So, Le Labo has done a collection for Anthropologie.1 On the surface, it makes a lot of sense. Le Labo's aesthetic, shown in its heavy bottles mimicking apothecary jars and labeled with a font reminiscent of an old typewriter, dovetails nicely with Anthropologie's tidy-bohemian image. A bottle of Le Labo Iris 39 would be right at home on a bureau adorned with Anthropologie's "antique" drawer knobs. Plus, a high-end designer working with a mall-type store can be a raging success. Look at all the fashion designers who put together sell-out collections for H&M.
But in the case of Le Labo's venture with Anthropologie, I have to wonder if Le Labo merely phoned this one in. Even the line's packaging is a little shoddy. Sniffing my way through the Le Labo + Anthropologie collection, I miss Le Labo's usual offbeat take on a fragrance. Sure, Bouquet Blanc is a heady white floral, but so are a dozen others — most notably Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. Poudre d'Orient is an easy and warm powdery amber, but I'd recommend Kenzo Flower Oriental instead. Orange Discrète? A pretty orange more aldehydic than juicy. Go get Fendi Theorama. Chant de Bois? A fine wood in the two-by-four mold, but not so fine or interesting as too many others to list. Belle du Soir, on the other hand, is the one Le Labo + Anthropologie fragrance that hints at the who-cares-what-you-think attitude I love from Le Labo.
According to the Anthropologie website, Belle du Soir is a "spicy" fragrance that is "musky and rich" with notes of neroli, water lily, gardenia, cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli. I wouldn't have guessed any of that. On my skin, Belle du Soir kicks off with an aggressive, dry citrus, almost like a woody aftershave. Nothing soir-ish about it. I was ready to write it off the first time I dabbed from my sample vial. But as the fragrance settled over the next 20 minutes, it became more silky and elegant and started to smell an awful lot like a woody floral chypre. In fact, it reminded me of Madame Rochas.
Suddenly the name, Belle du Soir, began to make sense. This Belle isn't lush and heavy as you might expect a "spicy" fragrance with gardenia and patchouli named after "evening" might be. Instead, it's wispy, more like moonlight and dusty, forgotten corners than like a hot and heavy summer night. Belle du Soir's floral heart is subdued and wrapped in cedar and sandalwood thin as tissue paper. Whatever patchouli is there isn't noticeable on its own. Its lightness isn't girlish, but is musty, like the smell of an old book, and balanced with occasional hints of stemmy green (the gardenia?) and sweet sandalwood.
Maybe most of the Le Labo + Anthropologie fragrances aren't supposed to be masterpieces, but rather are gateway fragrances for the uninitiated. They are easy to like and convenient to buy, just like Anthropologie's sweaters appliquéd with cashmere roses are easy to like and much more convenient to buy than the brocante finds they reference. A vintage clothing lover like me, who spends hours sorting through thrift shops for one-of-a-kind fabric and meticulous tailoring, would most likely toss an Anthropologie sweater aside at an estate sale. Similarly, a perfume lover might rather save his money for Le Labo proper.
Still, you have to hand it to Le Labo + Anthropologie for putting out a fragrance like Belle du Soir, which is unlikely to please the masses. (And kudos to them, too, for passing up the temptation to chuck a fruity patchouli fragrance into the mix.)
Le Labo + Anthropologie Belle du Soir comes in a 60 ml bottle of Eau de Parfum ($62), a 4.5 g solid ($28), and a 14.5 ounce candle ($32). It is available at Anthropologie.
1. Please note that the products are not being sold under the Le Labo brand name; the packaging simply says "by the creators of Le Labo".