Like perfume itself, the design of Le Labo’s Manhattan boutique entertains subtle juxtapositions of smooth and rough, natural and synthetic. White tiled walls are balanced by wooden flooring, antique-looking pressed-tin walls contrast with stainless steel fixtures, and high metal stools stand at a distance from a well-used leather armchair.
Behind the laboratory counter that runs the length of the boutique’s interior, neatly labeled bottles of perfumery ingredients are displayed on industrial shelving. Along the walls, large glass jars hold quantities of raw botanical materials: star anise, oakmoss, ambrette seeds, and so on. The artfully distressed font of the company logo is stamped and painted on various surfaces.
Le Labo’s fragrances are grouped in categories of male, female, and unisex, but it’s best to ignore those boundaries and sample any and all of the eleven scents, using the available paper blotters. Having chosen a fragrance, the customer can then place an order at the counter. There, a Le Lebo assistant will mix the selected perfume concentrate into an alcohol base, bottle the resulting eau de parfum, and label it with the names of the fragrance and the purchaser.
One wall of the boutique is stenciled with a quotation from Mahomet: “Beware of those who have no weakness for women and perfumes.” I can’t comment on the “women” part, but true perfume-lovers will be able to enjoy both Le Labo’s clever design sensibility and the fragrances at the heart of the enterprise.
Best seller: Rose 31.
Not to be missed: Tubereuse 40, which is sold exclusively in New York.
Details: Le Labo, 233 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012; (212) 219-2230; website.
Nearby: Red Flower (13 Prince St.); Whole Body at Whole Foods (95 East Houston St. at the Bowery); Daily 2-3-5 (235 Elizabeth St.), for quirky gifts and cards.
— images & report filed by Jessica.
See also: Perfume Shopping in New York City