Lila Das Gupta: How did you get into perfume making? What is your training?
Eddie Roschi: I studied chemical engineering, but then I realised I didn’t want to pursue it as a career, so I started shopping around for a job that would be more fun, but enable me to use the chemical knowledge that I had. I was born in Lugano, the Italian part of Switzerland. A friend told me about Firmenich, and I got a job there as director of accounts for Africa and the Middle East. There was lots of travelling to the region intensive, mostly it was ‘functional’ products. I did an MBA 1999 in Paris. I started working for L’Oreal, for Giorgio Armani and younger brands. That’s where I met Fabrice Penot, my business partner – he developed the Armani Privé brand and the Acqua di Gio [Armani] line. We used to meet Giorgio once a month and both became friends. We decided after few years that we were tired of complaining, and we said to ourselves: ‘let’s start a brand’.
LDG: Why did you both decide to create Le Labo? What is the idea behind it?
ER: We felt it was more about the product versus emotions. With big companies it’s all about product development, not about a beautiful note or a beautiful product. We wanted craftsmanship and storytelling. Basically we had outgrown our situation, we had become bigger, we wanted to put a focus on the art of perfume blending. There is a good perfume in every type of sector, but bad ones too: bad expensive ones, and some good ones that are cheaper, but it is easier to make a good perfume if you get to decide what’s in the bottle.
Le Labo means ‘The Lab’, we wanted people to have a sneak peak at the lab behind the creation.
LDG: Successful business partnerships are a bit like marriages. Would you agree? How does your business marriage [to Fabrice Penot] work?
We complement each other from a personality point of view –I am a detailed obsessive, which can sometimes slow me down, Fabrice is a global picture person, but he sometimes misses things.
LDG: You both have a very strong ethical streak – Le Labo perfumes are all ‘vegan’? Is that something all perfume companies could do?
LDG: You are known for your ‘City Exclusives’ – which city on earth do you most feel yourself most at home and why?
LDG: Where do you draw inspiration for creating perfume?
ER: It can come from ingredients, or stories and emotions that we want to make sense from, it can be something that was on a perfumers table, it comes from discussions. It come from eating, having a showers or actively looking through books.
With Neroli 36 for example, we were in Paris in the rain and we thought ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to have a potion that transports you to a sunny beach?’ Something that reminds you of suntan lotion, add some florals, marine aspect, it’s the equivalent of sticking your head in a Caribbean island.
LDG: What would you say is the hallmark of a Le Labo perfume?
By that I mean, that they smell like they are unpolished – although some have been worked on for years, they don’t smell like they been worked on for years, they smell like a crazy whiff of something that the perfumer just came up with.
And strong personality, imperfection gives that. Unpolished, I think is a good word, tension as well, there is tension as well. Instinctively it’s what we like in general, we researched and read a lot, the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi is what summarised it for us very well – it’s finding meaning in the unplanned. We have another company called Candy Machine that makes perfume for labels Zadig & Voltaire, Anthropologie, hotels and others. We are working on the next Kate Spade perfume, and also scents for the Gramercy park hotel and a boutique hotel chain.
LDG: Which other perfumes do you admire?
LDG: What kind of people would you say wear Le Labo perfumes?
LDG: Why do you put Best Used Before notices on your perfumes?
If you are spending a lot it's important to store it properly.
If it’s an expensive perfume, you should store it in the fridge. Some people have small cosmetic fridges and if you are a perfume lover it makes sense, it’s the same principle as wine – except that perfume doesn’t age well.
LDG: What are the future plans for Le Labo?
We had a lot of demand for shower gels so we’re bringing out this summer highly concentrated, super textured shower gels in the whole line, including the infamous city exclusives.
Also new are our Travel Tubes – travel sizes of Le Labo 10ml that come in metal travel cylinders. You will be able to have them engraved with initials in our stores.
There is a new Middle East city exclusive called Cuir 28 coming out in Dubai, but there is still no date as to exactly when.