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The Design Associates

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The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

Le Labo | Perfumed Environments: The Design of the Fragranced Retail Experiences

To every product, there is a story, to every story, there is a telling — and in every telling, there is a person that offers that tale. In this sequence of blogs, the notations have been about the nature of the selling of scent in a “place.” As I’ve noted, the idea of perfume in space is a complex and delicate affair.

• There is the brand — and its story.
• There is the nature and complexity of the perfumes — what are they, what is the character of their “notation.”
• There is the spirit of the brand expression and their relationship to the founding visioning.
• There is scale, light, materials, “volume,” spatial planning.

The nature of these elements, whether shopfront, manufacturing and craft space, materials lab or high end sophistication and salon-like environments — each of these can frame that quality. We’ve written about the dynamics of scent in placescent design and mnemonic context –ranging from the spiritual to the specially retail, retold. Others comment, Chandler Burr, for example. There are the principles of delicacy and restraint, or the emboldened super spritz of retail. Or toxic.

To each, their own story.

In studying the range of scent spaces — places for selling fragrance — and working on designing for them, there is a link between the brand, the story, and how that place could be envisioned. Le Labo — the lab, sees the character of the scenting apothecary as a point of inspiration; and practice aligns. Every scent is carefully built to formula, creating the rightful balance against the receipt of ingredients. And every scent, in that manufacture, on site, is created in a manner that suggests both the signature of the preparer as well as the recipient.

Not everyone lives close to one of our labs and that, we know, creates great sadness around the world (to some extent. There are more serious and stinky things that create even greater sadness). To make your life easier however, one of our lab assistants will compound the perfume you decide to have by hand, print its label with the name of your choice, and send it to the address of your choice (you get to choose a lot). Then it’s up to the delivery man to do his job and he usually does it efficiently as he drowns himself in our testers every morning. Smell nice.

Custom made, on the spot — buy the product and it’s formulated with your name on it. That idea of customization is a consistent trend in the building of niche scents — the fragrance: small batches, built to suit. In store, or online: They offer more, to learning — and with products to match: their Olfactionary, a tool with a price and broad vocabulary.

“Our main goal is to help you “open your nostrils” in the same way good books open their readers’ eyes to life. Philosophers speak about “men with stitched-up eyelids” when referring to people who are blind to the basics of existence. Most of us live with stitched-up nostrils, having grown up in a world where smells are hidden away, and our olfactory senses left to wither.

Le Labo believes that it is about time that we open our eyes, breathe in deeply and take in all that life has to offer.

The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place
Image from Le Labo

A translation in miniature of the Perfumers’ pipe organ, THE OLFACTIONARY is presented as a box with the 40 fundamental natural essences used in perfumery. This remarkable tool has served as a guide to perfume-makers around the world.

Forty 2.5 ml bottles containing natural essences suspended in an alcohol-based solution, representing the principal scents you find in perfumes. The box also includes a pack of olfactory keys or “blotters“ for sampling the scent of these essences.

There are other product offerings — home scents, vintage candles, books and detergents.

The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

My curiosity reaches more to the storytelling of place — a sequence of Girvin images:

An entry display, the shop front in Soho, NYC
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

A roughened signing application, street side — like the website, unified presence and procession:
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

A fragrance technician preparing an order, behind the counter at Le Labo
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

The merchandising style — delicate, restrained and hand touched
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

Imprinted tin wall treatments
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

The Olfactionary
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

An antique shelving arrangement
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

From the back to the front, the apothecary, Le Labo
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place
The Design of Parfum | The Art Direction of Place

Ultimately, it’s the scents that count — the staying power of the fragrance is the foundation of everything that is built in the sense of retail design and fragrance. However, the nature of these dispositions is embraced and supported in:

the shop front — the story will begin on the street, at the entrance — what is the beginning of the telling?
— Le Labo’s detailing begins from the sidewalk — display at the entrance, street front signing applications; the total impression is carefully managed.
the entry portal — coming into the place, what experience can be found in the opening: the first step?
— There is an immediate waft of complicated scent renderings, warm and rich, but hardly overwhelmed — fragrance isn’t too much of an overpowering condition.
surveying the opening arrangement — what is the understanding of process?
— The first step reveals a service sequence of exploratory, studying what is around the guest — a counter, arrays of product; there is a sense that wandering is accepted; there is no precise sequencing of context in what to do next.

There is a strength in aligning a comprehensive style — from identity to packaging, from shop sequence to service conceptions. The laboratory modeling for Le Labo is built on a rich presumption of the characterization of process — raw ingredient admixtures that are assembled on the spot, named and tabulated like a prescriptive benefit, extending the story of the Le Labo’s strategy of personal formulations. The next tier in experience development will always be merchandising — the integral styling of space; objects that tell a story, leaning back to the heart of the brand.

Tim | Soho, NYC.
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