Le labo, a perfume shop on Elizabeth Street, has one goal: “to help you open your nostrils in the same way good books open their readers’ eyes to life.” Their fragrances are created right in the shop where they import natural essences from france’s perfume capital, Grasse. I met with Mackenzie at Le labo, and asked her a few questions about perfume.
[Y&P] What is your current occupation? [Mackenzie] I work for one of the largest fragrance production companies in the world, at its creative headquarters in Manhattan. I also work occasionally as a fragrance-compounder at Le Labo, a fragrance brand “born in Grasse, raised in New York.”
Tell me about your first encounter with fragrance. I remember watching my mother put on Shalimar (Guerlain) before she would go to formal events. The fragrance, named for an ancient Indian love story, had a hypnotic effect on me. Since then, I have regarded particular scents as talismans—able to bring luck, provoke memory and emotion, and conjure magic, whimsy and imagination. I try to incorporate scent into my daily rituals as much as possible. Whether cooking with new herbs and spices, adding orange blossom or rose water to tea, burning sandalwood before bed, or keeping lavender sachets with my linens, I find new ways to incorporate fragrance into my life and make every day a sensory adventure. Human beings are very sensual creatures, something that is easily forgotten in this day and age when speed and efficiency seem to be the priority. I believe it is the small details that make the world so incredible, and there is an infinite amount of beauty in present in nature if you only look for it.
Which perfumers do you most admire? Bertrand Duchafour and Olivia Giacobetti. I find myself consistently surprised and charmed by their creations—often without knowing that I’m smelling their work. I particularly like that their fragrances tend to reference specific times and places, creating a multi-dimensional experience and transporting you somewhere else entirely. I believe that perfume is like architecture, so I connect with their work on this level.
What is your favorite smell? This is a difficult question to answer… Some of my favorites are labdanum, honey, monoi, soil after it rains, amber, rosemary, pipe tobacco, burning maple leaves, and rose cut with black pepper. Lavender incense, coffee grounds, Coppertone sunscreen, the ocean, lapsang souchong tea…I could go on forever!
What is the most seductive fragrance? The seductive power of a fragrance has a lot to do with how it is worn. When worn close to the skin, fragrance has the ability to draw people in. When worn in excess, it has the power to repel! No one likes to be suffocated by someone else’s perfume. In general, the ‘oriental’ fragrance family is regarded as sexier than its counterparts. This family consists of spices and resins, warm, rich notes like vanilla and amber, often blended with floral notes. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzongkha, Guerlain’s Shalimar, Le Labo’s Labdanum 18 and Fragonard’s Reve Indien top my list.
What fragrance exudes whimsy? L’Artisan Parfumeur does a great job creating whimsical fragrances. Dzing! and Mure et Musc are two of their most spirited and spritely. Serge Lutens’, Miel de Bois, and People of the Labyrinth’s, Luctor et Emergo, are two unique, cult fragrances. CB I Hate Perfume is great for unexpected scents, like Wet Pavement, Doll Head, You Know This (Play Doh) and even Gasoline… some being more wearable than others.
What fragrance exudes confidence? I would say a brighter, lighter fragrance with citrusy top notes is most confident due to its energizing properties. Krigler’s America One and Hermes’ Terre d’Hermes are great examples of confident, masculine fragrances. Of course, wearing an unusual aoud-based or animalic fragrance could also be viewed as bold. The important thing is to wear your scent with confidence.
The scent that relates to my current state of mind: This is a fragrance that is definitely not finished yet!
And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one fragrance, what would this be and why? I’d bring the smell of autumn- that combination of wet leaves, dry wood and fireplace smoke that blooms around October. On a desert island I think I’d really miss the changing seasons we get up north.