Inside Le Labo’s Perfumery Lab—And First Standalone Store in Vancouver

Think of it as a fairground for the senses—or an olfactory amusement park, if you will.

February 15, 2019

By Lucy Lau / Photo: Lucy Lau

Le Labo’s industrial, undone interiors may remind you of the atelier of a well-to-do Brooklyn sculptor—one who’s apparently very fond of the wabi-sabi look—but for Le Labo cofounder Fabrice Penot, the space is more akin to a fairground. A sort of olfactory amusement park, if you will. “Our labs are like an entertainment park for the nose,” says Penot, “and the perfume you bring home is a souvenir.”

Vancouverites will be able to experience exactly that at Gastown’s Le Labo (225 Carrall St.), the first Western Canadian outpost for the New York City–based vegan perfumery that you may be familiar with if you’ve ever stayed the night at a Fairmont hotel and ogled the tiny shampoos and conditioners in the bathroom that bear your name. (Personalization is a powerful thing.) The brand also operates a small shop-in-shop at Vancouver’s Nordstrom, though it’s only in Gastown that customers will be able to shop the full Le Labo range, which includes candles; scented and unscented body, hair and face products; and detergents from a collaboration with eco-friendly NYC label The Laundress.

The star, of course, is Le Labo’s lineup of 17 unique fragrances, each of which is named after the base note in the formula and the number of ingredients that it’s comprised of. There’s the Rose 31, a light floral scent with hints of cumin, amber and cedar, for instance, and the Vetiver 46, which is described by the brand as the “Rolls Royce of Vetiver” thanks to its distinct blend of pepper, Gaïac wood and labdanum. Or perhaps the Tonka 25—a sweet, musky, orange blossom-infused scent that’s among Le Labo’s latest offerings—is more up your alley. (According to a store rep, Le Labo can take up to four years to formulate one new perfume, which means you’ll likely never be overwhelmed with choice while shopping which is kind of nice!)

Here, however, nothing is available boxed. Once you’ve decided on a fragrance, it’s compounded fresh before your eyes in Le Labo’s perfumery lab before it’s labelled and, yes, stamped with your name or a custom message and then packaged. The company believes that a perfume has an average shelf life of 18 months, so concocting it onsite ensures it remains potent for as long as possible. “It’s a real experience for our clients,” says Penot. “You just need to be curious about perfumery and enter our lab.”

Water, alcohol and essential oils are measured and combined to craft Le Labo’s fragrances onsite. The process only takes a few minutes. (Photo: Lucy Lau)

Once bottled, the fragrance mixture is placed on a rotating contraption called the Vortex that “agitates all the ingredients together.” (Photo: Lucy Lau)

Le Labo

225 Carrall St.
lelabofragrances.com

Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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