Inspiring Perfumes Series Pt. 1: Le Labo’s Rose 31 (2006)

Le Labo Rose 31 © Victor Wong
Le Labo Rose 31 © Victor Wong

[I want to write about some of the perfumes that have influenced and led me to the creation of my perfume brand, Zoologist Perfumes. They have sparked ideas and given me new understanding about niche fragrances and the marketing of them.]

Pt. I. The Concept of a “Hit” Perfume – Le Labo Rose 31

In 2013, my partner and I revisited Quebec Montreal, Canada during a long weekend. We stayed at the iconic and beautiful hotel, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.

Our room was old, but I could imagine how marvellous it looked when the hotel was newly built. In the bathroom, there were neatly arranged toiletries and a bar of soap labeled Le Labo Rose 31. I took a sniff, and thought, wow, this smelled quite good!

Before leaving the room, I sat in the bed for a little while, smelling my hands, which had just been applied with some Rose 31 lotion that I also found in the bathroom. I thought, “Wow, this scent was so strong and rosy, would people think that I am wearing a woman’s perfume?” I put my hands in my jacket as I walked around the city.

The trip ended great, but the souvenir that I brought home with me, the little bottle of Rose 31 hand lotion, was greater.

I visited Le Labo’s website and had discovered how expensive their perfumes were. Besides Rose 31, they also had Oud 27. What’s oud? And neroli? What’s labdanum? I was so curious. Wait, they have Rose 31 detergent? How come their other scents don’t have their own detergent?

It didn’t take me much time and effort to discover fragrance review channels on Youtube, Basenotes forums, Fragrantica, fragrance related blog sites and many more. I had also learned about Luca Turin’s infamous book, “Perfumes, the A-Z guide”, which I promptly ordered from Amazon.

The book arrived and I immediately read his review on Rose 31. Two stars? What’s going on!? How is it possible? Come on!? It is the best perfume I have ever smelled! A quick conclusion had come to my mind – it really doesn’t matter, as long as I love it, that’s most important. I am sure a lot of people also think the same.

Later I’d come to realize that Rose 31 was Le Labo’s home run mega hit. If they didn’t have Rose 31, they might not have their success today. I think, for someone who has never experienced niche fragrances, Rose 31 probably smells amazing. Now that I have smelled quite a few perfumes, I found Rose 31 still very good, but not that spectacular. I think some of the other Le Labo fragrances smell better than Rose 31, but what they lack is universal appeal. Now I rarely wear Rose 31, but it has deeply inspired me. For a fragrance company to succeed, you need luck, a very wearable hit perfume (which doesn’t come easily and immediately), and the ability to seize the moment, promoting the hack out of it through different channels.

I have read a business article on Le Labo, it says that the founders sold their condos to gather $30,000, just enough to start their business. They had faith in their business idea and through hard work and a good understanding of the psychology of consumers, they managed to carve a good piece of cake out of the competitive niche perfume market.

Author: Victor Wong

A perfume lover - niche, designer, modern, vintage, I love them all. I am also the owner of Zoologist Perfumes, a small Canadian perfume house. Please visit or for more info!

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