Tag Archives: Le Labo

Meet Anne McClain – MCMC Fragrances

“I’m painting a story with smells.”

 

I first became aware of Anne McClain because of her workshops, which take place the first Monday of every month at Le Labo. Subsequently after that, I would receive e-mails periodically about her brand MCMC Fragrances. One particular e-mail mentioned she was launching a new fragrance called Maui and that she would be at the Brooklyn Flea. Maui was the place I got married, so it holds special meaning to me. I’ve heard a lot about the Brooklyn Flea but never been. These two facts posed an opportunity to meet Ann and I’m glad I seized the moment. On this hot summer day, after looking around for her booth, I finally stumbled upon it and it was an oasis in the middle of stuff. There she was, a Brooklynite that produced and sold her products in Brooklyn. I was brimming with pride when I met her. As a born and raised Brooklynite myself, stories like hers makes you puff out your chest just a tad bit more. As we began talking, she told me a story about being in fragrance school in Grasse and how her classmates looked at her oddly when she mentioned she wanted to take what she learned back to Brooklyn and start a business. It recalled a line from the rap song Crooklyn Dodgers that seems so apropos, “Straight from crooklyn better known as Brooklyn never taking shorts cause Brooklyn’s the borough.”

Where did you learn the art of creating fragrances?

I originally began by studying on my own. I took evening and weekend workshops on any topic related to perfumery (which in New York City actually tended to be aromatherapy classes), read lots of books, and even did a correspondence course with natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. At a certain point, I felt that I had exhausted all the learning I could do in America and I applied to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in southern France.

I spent one year in Grasse in an intensive training program with just twelve students. It was very hands on and classes ranged from raw materials to chemistry to genealogy and creation. We also visited farms and production facilities. In the small village of Grasse, there were really no distractions for me (I didn’t have a phone, TV, or even internet in my apartment!) so I was really able to focus on my studies, and concepting for my line, MCMC Fragrances.

Share the story about people frowning in Grasse when you mentioned wanting to create your own line in Brooklyn.

The one thing that was difficult about studying in rural, southern France (as opposed to New York City) is that no one could really relate to me wanting to start my own line. Independent perfumery is not very common (although I see more and more niche lines all the time) and it’s still a male-dominated and family-owned trade. For a newbie like me to come from Brooklyn and say I wanted to start my own line right away was very shocking to my classmates and teachers. But like so many other creative people, I just wanted to do my thing and had no fear!

What is the concept behind MCMC Fragrances?

Before studying perfumery, I was a photographer. I love to travel and the feeling of those fleeting, ethereal moments that we are so lucky to have in life. My photographs were an attempt to flatten these experiences and preserve them. However, after my very first perfume class, I realized that this was the medium for me to work in.

So all of the fragrances from MCMC Fragrances are based on an actual experience from my life. Maine is based on a day in Maine falling in love; Noble is about four months I spent living in Nepal with a Tibetan family and the jasmine and incense that permeated the house, and Hunter is about an old friend who lived in the woods and harvested maple syrup. I’m painting a story with smells.

What sparked your desire to create your own collection?

I have so many stories I want to tell in scent, and so much inspiration, that I knew I had to create my own collection. Working for a corporate perfume house as a perfumer, you are receiving briefs from clients to create their dreams, and their visions. I just couldn’t wait to put my own creations out into the world.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?

Well, I know that the first perfume I ever wanted was Angel by Thierry Mugler. My sister gave it to me when I was 15 for Christmas. This baffles me now because it’s so strong and I’m surprised my 15-year old self was attracted to that, but I’ve always loved woody, oriental scents.

As for my first meaningful recollection of fragrance, while I was in Nepal (I was 21), I bought a jasmine candle at a place called Mike’s Breakfast. At the time I didn’t know that the scent was jasmine – I didn’t know the name of any scents then, really – but I was so in love with this candle. To the point where even after it had burned, I brought home the little wax stump and kept it in my closet for months. To this day, jasmine absolute is one of my favorite ingredients.

How would you finish this statement. “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?

…smelling a beach plum rose on the coast of Maine while falling in love, mingling with the scents of cool air and dried seaweed.

Thanks Anne.

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iPerfumer by Givaudan

When I was speaking with Chad Murawczyk of Min New York, one of the things I told him I admired about his store was its openness and how it was refreshing given the fragrance industries close door policy and the snootiness of retailers. I truly feel social media has begun tearing these walls down and consumers are becoming more educated about their preferences. It is for this reason I’m excited about the launch of Givaudan’s iPerfumer.

So how does it work? Users, down load the app and are run through a series of questions ranging from gender, age, geographic location, etc and then rate their favorite fragrance families, Oriental, Chypre, Citrus, Woody, Floral, and Fougere.

I’m curious who will download this app more, men or women. Women have no problems sampling but guys still seem to have issue with walking into stores and openly spraying themselves or engaging anyone from the sale staff without being nudged. Perhaps this will change that.

For a first hand review of iPerfumer, check out Harry Sheff over at Cocktails & Cologne.

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First Mondays with Anne McClain and Le Labo

Word on these workshop will spread fast. That said, here’s the details.

Called “First Mondays in the Lab,” the course will take place every first Monday of the month starting March 1st from 7pm to 9pm at Le Labo. Led by perfumer Anne McClain, students will learn the fundamentals of perfumery, and become equipped with a basic understanding of standard perfume vocabulary and concepts.

Through the lens of three of Le Labo’s signature fragrances, the workshops will cover how the inspiration for a fragrance is developed, how harmonious blends are made, and Le Labo’s approach to creating some of the most original and daring fragrances on the market. Throughout the course, natural and synthetic ingredients from the perfumers’ palate will be sampled, and their origins, properties, and uses will be discussed. Students will also take home a 5 ml sample of a Le Labo fragrance presented in the class.

Sign-up is available on a first-come, first-serve basis by RSVP-ing to workshops@lelabofragrances.com. Class size is limited to 18 students and the cost is $75 and must be paid in advance.

Le Labo – Nolita boutique – 233 Elizabeth Street, NYC

Act fast!

Februry 24, 2010

After posting the info about the workshop, I decided to reach out to Anne and ask her a few question. She was nice enough to grant me a interview and here it is:

What made you choose Le Labo as a venue for the workshop?

I’ve always admired Le Labo’s style, even before I began studying perfumery formally. I could sense that they had a unique take on perfumery and was pushing boundaries with its scents.

A couple of years ago I met one of the founders of Le Labo, Fabrice, and we really clicked philosophically about perfumery, the creation of it and how we saw the industry.  I’ve been an advocate of bringing the craft and art of perfumery to more people, i.e. teaching people about perfume, and how it is made. It turned out that Le Labo also wanted to expose people to that through workshops, so a partnership naturally worked out.

With the classes being 2hrs, what are you hoping attendees will take away from the experience?

Two hours gives me enough time to give a general outline of what knowledge perfumery involves. I will go over some standard vocabulary used by perfumers, talk about olfactive families and how ingredients are classified, and we’ll compare ingredients such as rose oil from Turkey vs. Bulgaria, or vetiver oil from Haiti vs. Java. We will even show how synthetic ingredients compare to their natural counterparts.

I am working on creating a level two class that will go deeper into the study of ingredients, which I believe is the basic building block of perfumery, and eventually a level three class where we’ll start blending; that will be really exciting.

How soon can fragrance lovers find your creations?

Earlier this month I released the Humanity Fragrance with Trust Art. The Humanity Fragrance is a fundraiser for a public fountain I am working on, and 100% of the proceeds from the fragrance will go towards the building materials. Each bottle was handmade and is based on an anatomical heart.  The fragrance, which is blended by hand in my studio in small batches, is based around Indian white lotus, sustainable sandalwood, and maté tea. You can find the fragrance at Humanity Fragrance online at and at Sigerson Morrison. I am also working on my own line of scents, MCMC fragrances.  I’ll be debuting with three scents later this spring and am so excited to share them!  The names are a secret for now, but I can tell you that my line is based on stories and memories that have been romanticized and interpreted into scents, with a large emphasis on choosing the most beautiful natural ingredients.

What is one of your most memorable Fragrant Moments?

Two summers ago I was on the island of North Haven off the coast of Maine. I spent the whole afternoon sitting in a sun drenched field surrounding by pine trees and fresh air. Towards twilight I took a walk down to the beach with its icy Maine water and dried seaweed. I came across a pink beach plum rose and the smell of it there, in that environment, on that day, just took my breath away.

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It’s Never Too Late

Here’s a fragrance gift guide I put together for our friends at Be Better Guys. It only went up two days ago and I’m just getting around to reposting here. If you feel that the gift you bought just didn’t get the reaction you were looking for, consider these suggestions. You can also blame it on the store and say they were out and I really wanted to get you this! Anyhow, Happy Holidays from Fragrant Moments!

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Rose Layering

The layering of fragrances is quite a daring act. I admire anyone that is willing to differentiate themselves in this manner. Harry Sheff, a fellow fragrance enthusiast and new contributing writer for Fragrant Moments, had a chance encounter with layering fragrances recently. He talks about it here in his debut post:


Rose

After wearing a succession of my own colognes and spraying an array of samples on my wrist, my watchband has acquired a bewitchingly complicated fragrance.

I’d heard people talk about layering fragrances before, but I’d never tried it myself—at least not intentionally. So when I realized how great my watchband smelled, I tried to decipher the scent. I don’t quite have it yet, but I tried wearing Costume National’s new men’s scent (reviewed by Barney here recently) over Le Labo’s Rose 31 (which was recommended to me by Barney and reviewed by him.

It’s brilliant. The softness of the Rose 31 (which for those who aren’t familiar with it is deepened by woods, musk and cumin) is deepened even more by Costume National Homme’s sandalwood, cinnamon and cloves. And, conversely, CN Homme’s harsher spiciness is soothed by Rose 31’s floral qualities. This experiment was a great success, I’m guessing, because of Rose 31; I plan on layering this with other fragrances.

Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet, a rich evergreen scent, would be a great candidate for layering with Rose 31. This comes to mind because of another pairing my girlfriend discovered with the help of a very smart salesman at CB I Hate Perfume in Brooklyn.

CB sells what seems like hundreds of individual accords, single note scents broken down into 14 categories like spice, flower, sweet, and clean. When the salesman came out from the store’s back room wearing an amazing smelling amber that he got in the mail as a sample from a competitor, he was unwilling (naturally) to tell us what it was.

Instead, he scrambled around the room smelling vials, eventually layering Rose Bulgare and Fir Douglas with an amber. The result was an excellent approximation of the fragrance he was wearing. But even more interesting was the combination of the rose and fir notes. My girlfriend bought them both and wears them together.

As a relative newcomer to the world of fragrances, it’s exciting to reach the level of sophistication (however modest) of mixing existing fragrances together to create new ones. It allows a whole new way to enjoy one’s collection of scents: simultaneously.

-Harry Sheff

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Le Labo’s Oud 27 – Love Me Or Leave Me Alone

oud274

One of my favorite fragrance manufactures, Le Labo, has launched a new scent, Oud 27. It’s their first in three years. When I got wind of the launch, I will admit, I was quite excited. I do not possess a favorite scent but when asked, Rose 31 remains at the top of the list. I’m such a fan that when I visited Paris in April of 2008, the top of my agenda (after watching my lovely lady cross the finish line of the Paris Marathon) was to make my way over to Collette to purchase, Vanille 44. It can only be bought there and that type of exclusivity sweetened the deal. To put it in perspective, some of my peers might liken that desire to getting their hands on the new Air Yeezy’s. I’ll take a fragrance over kicks any day, but that’s my obsession.

I stopped by Le Labo on Saturday and my heart was literally fluttering in anticipation. Upon first spritz of the tester, I was wowed, but not in a “this is the best thing I have ever smelt” kind of way. A strong but slightly sweet urine top note unexpectedly greeted me. It in fact made me take a seat. Could this be what they wanted me to take away, why? I do like untraditional scents like Serge Lutens Santal Blanc which some have said smelt pissy and Carolina Herrera’s 212 Sexy Man but this was even more offbeat. I then sprayed it on the back of my hand and allowed time to do its thing. I smelled it every so often and the urine stayed with me but then it got slightly smoky and as more time passed, slightly sweet. As I chatted with one of the customers, she asked if I was testing Oud and we agreed to smell it on one another. On her, it smelt soft. It wasn’t as pungent. When she smelt it on me, she loved it and actually thought it smelt better on me. Her reaction is probably why I ended up purchasing the .5 oz travel size, which costs $52, and I’m glad I did.

That urine smell that initially hit me, is a characteristic of Oud, which is an exotic oil that also has animalic, smoky, and musky notes. Oud is an aromatic resin that is a result of Aquilaria trees that become infected with a mold and over time produce a resin in response to the attack. When I learned this, after doing some research, it was like dejavu hit me all over again. When I first smelt, Rose 31, I questioned that “B.O.” note that initially confused me. So to answer my earlier question, yes, Le Labo meant to do this.

My findings and time allowed me to appreciate Oud 27. As with any fragrance, how it adapts to your skin is part of the decision equation. But in this instance, more so than in any other I’ve experienced, I believe one REALLY has to get past that initial smell to allow oneself to test it. In 1993 the rap group Brand Nubians had a song called “Love Me Or Leave Me Alone” and that is exactly what Oud 27 says to me. You’ll either get it or you won’t. My suggestion is to give it a try. Let time and your body manipulate the scent. It continually changes and nestles into your skin. I love it, but will you?

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Meet David Hart

David Hart

From the moment I spotted David on the street, I was intrigued by his look. Its kinda nerdy, but very confident and modern as bowties are quite trendy. He was gracious enough to allow me to take his picture (I’m sure he gets that all the time) and as it turns out, he is a neckwear designer (David Hart & Co.). In retrospect, that makes sense, not only was his tie perfectly done, but with that type of coordination, creativity can’t be to far behind. Anyhow, I had to stop him as I had a hunch he appreciated fragrance. Man, was I right. Read on…

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?

My earliest recollection of fragrance was definitely the original Polo by Ralph Lauren. Aside from the fragrance which I would still consider classic and timeless, the bottle was such a great design. The loden green with antique gold was stunning. In my opinion, fragrance is great because it creates something unique to its wearer and it essentially becomes an integral piece of someone’s wardrobe.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?

Lately I’ve been on a huge Creed kick. Currently I’m back and forth between Green Irish Tweed and Tabarome. I love the long history behind Creed and its fans like Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Princess Grace. I’m also pretty obsessed with Malin+Goetz’s Lime Tonic and Polo Black. I’m very big on aftershave. Learning the proper way to shave from my Dad at a young age was a right of passage for me. I shave with a cut throat and love all the products like shave soap, pre-shave oil, and creams from The Art of Shaving to Barbasol and Old Spice.

How often do you go out looking for something new? What specifically do you look for?

I usually shop for new fragrances when the old ones run out. I think the next time I am looking for something I will probably stop by Le Labo. I like the idea of creating something that is uniquely mine and a little more exclusive.

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?

I repeated a buy for a fragrance once and it was the original Polo. It never goes out of style

How would you finish this statement. “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?

My most memorable fragrance moment would be using fragrances as a way of studying for tests. I remember being in high school and learning about Pavlov response mechanisms and from then on I would study wearing a fragrance and the day of the test I would wear that same fragrance as a way to associate the memory of studying with the test at hand. It seemed to work very well.

Gentlemen, that is why I love fragrance. It has the ability to touch us in so many ways. Thanks for sharing David.

Inviting and Warm

Today was one of those days – you open your eyes, the rain is beating on the window and you say to yourself, “why must I get out of bed today.” Then you pull the covers off and reality kicks in.

After taking a shower and figuring out what to wear on this most dreary day I thought to myself as I was looking for a fragrance, “warm and inviting.” As I reflect, I’d say that was an interesting choice of words but I guess it was spurred by the weather. As I thought about what to spray on, it came to me Vanille 44 by Le Labo.

I bought Vanille 44 while I was in Paris. Le Labo had the clever idea to release exclusive fragrances in a few cities and Paris was one of them. Prior to purchasing it, I thought to myself, I’m going to buy this thing no matter what it smells like…I mean why not, you can only get it in Paris. So off my lady and I trekked to Colette from the Champs-Elysees with our map in hand and the happiness of child on their way to Toys R Us. Man…when I got there I was busting with excitement, but I was quickly let down by the rudeness of one of the sales people. The only thing that stopped me from slapping this young lady was my up bringing and the thought of the French police screaming at me while in handcuffs…not a good look. Anyhow, after spraying a bit on myself and letting it settle, I wasn’t immediately overwhelmed by it. Was I expecting more, was it to simple…I’m not quite sure. So with the attitude, realizing just how much I was about to spend because of the weak American dollar and the lackluster first impression, I abruptly left. Man was I disappointed. My day came crashing down. I came all this way and didn’t get the one thing I wanted to leave with. FCUK. As the day wore on, I could not stop smelling my wrists. The more I smelled them the more intrigued I became. Sweet, woody, tasty, sweet but woody…unusual but interesting. Long story short, 3 days later I went back to Colette and bought it.

This post took a while to come to me but warm and inviting is just what Vanille 44 is to me. While some perfumers can be obsessed with duplicating what an actual flower is supposed to smell like, Vanille 44 is far from being a purely vanilla scent. It smells familiar and that’s because notes include bergamot, incense and bunch of other goodies. That combination of the sweet and woody scents really play a number on you…as a young lady in the shop said, “hmmm, that’s nice.”