On the scent | Monocle

thumbnail text

Le Labo Fragrances

Kyoto’s historic wooden machiya townhouses are not always treated with the respect they deserve. But this hasn’t been the case for a 150-year-old, family-owned former saké brewery by the Kamo river, which has been turned into a new home for New York-based fragrance brand Le Labo Fragrances.


The atmospheric old building has been renovated with a light touch: door frames and walls have been left in a comfortably worn state and nothing feels overly restored. “It was about finding the right balance between preserving the past and bringing in new life,” says Deborah Royer, Le Labo Fragrances’s president and chief creative officer. The courtyard garden has been revived, while the old kura storehouse at the back has been turned into a small coffee stand. A tatami-mat room upstairs hosted a Kyoto calligrapher for the opening and will be used to welcome other craftsmen in the future. “We always try to connect with local artisans,” adds Royer, who tends to opt out of releasing traditional ad campaigns. “We don’t overdo the explanations; we try to [focus] everything around the fragrances.”

Royer, who grew up on a farm in France, has long had a soft spot for Japan and its wabi sabi aesthetic. “We only use high-quality ingredients and work with small businesses and family-owned farms.” Ingredients come from all over the world, including cardamom from Guatemala, roses from Grasse, bergamot from Italy and sandalwood from a farm in Australia. “There are many similar products in the world, so if we’re going to offer something, it has to be different and resonate with us,” adds Royer, who can spend more than three years developing a fragrance.

Le Labo Fragrances was bought by Estée Lauder in 2014 but Royer is confident that she can retain the brand’s identity. “I feel good about respecting the original intention and focusing on our craft.” 


Italian footwear and accessories label Santoni is going full steam ahead with its expansion plans. After setting up shop in London’s Harrods in 2023, executive president Giuseppe Santoni is now plotting openings in Paris, Zürich and Dallas later this year. “We want to better understand our customers’ needs and offer them the best service available,” says Santoni. “ That’s part of the luxury experience. Having this physical touchpoint is the best way to get closer to your consumer.”


The brand is best known for its smart leather loafers, which are crafted in its own manufacturing facility in Italy’s Marche region. The shoes stand out for their rounded-toe silhouettes, buckle embellishments and nature-inspired colour palettes, and have been enjoying a resurgence as fashion returns to formality. “The younger generation seem to be drawn to them,” adds Santoni. “Trainers are part of everyday life but we can offer more formal shoes that are equally as comfortable by blending craft with innovation.”

Santoni has also been working on expanding its men’s offering, as well as bolstering its women’s and leather-goods ranges. These unisex leather slides, featuring double-buckle straps, make for an elegant off-duty staple.

Dior Men’s


Accessories have always been a focus for Dior, one of the largest businesses in the lvmh portfolio, with menswear artistic director Kim Jones creating hits including smart shoulder bags for work and modern-day iterations of the Saddle bag. The new Dior Gravity capsule extends to travel-friendly styles and introduces a new type of grained leather, featuring the house’s signature Oblique motif. The material has been used across backpacks, messenger bags and leather goods in a palette of blacks, beiges and khakis. We have our eye on the weekender tote – ideal for short getaways.


Alma Veragouth had been dreaming of opening a menswear shop for some time. She had been running Avart, her Lugano-based womenswear boutique for more than a decade when the opportunity to expand came up. It was too good to ignore. “It was difficult to get the space; there were seven other candidates,” says Veragouth. But she prevailed and Avart’s new menswear shop opened its doors earlier this year after six months of renovation work.


It is housed in an elegant building with huge, curved windows and continues Veragouth’s work of bringing niche, high-end brands to the Italian-speaking Swiss city. Veragouth, who worked in fashion in her native Kazakhstan before moving to Switzerland, picked labels such as Nigel Cabourn, rrl, Studio Nicholson and Salvatore Piccolo for the new boutique. She recently returned from a trip to Japan – part-holiday, part-research mission – and spoke of her deep affinity for Japanese and American brands, pointing to her selection of favourites, including Orslow and Engineered Garments.

She is equally fond of refined interiors and hired renowned designer Bruno Keller to work on the shop’s refit. Keller created a warm space, which includes a mezzanine with wooden accents and recessed neon lighting from Italy’s Viabizzuno. Look out for the area featuring shoes, bags and accessories, and the cosy corner where you can kick back on an Eames lounger with a magazine or book from the shop’s selection. “The idea is to create a multicultural, intellectual space,” says Veragouth.



French luxury house Hermès is delving deeper into the world of beauty, with a growing perfume-and-cosmetics line. It has quickly gained the approval of connoisseurs thanks to its best-in-class formulas, playful colour palettes and pristine packaging. The label recently released Herbes Vives, the third instalment in its h24 perfume line. The scent, created by Swiss perfumer Christine Nagel, evokes the fresh, earthy aromas of the natural world following heavy rainfall. The fragrance blends notes of sorrel, hemp and parsley with pear granita and fresh mint. The perfume’s light-green and refillable glass bottle is also striking.

Share on:






Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • Global Music