On a chilly morning in Shaw, the vibe inside Le Labo Fragrances, the New York-based perfumery, is warm and aromatic. Floor-to-ceiling windows face the sidewalk on Florida Avenue NW, between Eighth and Ninth streets. They open into a bright and spacious shop.
Fifteen-foot ceilings are covered with exposed pipes and ductwork. Pale walls are distressed, and the hardwood floor is worn. A sense of old-worldliness mixes with a contemporary blend. Glass bottles abound.
“There are 16 different perfumes that we make individually for every purchase. We hand-blend the ingredients in our lab — Le Labo translates to ‘the lab’ — so they’re always fresh,” says store manager Glenn Contreras, gesturing toward the glass-enclosed room in the back. “You select the fragrance. We make it up. It takes about seven minutes. You can watch as your perfume is compounded.”
The 16 scents sit atop an old wooden desk for customers to test. There’s Neroli 36, Ambrette 9, Iris 39 and the newest one, Another 13. The numbers represent how many ingredients there are. Classic bottle sizes are 50 milliliters ($184), 100 ml ($270) and 500 ml ($995). If you return an empty bottle, it’ll be refilled with the same perfume at a 20 percent discount. “We’re an environmentally friendly company; that’s why we have this refill program,” Contreras says.
Perfumes come in five versions: liquid balm; solid perfume; perfume oil; amulet, a tiny ceramic stone soaked with oil and encased in a metal tube with slits so you can put it in your gym bag; and a travel tube.
Anais Lugo bounces into the shop (1924 Eighth St. NW, Suite 120) with a smile, heads straight to the counter and orders Santal 33. “It’s for my mom’s birthday,” she says. “It’s the scent I wear and she loves it. She’s visiting from Puerto Rico. Now she can take it home.”
All items — including shower gel, body lotion and massage oil — are vegan. “None of our creations contain animal products, and we don’t test on animals,” Contreras says. “We blend perfume to make people’s life more beautiful.”