By The Creators of Le Labo

Note: Thanks everyone for playing along in the week-long Signature Scent Challenge!  I have a few final thoughts, but that post isn’t written yet and this one is. — March

In a time when the generic dullness of a lot of new, department-store-level perfume releases makes my eyes bleed, I’ve gotten strangely – yea, perhaps even irrationally – fond of any effort that seems even a little quirky or unusual in the perfume area. The Anthropologie chain cultivates an image of … what, whimsical, hand-knit faux-French outsider maximalism? I’m sure that image is crafted with the same corporate precision that brings you Coach and J. Crew.  I’m not an idiot.  Nonetheless, I like Anthropologie.  I like to go in their cluttered store and browse for trinkets on dreary winter days.  Their clothes are fun but mostly don’t work on me.  Their housewares, however, particularly their dishes and glassware, are often wonderful and sometimes quite a bargain to boot.

Anthropologie pleases me because it stocks odd fragrances, some of which are made specifically for the brand and others which I mostly don’t see anywhere else.  They have the TokyoMilks and the Rather Novel Collection from Givaudan I blogged about awhile ago, as well as some of the Histoires de Parfums.  (They also have a few forgettable floral-musky scents for people who like packaging more than perfume.  Lollia, Happ & Stahns… get the joke on the second one?)   Online I note they stock four SIPs, and Ineke, although not in our local store.

And now they have the By the Creators of Le Labo collection of five scents, featuring a $62 EdP, a $32 candle, and a $28 solid perfume:

“A collaboration between Anthropologie and Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi, founders of New York cult fragrance house Le Labo, this fragrance envelops you in one of five historically inspired scents that pay tribute to the era of perfumery when artisans crafted small batches using the highest quality natural ingredients … choose from parfum in a vessel inspired by old apothecary bottles or concrete parfum packaged in tins inspired by turn-of-the-century measuring weights.”

Belle Du Soir: “musky and rich, neroli, water lily and gardenia float above notes of cedar, sandalwood and patchouli (SPICE).” March says: not at all what I was expecting from those notes. Starts off smelling very citrusy, drying down into expensive soap along the lines of Maria-Farina Extra-Vieille from Roger & Gallet.  Nice, but you might as well get the soap.

Bouquet Blanc: “a decadent floral composition of cassis, bergamot, jasmine, tuberose and vetiver (FLORAL)” March says: A pleasingly indolic mostly-jasmine that lasted two days, minimal development.

Chant De Bois: “a femme-woodsy combination of bergamot, grapefruit, pink pepper, patchouli and cedar (SPICE)”  March says: This is the one you’re supposed to buy your man, I guess.  The nice, citrus/pepper top dries down quickly into a generic man-scent.  I’m going to mock this one a bit.  It’s perfectly pleasant.  But for $60, you could do so much better.  Go buy him Guerlain Vetiver.  Or Dior Eau Sauvage.  Or … (insert something else interesting here.)

Orange Discrete: “a clean citrus blend of petigrain, bergamot, mandarin zest and orange blossom mixed with vetiver, cedar and musk (FRUIT)”  March says: I’d dismissed this in five minutes as a too-soapy, generic neroli.  The drydown however is interesting – salted orange segments with lots of ground black pepper.  Not entirely pleasant, but peculiarly compelling.  I could see suddenly deciding I had to have this on a wintry December day (at which point they’ll be sold out, naturally.)

Poudre D’Orient: “exotic aromas of violet leaves, patchouli, vanilla and suede musk (FRESH)” March says: My inner cynic tells me this fragrance’s density is created with a huge overdose of a single molecule, something they buy for $50 a drum, and I’m just uneducated enough that I’m not in on the joke.  You know what? My inner cynic can go suck an egg.  I love this stuff, which smells like an unholy alliance between the violet-green of (new) Jolie Madame and the kind of amber-musk sweetness found in Gaultier2.  Neither powdery nor exotic, and not fresh, either, thank God.  Wish I had some new JM to test it against.  Don’t spill it on anything you can’t wash, because it never goes away.

I’m not loving the packaging on these, although I’m hard pressed to say exactly why.  They have that Le Labo brown bag thing going on, cross-pollinated with the Anthropologie whimsy.  The cheap minimalism of the Le Labo “lab” packaging I’ve gotten used to.  At least I’m not whining that they spent all the money on the cap design, right?  But this glue-on label with its fake-aged apothecary look, and that sorta-Bakelite cap (on a shiny new amber bottle that looks like it came from L’Occitane) didn’t win my heart.  The candles I have no opinion about, and I’ve not tried the perfume solids.

At the end of the day? These are fine for what they are.  They’re a bit light on their feet, coming from Le Labo, although thankfully none of them is insipidly sweet, and none of them (with the exception of Chant de Bois) smells like it came from Macy’s. For less money ($48, or $10 for the perfume solid pen), I’d rather have one of the Rather Novel Collection, I think they’re more interesting scents, particularly the mint/chamomile 1856 Darjeeling, or the red tea-infused Cape of Good Hope, both testers of which had been stolen.  Again.

Fragrance source: tried at the store, multiple times, without incident.

  • SniffingAround says:

    I was so excited about these, but reading these reviews, followed by a trip to my local Anthro dampened down the excitement quite effectively! Mine had the candles in all five scents and the fragrance itself only in Belle du Soir and Chant de Bois–both completely unremarkable. I was so disappointed I ended up also spraying myself with a couple of Tokyo Milk testers–a honey one and something else–that were so overwhelming that I had to find a public washroom with industrial-strength soap to wash them off. WORST OF ALL: I then sought to console myself by going to Holt Renfrew’s to buy the bottle of Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie that I’d finally decided to buy–and the service was SOOOOO bad–ignored by sales staff tho’ store was practically empty, finally a kind but clearly clueless SA (probably one of the new holiday hires) wanders over and can’t find prices for ANYTHING, knows nothing about the product line, tears awful little bits of cardboard off for me to spray on. I WAS READY TO BUY when I walked in, and I was so irritated that I walked out empty-handed! Really, Holt’s, it’s your highest margin part of the freakin’ store. (Oh, and when my sister asked at the Guerlain counter if they carried Derby, the answer was “I don’t think that’s a Guerlain perfume.” Oi!)

  • nozknoz says:

    I’m nuts about that bottle! Good thing I’m not close to an Anthro shop.

  • nbh says:

    In regard to fragrance hunting in Chevy Chase: I was in Chevy Chase Pavilion a week or so ago. A man came into the store where I was shopping and asked to speak to the manager. I didn’t hear the whole conversation, but I heard him say that he represented a British fragrance company that was going to open a branch in the area and was looking for the best space to rent. I didn’t have the nerve to ask what company he represented. Do you have any guesses?

  • maggiecat says:

    I’ve been in anthro a couple of times – love the accessories but don’t need them, don’t love the clothes, especially. They’re cute, but cute isn’t my style, exactly. I’ll go in and sniff when I’m next there, though they’re a bit out of my way. Always hoping for a new, interesting, affordable scent!

  • Musette says:

    I’ve only beein in Anthropologie once – mostly because I have every stinkin’ Home Accessory I will ever need in this lifetime, so that’s out and their clothes are totally out of my size/age range. Since I’m about 200 miles from the nearest Anthro and I am always in a rush when I’m around one, I tend to pass them by.

    The one on Rush St in Chicago (the one I visited) did have some interesting perfumes, if I recall…perhaps the next time I’m in I will pop in and see if there are SIPs in there!

    Happy Wednesday! I am getting my lunch et over here so I’mo sign off, get back to work..

    xoxox >-)

    • March says:

      In Chicago, there are probably dozens of stores that I would enjoy more going into. But here in the burbs, at least their stuff is “different” — good place for little gifties sometimes. Downtown of course there are tons of places, but downtown is a hassle to get to and to park. Everything revolves around rush hour.

      • Musette says:

        I moved to the suburbs, once, in a fit of madness and one of my editors (also a suburbanite) told me “you will live and die by the train schedule”. Boneheaded Moi, I laughed…….until I missed the last train….

        xo >-)

  • Disteza says:

    Anthro used to be THE place I shopped, but I kinda fell out of love with it. Too much of the same stuff every season, declining quality, increasing prices, and, to be entirely honest, too many damn things in my closet. I’ve been much more discerning when it comes to apparel, mostly confining myself to sniping vintage and couture off of l’Bay.
    As for the stores themselves, I don’t like the cramped feeling; I end up having to hunt through things piled or racked three and four deep, on bottom shelves, etc., and it’s exhausting. I don’t have the time for that.
    As for their ‘vibe’, there is a show on Sundance (I think?) called Man Shops World, involving the artistic director for Anthro shopping various places around the world to find just the right tchochkes for their stores. It’s sort of interesting to watch.

    • March says:

      Their clothing is funny to try on… I’d think I’m their demographic, I am the right size/age, but multiple times I try something on and there’s a significant weirdness problem. No bust darts, in the wrong place, neckline cut funny, you name it. On the whole I’m with you — where I live I can spend that money on vintage and get something a lot nicer. But I have their cereal bowls, kitchen towels, juice glasses … the glasses were $2, the bowls are $5? And charming. So the kids break them and I don’t care, you know? And I like the way they stage their goods visually.

  • Daniela says:

    Ooh I love Anthropologie. I saw my first one in London and just kind of pranced around in it, entranced like Alice in Wonderland. Wanted to buy everything, but it was either very expensive or didn’t quite suit me. It wreaks havoc on my ADD though.

    I found out later that Anthropologie is actually owned by Urban Outfitters… which kind of burst the bubble.

    • March says:

      They have one in London? I had no idea, I thought it was just the US. And lol on the Urban Outfitters, I was too lazy to look it up.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    I love trhe fact that you went in and tried these on–without incident–multiple times. But I’m also waiting for the ‘with incident’ post.

    • March says:

      Oh, the “with incident” happens regularly. Some of the SAs know and loathe me, figuring (correctly) that I likely won’t be buying, and there I am, breathing their precious air. Others, though, are always friendly and helpful, and guess what? When I do buy something — a gift, some makeup — I buy it from them.

  • Mellisu says:

    Just checked – it’s owned by Urban Outfitters (OUI) of PA

  • Style Spy says:

    Oh, I cannot bear Anthropologie – I feel like I’m choking to death on twee every time I go in there. Pom-poms and appliqués and bows and little ruffly cardigans being worn by women who absolutely should NOT be wearing little ruffly cardigans. And the clutter! It’s like a hamster cage of retail! Still, I was considering taking a deep breath and braving the depths for some sniffage. Thanks for sparing me.

    • Ann N. says:

      Hi Style Spy, you had me howling with your hamster cage comment! I know what you mean, though, it’s a busybusybusy store. I don’t go in there much anymore since I’m a plus size now and also unemployed. No extra money for “stuff” (except for perfumes!). Thanks for the laughs …

    • March says:

      Well, it’s very much NOT your look. I’ve seen you and I know. 🙂 But allow me to defend the store by saying that unlike your city, where I live those clothes can be a breath of fresh air, as they are neither Brooks Brothers/Talbots nor Lululemon. Also, head-to-toe Anthro makes one look a bit nutty, but I think a SINGLE piece (sweater, jacket) worn with restraint elsewhere in the outfit can look great. I have a knit scarf, a wide-sleeved coat and a funny ruched sweater from there, but (again) they each get worn with very plain clothing.

    • angie Cox says:

      :((This is how I felt when I found myself on the mailing list. It was SO stupid a catalogue of rooms to show a hat that was hidden in a corner . It reminded me of Graham and Green who came to our town one day and left a few later.All style and no substance..And the clothes size that is large is a U.K 12! Thank goodness for Poetry and Wrap .

  • sweetlife says:

    Well. My Anthropologie carries a select group of Annick Goutals, the Tokyo Milks, and once I saw the Crazy Libellules there. No contest with any of those, sounds like. Especially the Goutals.

    • March says:

      They did used to have the crazylibs! Those are now at Sephora, and I saw them somewhere else recently but cannot remember where…

  • Sherri M. says:

    I agree with Robin. Anthropologie has a huge, varied customer base–many of which would be very interested in the Le Labo brand. I’m just disappointed that the fragrances don’t sound intriguing enough to foster the greater appreciation and availability of niche perfume. Anthro has added quite alot of new perfumes; I just can’t help wishing one was Parfums de Nicolai.

    • March says:

      PdN — you and me both, sister! Or how about the Diptyques, which I never see anywhere any more. I think they’d fit in great with the Anthropologie vibe.

      The Le Labo ones I almost compared with the Pacifica brand. But honestly, I think the Pacifica ones are better, and they’re cheaper, too, although obviously they don’t have the Le Labo cachet. I think of Pacifica as a “soap brand” like R&G.

  • Robin says:

    I don’t know…I’d think it would be a huge temptation for a niche perfume brand, Anthropologie. It’s a big chain but as you say, people don’t have the negative feelings about it that they do for many chains.

    If I understood the press release correctly though, the Le Labo collection was only going into 2 Anthropologie stores? So almost like a trial run maybe. But very sorry to hear they’re not more fun.

    • March says:

      R, I can’t even defend my own argument very well. After all, SIP isn’t too good for them, apparently. But this is a collaboration, and I thought maybe this’d be too mainstream? Or something. But you’re right, it’s not like they teamed up with Victoria’s Secret or Forever 21. Although LOL if they DID team up with Forever 21 I’d be delighted.

      Had no idea it was only for two stores, and (if so) that Friendship would be one of them. It doesn’t feel like a flagship to me.

  • Sariah says:

    Good morning. I like the idea of the packaging, but ya, a glue-on label and “old” plastic cap sounds like I would be disappointed in real life. My local Reston Anthro is small, didn’t have these yesterday, but they did have Alba Rose which was pretty. The bottle is brigt green glass with a floral cap that looks like a mini pin cushion. Kindof surprised the Le Labo is collaborating with Anthro. I like Anthro, but I wouldn’t think they’d be into “faux french”, being real french.

    • March says:

      I was kinda surprised as well, to be honest. Wouldn’t you think they’d collaborate with NM, or Colette or something? But maybe they’re trying to get into a lower priced market? Or maybe Anthropologie phoned them up and said, you have a French name, how ’bout it? (I know nothing about Anthropologie, just assume they’re a US company).

      On a side note, I forgot to mention that the Histoires, which are spendy $150 – $200?) they do not have in the store any more. Wonder if they didn’t sell well? Most of their perfume is less than $100, or even less than $50. Did not see the Alba.

  • karin says:

    Hi March! When you said “glue-on label”, it triggered my experience the other day of looking closely at my huge Chanel 31 Rue Cambon bottle and realizing, hey, there’s a really cheap-looking glue-on label on this thing! And it actually looks a bit off center! Uh…Chanel????

    • March says:

      Well, now I’m laughing at myself … I am not a packaging major. How else do they put those labels on fragrance? They’re glued on, right? Serge and the rest. Unless they have a hard-to-read plastic sticker on the bottom. But there’s something about these that make you really conscious of the effort — we’re going to place it a little off kilter, make it look peculiar…. I get that from de Nicolai already. 😉 And, yeah, occasionally, Chanel. I got one I was sure was fake, but no.

      • Musette says:

        I just had this weird discussion with El O, apropos of my battle with the rain barrel – in the course of chat, he revealed that he used to work for a perfume company, in their warehouse and was very experienced at wrestling 55gal drums (approx 500lbs of liquid) as that is what the perfume came to the factory in, prior to being decanted into bottles….

        ….well of course it is! but somehow you just expect certain Brands to not have off-center, obviously glued labels….we’re back to the Mystery, here. Like March said, we’re not idiots but…Chanel, at least put the label on straight! And if one is off-kilter, redo it! Just sayin’

        xoxo >-)

        • March says:

          Picturing it in a giant drum certainly takes the mystery out for me. I prefer to think of Estee herself, mixing it one small batch at a time at her kitchen table. [-(

          • Musette says:

            or JCE and Celine, distributing their fabulousness via elegant glass pipettes… in a gorgeous conservatory with doves cooing in the background and nymphs strumming harps.

            I like that one, too!

            xo >-)

          • March says:

            Your imagination is better than mine.

            Look, the alien’s back!

  • Louise says:

    Hmmmm, seems I may need to make a jaunt over to Antho-it’s been quite some time.

    The Super Pepper Orange seems a possible, and I’d love to try the Rather Novels.

    Have you forced yourself to brave Lush yet to test the Gorilla Guerillas? There’s one or two that I kinda like.

    Happy Wednesday!

    • March says:

      Louise, it’s sort of embarrassing, how often I’m over there. They look up from Bloomies/Sephora/Anthro and say, oh, you again.

      I was at Montgomery and … I can’t force myself to walk in there, L. I don’t know what the problem is but I hate that Lush miasma so much. Even walking down the Nordie corridor on the other side away from it, I try not to breathe.

      • Louise says:

        oooh, is there an Anthro at ChChase? I always go to Tysons…

        • March says:

          Remember the one on Rockville Pike? They moved in just down from the MAC store, next to Sephora and Bloomies, right there at Western and Wisconsin Ave. (park at bloomies) It faces Wisconsin. I can see how you’d miss it, I’m not sure it even has a sign? Weird planked wood front, which is maybe their standard exterior finish.

      • Ann N. says:

        Hi March, I agree it’s a little heavy in the Lush stores. But I am dying to try the Gorilla ones.
        Louise, which ones caught your fancy?

    • March says:

      Oh, and happy Weds. back! Sorry, I did not get ye old undisturbed night of sleep (Diva has a really nasty cold, and Enigma’s a roamer.)

      • Louise says:

        Nap today??? Hell, yes!

        • March says:

          Out all morning at the National Gallery with dad, seeing the pre-Raphaelite show that just opened. And I need a nap because we’re going out tonight!

          • Ann N. says:

            Hi March, how was the exhibit? I love the Pre-Raphaelites as well, especially Rossetti, Millais and Waterhouse. I need to find out more about it. Here’s hoping a trip to D.C. is in my future (fingers crossed).

          • March says:

            It wasn’t a blockbuster — more the photographs than the paintings/drawings, but still well worth wandering through. To be honest part of the fun is just being there in that gorgeous building.