He might not look it, but 37-year-old Edouard Roschi, one of the co-founders of the cult perfume brand Le Labo, is a tired man. "I've been travelling for three weeks. I arrived in Abu Dhabi two days ago and previous to that I was in Dubai, Qatar and Japan." On a tour to promote the company he and his partner Fabrice Penot founded in 2006, the amiable Swiss national explains what he sees as Le Labo's unique selling point: "It's the only brand where you witness the perfume being made for you. After choosing a fragrance from our selection, you can watch one of our lab experts making your perfume in front of you. The whole process takes about 10 minutes and allows you to see the backstage process of a perfume's creation. Additionally, our process of mixing the top notes at the last minute helps to keep them preserved."
Bijou perfume brands look like a growth industry at the moment. From Romano Ricci's punchy Juliette Has a Gun series to the elegant likes of L'Artisan Parfumeur and Jo Malone and the latest much-buzzed-about, soon-to-be-released example City of Oud, small-label perfumes offer a taste of bespoke, speaking to those of us who prefer not to wear the same big brands as everyone else.
Le Labo was one of the pioneers of this hip, individualist movement, and was created when Roschi and Penot met during their tenure at L'Oréal. Chancing upon one another during their tenure at L'Oréal (working as part of the Giorgio Armani fragrance creative team). The duo decided to join forces after growing tired of the industry. "We were bored about the fact that all perfumes were starting to smell the same and look the same, so we decided to develop an idea where people would be able to buy amazing perfume in a lab."
With stores in New York, London and Japan among others, what prompted the duo to make the move to the Middle East?
"The region is obviously one that is very knowledgeable about scent. Given this fact, we thought it would be interesting for cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi to have a fragrance proposition that is different from everything else they have. We are working on an exclusive scent for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as part of our "city exclusives" range - which we have already put out in six cities - with the Dubai scent hopefully ready for release this December." The scent is called Cuir 28 and will contain woody and spicy tones.
So of the 10 fragrances Le Labo produces, which does Roschi prefer? "I like different perfumes for different purposes. Saying that, Rose 31, our bestseller, is one of my favourites."
Rose 31 has also found success in another market - as one of the main ingredients of a luxurious detergent. "The Laundress is a very quality-centred detergent brand, run by two women based in New York, and we all decided it would be really interesting to create a premium detergent.
"You put perfume on your skin, your clothes, your hair - at any time during the day. So we thought it would be interesting to find a way in which to perfume clothes while they get washed. It was a funky thing to do and is working well. This [partnership] has just been a fun experiment, though. We won't be expanding the perfumes into other markets."
The whole laboratory ethos of the brand might risk appearing merely clinical, but it is when you get behind those numbers to the essence of the perfumes that Roschi really starts to wax lyrical.
"Perfume language is, I think, very complicated," he says. "For example, I could tell you that Rose 31 contains the essence of four roses (three that are absolute and one that is synthetic) as well as a mix of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, woody scents and several musks. But, if I told you that, it would make it hard to imagine the smell - and that's without mentioning the remaining ingredients. Using imagery is more effective. For example, Iris 39 is a very elegant sort of perfume that could be associated with a cocktail dress. Oud 27 is sensuality in a bottle, while Bergamote 22 is a white T-shirt on a warm day. Fleur D'Oranger 27 is a walk in a bitter orange garden, in the southern part of Spain, and Labdanum 18 is baby powder. Jasmine 17 is flakes of jasmine petals that are slowly flying around, Neroli 36 is a walk on a beach at five in the morning, Vetiver 46 is a three-piece suede suit and Patchouli 24 is a burning fireplace when you are having a drink."
High-falutin' stuff, but after all, that passion is what perfume is all about. "It's not about the bottle or the name. It's the smell that should sell a fragrance. If you fall in love with that smell, then that's what you should be wearing."
Le Labo is available at Paris Gallery, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Dubai Mall, Dubai.