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Eau du… Fairmont?

by Karen Kwan

If you’ve had the chance to stay at a Fairmont Hotel in the last 18 months or so, you may have noticed the luxe in-room amenity: Le Labo Rose 31. I know my heart skipped a beat when I discovered it in my suite at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, and I have no shame—I promptly stuffed every bottle into my carry-on luggage to take home. I’d been fascinated with the niche perfume company since stumbling upon it in New York several years earlier—something about the apothecary look of the shop pulled me in and then the fragrance filled me with warm and happy thoughts.

Little did I know that just two weeks after pilfering the Le Labo amenities in Vancouver, I’d be travelling to Grasse, France, with the two founders of Le Labo, Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi, to learn about their plan to create the very first lobby scent. One master scent for Fairmont hotels will be created along with a number of variations for different areas in the world, including North America and Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

After spending a sunny morning visiting the rose fields just outside of Grasse and meeting the rose field owner and pickers, I had a chance to sit down with Fabrice and Eddie to chat about the Fairmont lobby scent project. Here’s what they had to say about it.

Fragrance is about emotion

Eddie Roschi: “When people smell something, they want to guess what’s in it, and this is a reaction to a lack of mastery of perfume because they don’t know how to express it, so try to figure it out. But the best reactions are when clients don’t say anything and just wear perfume, and you see their facial expressions. It’s about emotion, that’s what perfume should be about.”

Creating a scent tied to a location isn’t about using the obvious

ER: “We keep it conceptual. For Japan, for example, it was not about green tea or matcha or sake but it’s about the story we thought would connect with the Japanese. We used several ingredients they’d never heard of—not tea or easy cues.”

Travel is essential for creating the Fairmont lobby scent and its variations

ER: “It’ll be about making connections, meeting people and seeing how they work, spending time with them in those places to get the soulfulness. We don’t need to go to know what jasmine smells like; we know what jasmine smells like. It’s everything else that’s important, and that’ll enable us to put into a candle an emotion rather than just an association of ingredients.”

Travel is life-changing

Fabrice Penot: “A life-changing moment [while] travelling was my discovery of America, driving down Highway 1, and going to Big Sur. It was a very spiritual moment for me. When I see myself dying I would love to die there. I felt like I was finally, really on the planet earth where I was born.”

ER: “There’s a small rock 30 hours by boat off of the coast of Baja, California, called Soccoro Island. It’s a small volcanic tip in the Pacific Ocean, circled by whale sharks and humpback whales, where you can do some technical, farfetched diving. I was sitting on the boat just after dive, looking at immensity of the ocean and feeling like nothing in the middle of all the beauty—both scenic and natural with the animals and water. There are other places, too, but that was a powerful moment.”

Their goal for the Fairmont lobby scent

ER: “It’s going to whisper something memorable in everyone’s ear. Everyone will hear it because you can’t shut your ears.”

 

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