Interview with Fabrice Pernot, co-founder of Le Labo
Fabrice Pernot and Edouard Roschi created Le Labo in New York in 2006. Despite only a few stores, they have today become the masters of tailored perfumes. Fashions-addict met Fabrice, impassioned about his job, at a French café, close to his store in Nolita.
Fashions-addict: Why did you choose cosmetics in New York?
Fabrice: I wanted to work in publicity. But, when l’Oréal offered me a job, I accepted. But I wanted to improve my English, so, I came to New York. Here, I had the opportunity to become Roger Schmid’s right hand man, president of a very important perfume company. He showed me how to think big and gave me the desire to work to launch my own company.
Fashions-addict: How was Le Labo born and why did you pick this name?
Fabrice: First, it was a desire of freedom, a need to start something. But I also admit that Edouard and I, we had always thought that there was a niche market for development, a need for quality and personalization of perfumes. So we used all our savings and convinced our friends to start this new adventure with us. The concept of the store and the name were born simply. While we were showing people our perfume laboratories, we realized to what degree they were fascinated by this universe. We had totally forgotten all these elements, raw materials and refrigerators because they were part of our everyday lives. Le Labo reflects the backstage of perfume creation.
Fashions-addict: How do you define your products?
Fabrice: Everything is based on the liquid. Our perfumes are developed by the most famous perfume creators, so they are very qualitative. The perfumes are fresh since they are mixed on demand. We do not have stock in the store. However, the fragrances are either perfect or lime; they are uncorrupted. I would also say that our perfumes correspond to the Japanese Wabi Sabi style. It’s this art of imperfection, where simplicity and dissymmetry are together. We personalize each bottle with the client’s name. Every perfume also has its own name composed by a flower and a number, the quantity of ingredients.
Fashion-addict: How did you succeed?
Fabrice: In the beginning, no one close to us believed in our idea. They said:
“ A store in Nolita, not a lot of traffic, a strange concept store…” But, we are lucky to be located in New York and, 6 months after the opening, people were staying on line in front of the door. Our best publicity is the perfume itself since we do not invest in marketing. Well, a one-page article in W magazine and an article in the New York Times also helped us!
Fashions-addict: Which are your favorite perfumes?
Fabrice: There are “Iris 39” because it’s vintage and for me represents the 30’s. It’s also the symbol of elegance, “Rose 31” because it’s the best-seller, and I would add “Fleur d’oranger 27” because I worked a lot on its formula.
Fashions-addict: How is a new perfume created?
Fabrice: There’s not really a fixed process – it’s instinctive and comes all of a sudden. For example, we have just created a new fragrance, « Vanille 44 », distributed exclusively in Paris at Colette. We chose vanilla because many people don’t know it very well. We also wanted to create a unique scent for certain cities. In New York, we have « Tubéreuse 40 ».
Fashions-addict: What are your clients like?
Fabrice: In general, our clients are very open-minded. They are delighted to learn about and discover new fragrances here in the US, in France, and in Japan.
Fashions-addict: After four and a half years in the United States, do you have any advice for French people who want to make a career here?
Fabrice: If you want to remain French, there is no need to come here! You have to know how to accept the opportunity that New York offers to remake yourself. You shouldn’t come with the same state of mind you had in France and you should particularly like taking risks.
Fashions-addict: What are your projects for 2008?
Fabrice: We are going to a boutique in Los Angeles in two months and, later we are opening another in Hong Kong. And in 2009, we are thinking about a boutique in London!