If you've been to the Big Apple recently, and hung around Manhattan's Nolita you might have got a whiff of a certain leathery, sandalwood aroma that's become so commonplace in cool hangouts like New York, LA and Paris, that a writer at The New York Times dubbed it "the most ubiquitous scent in fashion." She wasn't joking either - the ultra-seductive Santal 33 is loved not just by New Yorkers, it's also found favour among the Shoreditch arm of Le Labo's boutique fragrance stores and now even in Mecca's four recent Sydney and Melbourne Le Labo outposts.
But who is Le Labo and what makes it so different from your average perfumier? Founded in 2006 in New York via France's famous Grasse perfume region, the company is known for combining raw ingredients like rose, lavender and jasmine in each store - making its boutiques akin to a lab (or le labo in French). "All the perfumes are freshly blended in our boutiques," explains Gianluca Santucci, Le Labo's UK area manager. "Everything we send to Mecca is freshly blended - we create a very small batch and send it to Mecca straightaway and they keep it inside a fridge in the store. As a final touch, you can write a name or message on the label," he adds.
It's the sense of the personalised, right down to the no-nonsense label that has won Le Labo a legion of fans worldwide - in fact, if you look closely at Beyonce's Lemonade visual album, you'll spot her playing the piano with a Santal 26 candle flickering in the background. Of course, that was entirely coincidence. "We don't do advertising or anything - it's a very niche brand," says Santucci. This philosophy even extends to where they set up shop - from Nolita in NYC, Le Marais in Paris (pictured, top), Venice Beach in LA, Shoreditch in London and Tokyo and Hong Kong, the brand has been careful to avoid mass market areas.
It may surprise some to know that the company is 100 per cent vegan, too. Le Labo refuse to use animal products in its range, choosing synthetic fragrances that have been lab tested on human skin. It's why Le Labo's perfume oils are so gentle you can even use them in your hair. Oh, and did we mention every fragrance is unisex? Yep. And if you're wondering what's up with all the names of each perfume - it's actually not so mysterious. "The number you see on the label is the number of ingredients in the perfume," says Santucci. What could be simpler than that?
Le Labo is available exclusively in Australia at two of Mecca Cosmetica's Sydney and Melbourne stores and at mecca.com.au