What Do You Think Of Le Labo Overall?

Hey Man

Well-known member
Sep 22, 2006
Greetings,

I wanted to get a fresh take on Le Labo - since there was some back and forth about them in the Tabac 28 thread.

Do you like the brand overall, including marketing and the concept of making it there for you when you want to purchase?

What are your thoughts overall on the fragrances you have tried. What do you think of their price point?

Feel free to share any opinion or experience when it comes to Le Labo.

Thanks!

HM
 

Andy the frenchy

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2018
I own a few large splits:

- Oud 27 is great, but TdC Oud Shamash is similar and does it better imo for half the price
- Vetiver 46 is also great, but CdG 2 Man is similar for a quarter of the price (even if a step lower in terms of quality)
- Patchouli 24 is a hate for me (way too sweet), but I can see a woman wearing it

For a woman, I would find The Noir 29, Another 13 and Lys 41 very nice, and Santal 33 is hard not to like - even if a bit boring.

In a nutshell: they are good to great in terms of scents, imo, the main problem being the price (bad bang-for-the-buck).


As for marketing: I only care about the juices, not about bottle and packaging. Their "lab" marketing is borderline ridiculous, but apparently some boogie rich asses like that.
 
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Fernaldo

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Oct 10, 2020
I do like a few of their offereings: Bergamote 22 and Santal 33. I have small (15m) bottles of both. They are decent. I would never buy FBs at retail price.
 

ultravisitor

Well-known member
Nov 4, 2014
Hit or miss, like most houses.

The price for the regular line is fine. It's about in line with other niche houses.

The price for the City Exclusives is a bit high. If I buy another City Exclusive that I want, it'll be during a trip to Europe. The lower price and VAT refund will make it less expensive. Or I'll use some store credit towards one, like I did with Nordstrom.
 

StylinLA

Well-known member
Aug 9, 2009
Very heavy on the oh-so-clever marketing and packaging. I believe it was started by a couple of guys who came out of Armani's perfume division.

The individually mixed-for-you scent with custom printed label is either neat or weird depending on your point of view. They originally used to print an expiration date on the label. I've personally always wondered to what degree us fraghead's shamed them into knocking it off with the "use by" dates.

I like ROSE 31 a lot. But there are few other scents of theirs I like enough to purchase.

SANTAL 33 is one of the biggest "niche" successes that I know of. I smell it a LOT in Los Angeles.

There are quite a few of their scents that get some love here. I find their style quirky...not quite "avant garde" but slightly offbeat. Most of their stuff is unconventional.

I don't fancy myself enough of an expert to declare "they are overpriced." I can see where some think they are overly synthetic. They've been selling at that price point since I started here in 2009 and seem to be hanging in there. I haven't tried much from them in a long time.

I think mostl of us think them a tad gimmicky, but if they make a scent we really like, we'll own it.
 

Buzzlepuff

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Dec 27, 2005
I like the fragrances very much. I own a bunch of Le Labo. The quality is excellent, but over the past few years the output of new fragrances has fallen off, and very few new and exciting directions have evolved. All their best things are the older (5yrs) stuff. My suggestions to the company would be to increase new models more frequently and of better quality. Distribution is limited by price and their mixing on site strategy which now seems like a cumbersome gimmick. Keep moderate prices, increase distributors, drop the mixing at point of sale, and introduce more exciting new items of better quality each season. Easy! Fragrance folk like new things to come along often. LeLabo shoots themselves in the foot in marketing. For instance, everybody likes a quality tobacco fragrance now and then, but LL only has this new item available in Miami. :cry:
 

hellbentforleather

Well-known member
May 18, 2016
I found their marketing copy to be even more pretentious than Creed which is hard to do. The whole "Proust questionnaire" is just plain silly. Also Santal 33 smells like a shoe box drowning in a vat of pickles. I can't understand the hype of that frag. Bergamot 22 was nice enough and a well-done citrus, but not something I'd actively seek out.
 

Franco65

Well-known member
May 13, 2012
I like the fragrances very much. I own a bunch of Le Labo. The quality is excellent, but over the past few years the output of new fragrances has fallen off, and very few new and exciting directions have evolved. All their best things are the older (5yrs) stuff. My suggestions to the company would be to increase new models more frequently and of better quality. Distribution is limited by price and their mixing on site strategy which now seems like a cumbersome gimmick. Keep moderate prices, increase distributors, drop the mixing at point of sale, and introduce more exciting new items of better quality each season. Easy! Fragrance folk like new things to come along often. LeLabo shoots themselves in the foot in marketing. For instance, everybody likes a quality tobacco fragrance now and then, but LL only has this new item available in Miami. :cry:

Agree!
 

BigFish

Well-known member
Jan 4, 2011
Iris and Patchouli are good, some others are OK - Labdanum, Ylang, Lily, Vetiver, Santal - but overall the range is underwhelming, especially for the prices they charge. The city exclusives do not appear to be any different from the main line in quality of ingredient or composition, making the pricing even more outrageous. It is a well-executed exercise in branding/concept first and a perfume house second.
 

Bavard

Wearing Perfume Right Now
Moderator
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2015
I like Le Labo, but not enough to buy any. When I find them in a shop, I like to smell all of them. I like their sales associates.
 

Darjeeling

Well-known member
Oct 29, 2012
I like the bottles and labels. Not so keen on the marketing. Feels a bit overpriced. There are a few I like (Rose and The Noir). I find it interesting that most people in this thread similarly say there are a few they like, but the preferred scents listed pretty much cover the range, so although it doesn’t seem to inspire Basenoters to want the whole range, I think they’ve probably done well having something for everyone.
My biggest question marks are Vetiver and Patchouli which feel like early prototype stages of other hit scents by the respective perfumers.
 

StylinLA

Well-known member
Aug 9, 2009
I find it interesting that most people in this thread similarly say there are a few they like, but the preferred scents listed pretty much cover the range, so although it doesn’t seem to inspire Basenoters to want the whole range, I think they’ve probably done well having something for everyone.

I think this captures the overall sentiment nicely.
 

slpfrsly

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
It seems I posted this in the wrong thread...oh well...

One of the sad realities of the present, at least in 'old' businesses or sectors in particular, is that future success, or just future growth, often has nothing to do with improving on or even honing existing methodology, services, or products. Instead, 'disruption' has been the key to success, at least in the last 10 years. Disruption is just the age old trick of 'new', given impetus and dynamism through association with modern technology - often the internet, or at least something unrelated to its own development but key to its marketability.

Le Labo is an absolutely perfect example of said 'disruption'. Almost nothing about them is an improvement upon the practises or products of perfumery. Compare Le Labo to Serge Lutens, for example, and it's evident who is the better niche brand of the 21st Century when you judge them on what matters - their scents. At least, it is evident who is the better of the two...in my opinion.

The post-Soviet globalisation in the 90s led to a massive expansion of low cost production which meant perfume prices could come crashing down and suddenly perfume, as opposed to just aftershave, is an affordable yet desirable beauty product. That carried on in the 00s and it obviously hurt the likes of Chanel and Dior well enough, as well as the likes of Calvin Klein eventually making a rod for their own back after riding the crest of the wave, when fragrances became super affordable and with almost unlimited options available to customers. Obviously, that's not good for the old French fashion houses, and they've reacted by creating 'high end' lines as well as making absolutely massive sellers that are as universally appealing as possible, but in terms of coming along and making a lot of money as a new brand? Le Labo is basically the perfect example of how to do it from the perspective of marketing.

They brand themselves as a laboratory - tapping in to a clinical and health-based imagery while promoting animal welfare, which are unfailingly popular facets to western buyers - yet a French lab at that, so still linked to classical perfumery. They give the illusion of transparency, quite literally in terms of the bottles, while the numerical value is meant to mean something to buyers as a sign of 'purity', I suppose, to assuage any fears of 'chemical' fragrances. The gimmick of bottles being 'blended' in store, or whatever they wish to call it, with personalisation as one might expect from other exclusive shopping experiences only adds to the experience of feeling like this is something 'different' or even better. The whole 'deconstructed' element appeals to both postmodernists from the Gen X era as well as the millennial hipsters who enjoyed a different kind of antithetical manner of fashion and living, with obvious crossover between the two 'gens'. It was a nice idea to simply lead with one ingredient - I'm not sure how popular it was at the time, there weren't too many doing it, although obviously Lutens may be a reference point here with ingredients named in the title of each fragrance; by now, this is almost standard, and you're just as likely if not more likely to have niche brands name their fragrances after sandalwood, oud, rose, or lemon, as they are to come up with poetry.

This model is so popular that it has at least 2 imitators: Byredo and Parle Moi de Parfum, although more obviously in the latter. This model evidently works and works well, if your prime concern is profit with an exclusive fragrance brand.

All of that is a long way of saying that their model is perhaps the savviest of any high end or boutique fragrance brand. Their City lines must work wonderfully, tapping in to the portion of buyers for whom scarcity only increases the desire to buy it. It's not so scarce that people give up and move that desire elsewhere; it just ensures there will be a portion of people who buy them when they become available each year. The fact they're available in Sept also seems telling, after a period where sales are usually poor, yet the start of the new academic year which coincides with many peoples' employment in one way or another; a time people are likely to have enjoyed the end of summer and are still far enough away from Christmas. Even the month these exclusives become available seems to have been worked out to maximise profit and you cannot begrudge them that.

That said, much of their continued and future success is reliant on true exclusivity. They are not appealing to suburbia where Dior's Sauvage obviously is, though the brand has eventually filtered down to wealthier 'soccer moms' due to the success of Santal 33. They're aiming for the upwardly mobile millennials and Gen Xers who were, at least pre-pandemic, living and working in the financial hubs around the world - also tech and media, ideally something corporate with pretensions of bohemia, with fits perfectly with 'new' media and its seemingly almost universal values of soft socialism with ruthless competition within the digital realm. Le Labo 'got' these customers. Santal 33 was successful because it's like the fragrance version of shoulder pads for women: it's primarily floral but it smells ballsy at the same time, something where you can be taken seriously. Is it a particularly 'good' fragrance? Hard to say. By sandalwood standards it's pretty dreadful, opting for the kind of hairspray-vinegar type of synthetic wood, but it definitely has a certain appeal to it which is quite hard to really pin down. Yes, the marketing and branding and in store gimmicks have evidently helped; as has general ignorance of buyers when it comes to fragrance. In fact, the typical Le Labo customer almost certainly hasn't come over from Guerlain or Chanel or Hermes. It's more likely they're coming from nothing, or something much cheaper, hence the marketing shtick working, as well as a general ignorance around the fragrances and the fact that far better can be had for far less money. At least for many of Le Labo's fragrances. Le Labo's success relied on having a key point of difference to both Chanel and Calvin Klein and, frankly, it's worked. The exclusivity may be on the wane now that S33 has become 'too' successful and it's both heavily cloned and also bought by aspirational buyers from outside the target demographic for the brand, but that doesn't mean that aiming for less exclusivity will benefit Le Labo. Their evidently ruthless control of supply mirrors Chanel and Creed and that clearly ensures they keep their fragrances away from the grey market, which seems keep to any brand that wants to basically charge a lot more than the online market would wish to pay - consider the difference between Le Labo and, say, Areej le Dore when it comes to this.

I 'get' their business model around exlusivity. I don't begrudge them that.

Personally, I'm much more drawn to Lutens as a niche brand as the whole 'style over substance' appeal of Le Labo doesn't chime with what I value in fragrance. I'd also probably opt for Creed instead, as at least there's someting safe and conservative about the majority of their fragrances where Le Labo seem...mixed, at best. My thoughts on Tabac can be found on that thread but having tried a few others from the brand like Oud, Guaiac, and I believe Patchouli, all of them smelled outright poor to my nose. They're an excellent example of 'disruption' but I'm not surprised them seem to garner minimal attention on basenotes etc, at least relative to their wider popularity: their fragrances just aren't very good in the grand scheme of things, and most certainly overpriced as a deliberate ploy to retain exclusivity.
 

JON RODGERS

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Dec 5, 2007
Hit and miss with the emphasis firmly on the latter.
Currently own Rose 31 / Ylang 49 / Iris 39. Never felt compelled to purchase any others.
 

Andrewthecologneguy

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Dec 26, 2006
Greetings,

I wanted to get a fresh take on Le Labo - since there was some back and forth about them in the Tabac 28 thread.

Do you like the brand overall, including marketing and the concept of making it there for you when you want to purchase?

What are your thoughts overall on the fragrances you have tried. What do you think of their price point?

Feel free to share any opinion or experience when it comes to Le Labo.

Thanks!

HM

I am a big fan of Le Labo.

Marketing and concept is pretty cool and unique, though some might find it problematic.

Concerning availability, I find it pretty easily online (not from Russia though, lol).

My absolute faves are AnOther 13 and Oud 27; the oils are miles better IMO.

Price point is stiff, yes, but the fragrance does not disappoint: I am a perpetual 'oversprayer' yet Le Labo is one house I can only do 2 sprays max.
 

satyen

Well-known member
Dec 11, 2018
Decent juice in some of them, cant justify the price though! Wife is on her 2nd botlle if bergamot

Sent from my SM-G980F using Tapatalk
 

wilfred

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2016
Bergamot 22 is one of the best scents i've ever smelled. not big on the rest of the line and certainly overpriced on the whole. but no worse than most 'niche' brands.

i really like the fact they have matching lotions and body care products for most of their fragrances. staff have also been friendly in their main London boutique always offering samples etc. you can also order samples by post for a similar price per ml to bottles which is a huge step up from many niche brands who don't even offer samples direct.
 

slpfrsly

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
I'm surprised, £4 for 1.5ml is actually quite respectable. I assumed they would have charged more for their samples.
 

checkmate

Well-known member
Sep 8, 2013
From what I’ve tried, I’m not overly impressed. Given the price point, I feel there are others who do what they’re trying to accomplish with their fragrances for less and often better.
 

cheapimitation

Well-known member
May 15, 2015
They seem to have become a kind of niche stepping stone, where those just getting into it are blown away by their uniqueness and performance, but those who are really in the know see them as a bit messy/synthetic/style over substance. I progressed from CDG to Le Labo which worked well because I think Le Labo has at times a similar playful embrace of synthetic smells but are generally stronger and feel more luxe than CDG. However, after having moved on to wear mostly Frederic Malle/Hermes/Chanel I can see how Le Labo is not up to par, yet in the same price range as these. However, I think the hate they get is vastly over stated and I think they do some rather daring fragrances at times and have some really good ones. At least they are not overly safe and polite (Byredo) or full of mass market bro juice synthetics dressed up as luxe (MFK).

I can still remember the first time smelling Santal 33 knowing nothing about it or how ubiquitous it would become thinking it smelled FANTASTIC. To me, it was woods, it was old library books, it was wax and I was so impressed with its strength and longevity. Now, I don't hate it but I find it cloying and I'm glad I never bought a bottle.

If I can fault them for one thing overall it's too much complexity. Many of the fragrance I like at first but something about them starts to annoy me after awhile. I think that's one of the reason the big 3 brands I like most now smell more refined and better composed, they are more precise and to the point, less busy without extraneous notes to try to entice you with novelty.

I actually don't mind their brand image or marketing at all and I don't really find anything particularly hipster about it.

The 2 things I dislike are the rate at which they have raised prices (seems even more so than other brands) and their no free sample policy. Having purchased several things from their store, the SA's still act like I am asking for their first born child when I say "hey could you throw in a sample of..."

My faves from the line are: Oud, Neroli, Baie, Vetiver, Bigarade, and Ylang. The only one I actually own however is Gaiac, which I finished and refilled a 50ml bottle of but hardly wear anymore.

Three that I had a brief love affair with but eventually found annoying: Another, Rose, The Noir
 

Hey Man

Well-known member
Sep 22, 2006
I don't know what other Le Labo stores are like size wise, but the one in Toronto is a small little hole in the wall store almost in the middle of nowhere. It certainly seems like the are trying to save on rent, because bottles are not flying out the store and certainly days go by where no one even enters the place.
 

Honger

Well-known member
Aug 5, 2017
I loved the sample of Bergamote 22 (very smooth citrus), but the full bottle smelled completely different (harsh metallic), so I have been avoiding them ever since. No point in sampling if there is no uniformity.
 

StylinLA

Well-known member
Aug 9, 2009
I don't know what other Le Labo stores are like size wise, but the one in Toronto is a small little hole in the wall store almost in the middle of nowhere. It certainly seems like the are trying to save on rent, because bottles are not flying out the store and certainly days go by where no one even enters the place.

I've been in two of their Los Angeles stores and they are pretty good sized...one is overly generous sized in a trendy pricey mall. The two I have visited are very close together and I have a guess they will close one when the lease runs out. It makes no sense to have two so close together.

Regardless of what we think, LE LABO must be doing pretty well at large. Just looking at their store locator, they a have a really big brick and mortar footprint for a niche perfumer. Looks like three dozen stores or more. They even have one in Detroit.

I'm not really sure I fully grasp what a "hipster" is, but I note that some of their stores are certainly ensconced in neighborhoods associated with them (Venice, Silver Lake, Downtown Detroit).
 

FISS80

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jul 4, 2011
I agree with most on this thread. They have some ok fragrances but they are definitely overpriced. I only own Santal 33 and a tester of Poivre 23 from the house. With both of them there are days where I like how they smell (like not love) and days where they smell like a "chemical mess" as someone posted earlier. I have smelled the majority of the house and I feel that there are better fragrances that can be had for a given Le Labo fragrance's "category".
 

Hey Man

Well-known member
Sep 22, 2006
I've been in two of their Los Angeles stores and they are pretty good sized...one is overly generous sized in a trendy pricey mall. The two I have visited are very close together and I have a guess they will close one when the lease runs out. It makes no sense to have two so close together.

Regardless of what we think, LE LABO must be doing pretty well at large. Just looking at their store locator, they a have a really big brick and mortar footprint for a niche perfumer. Looks like three dozen stores or more. They even have one in Detroit.

I'm not really sure I fully grasp what a "hipster" is, but I note that some of their stores are certainly ensconced in neighborhoods associated with them (Venice, Silver Lake, Downtown Detroit).

I could be wrong about this, but I think Le Labo is trying to appeal more to the long beard and sandals crowd with money over Wall Street types or "suits". They don't give a fuck that it is made in front of you or about their artsy labels.
 

ultravisitor

Well-known member
Nov 4, 2014
They seem to have become a kind of niche stepping stone, where those just getting into it are blown away by their uniqueness and performance, but those who are really in the know see them as a bit messy/synthetic/style over substance.

That is exactly how a Le Labo SA explained the appeal of Santal 33 to me. He said that for a lot of people who are used to designer fragrances, it's basically a revelation to them.

I do have 50ml bottles of Patchouli 24 and Poivre 23, and I really love them, but most of the rest of them I'm totally fine without. Some of the ones that are really popular smell like nothing but ambroxan to me in the drydown.

I do really like Gaiac 10, but I think I'll save that for a souvenir one day when I visit Tokyo.

Neither of their Chicago stores is very small, like the one on the Lower East Side in New York. One of the Chicago boutiques is in more of a hipster neighborhood, and the other is on Oak Street, which is where the boutiques for Hermes, Chanel, and Prada are located, so it's not cheap real estate.
 

StylinLA

Well-known member
Aug 9, 2009
That is exactly how a Le Labo SA explained the appeal of Santal 33 to me. He said that for a lot of people who are used to designer fragrances, it's basically a revelation to them.

Neither of their Chicago stores is very small, like the one on the Lower East Side in New York. One of the Chicago boutiques is in more of a hipster neighborhood, and the other is on Oak Street, which is where the boutiques for Hermes, Chanel, and Prada are located, so it's not cheap real estate.

That actually makes a lot of sense. SANTAL 33 is very unconventional scent for people used to usual department store designer fare. It has massive sillage too. I'm not going to argue the merits of it as a frag, but it is highly distinctive.

Yeah, I see a trend with store locations. Some stores in high end consumer boutique areas and some in "hipster" locations. I underestimated their LA presence. They have 9 stores out here.
 

Brian5701

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
May 28, 2009
That actually makes a lot of sense. SANTAL 33 is very unconventional scent for people used to usual department store designer fare. It has massive sillage too. I'm not going to argue the merits of it as a frag, but it is highly distinctive.

Yeah, I see a trend with store locations. Some stores in high end consumer boutique areas and some in "hipster" locations. I underestimated their LA presence. They have 9 stores out here.

I think Santal smells like a scented candle. Nice, but not something I would want sprayed on my person. I really liked Citron 28 (Seoul), but for the price, no. Strangely, I can't smell Gaiac 10 (Tokyo) at all. Completely anosmic to it.
 

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