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Fabrice Penot

With the launch of Oribe’s first-ever hair refresher, Côte d’Azur, we wanted to delve deeper into the art of fine fragrances by chatting with Fabrice Penot, the co-founder of Le Labo, a brand of hand-manufactured, high-end fragrances known for blending their essential oils with alcohol and water at the time of purchase and providing customized labels for each of their bottles and boxes.

Penot chats with us about how scents evoke emotions, how long your perfume bottle will last, and what he thinks about Oribe’s newest product innovation.


How do different scents evoke different emotions?


Our sense of smell is directly linked to our memory, which can be linked to a specific emotion. The ability of some smells to bring us back to the past and trigger strong emotions is very powerful, as everyone knows. Yet, these associations are very personal; this is why the smell of a fig can bring you to a very positive state of well-being state if it is linked with a happy memory for you, and bring me to a darker space if my past experience with it is linked with a sad event. This is why it is almost impossible to create a universal scent that would please everyone. Which is ok for us…we are not in the business of pleasing everyone, anyway.

What notes speak particularly strongly to you?


My favorites are birchwood (very smoky, almost tar-like), sandalwood (very sensual to me) but also musks…dirty musks in perfume dry-downs.

What notes do you find appeal most to women? To men?


I don't look at scents being gender-specific. This is a very Western idea. In the Middle East, for example, the belief that a perfume could be for men or for women is an unknown concept. In America, women are historically drawn to florals; in France, to orientals. Men in general want to smell fresh and clean. But this tends to change with the rise of people with a certain kind of aesthetic and sensibility. Our audience at Le Labo—men and women—wants depth and the feeling of something special...and it’s our job to help them achieve that. It’s not about florals or freshness or whatever, it is about the depth of the experience.

How would you describe the Oribe scent?


It is a very complex fragrance for a hair formula. It could be a fine fragrance in itself. It smells like an old style glamour perfume from Italy to me...with a fresh "apricot" note that brings modernity to it. You should make an Eau de Parfum; I think the fragrance is a big part of the cult following of Oribe.

Why is great smelling hair so important?


Hair is the most amazing medium for a perfume...especially long hair. When you move your head, the perfume molecules fly in the air and it becomes part of your aura...

What types of scents are good for Valentine’s Day?


The ones that make your dopamine level go through the roof!

When applying a fragrance, what are some important things to remember?


If you applying your perfume on your wrist, do not rub your wrists against each other afterwards—that tends to break the molecules of perfume and impact the scent itself.

What is the shelf life of the average fragrance?


A perfume can be damaged by oxygen, light and heat...so it will change with time.
12 months, 18 months...there is no absolute answer, as it depends of the ingredients used in the perfume itself; some are more fragile than others. My advice is to keep your bottle in a fridge if you want to keep it longer than a year.

Do you have any tips for picking complementary fragrances if, for example, you are wearing a scented hair product, perfume, etc.?


Choose the perfume that makes your life more beautiful every morning when you spray it. That’s what's important. Then, wear it wherever you want to be smelled!

- SHARON FEIERSON
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