like for instance incense).

    In any case, I'd have loved to convey them my big thanks for producing bath and body oils: I am probably one of the few customers, but I love them.


  4. Anonymous03:38

    thanks for the interview, but mostly thanks for the new crush i now have on eddie richie! what an interesting-looking man! great spirit in his eyes, too.

    was that off-topic, or what?!!


  5. L,

    yeah, that was a clever one.

  6. M,

    I bet they'd be happy to know that!

  7. M,

    I do think they're referring a bit to LT who has indeed mentioned the discrepancy between name and scent (leaf through again). But of course he did go on to criticize the smell itself too.
    I suppose however that it is widespread, because often a name in niche, inspired by a raw material, does influence our brain on what to expect (but of course, like Fabrice says proportion doesn't make for resulting effect in direct correlation to it).
    So I thought his explanation had merit. The quip about the Tarantino movie probably is a voluntary exaggeration to show the ridiculousness of merely name adherence; nobody expected dogs, but what if one was stupid enough to actually do?

    I agree with your assessment of the best-selling advantages; easy does it. Isn' t that always the case?
    As to the body products, I bet they're good but I haven't tried them myself. The oil option sounds particularly sensuous.

  8. C,

    we embrace the off topic! (especially when it has to do with sexy, smart banter)

    Masses of wild hair and a boho attitude make for eye catching, eh? I am not that taken myself (not because averse to above characteristics, just different specimens of that style), but who am I to judge you?? :-D

  9. Great interview! Not that all your interviews aren't. :)

    As for Le Labo, I find that line rather good, even though I don't find all of their perfumes wearable. But now I know more about the founders, I'm going to enjoy wearing Labdanum and Vetyver even more (those are my 2 favourites, Rose being close behind them).

  10. The oils and body creams are excellent, not as strong as the perfume, but they last just as long, especially for things like the patch or the oud (which keeps the dirty musk for much longer). And I think we had previously commented the curious effect of the iris cream after the pool.



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