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How This Local Fragrance Lab Creates Holiday Season Scents Like No Other

Oo La Lab is Singapore's very own bespoke perfumery that goes beyond the usual pumpkin spice. Here, we pick up more than a few notes about fall fragrance notes.

Fragrances are personal. Extremely personal. Anyone who has ever been fragrance shopping with a gal pal will know that what works for you might put her off – and vice versa. In fact, forget the gal pal. What may tease your senses at the store one day may end up at the back of your vanity because it smells completely different from that first spray. This is why I never buy fragrances as gifts – it’s too much of a risk. What’s more, sometimes ready-made fragrances just don’t seem to cut it. Your current scent of the mo may just lack a certain something that you can’t point out. You go through several more different fragrances, but you just can’t seem to settle on your one true scent to have and to hold.

Enter bespoke fragrances. Look, we know that bespoke fragrances don’t come easy. They’re pricier than what you can get at the store, that’s for sure. But in exchange, you get a scent that not only suits your tastebuds like a glove, it is also  uniquely yours. When you leave the room – as the French say, sillage – people will know that you were just through. There’s something so sexy about that.

Bespoke fragrance labs aren’t a dime in a dozen, but thankfully for us, Singapore has Oo La Lab. Established in 2016, Oo La Lab is where you get to create your own signature scent with the help of one of their skilled mixologist or even Terry Jacobson, the official nose behind the fragrance label.

Oo La Lab isn’t your run-of-the-mill, old school perfumery. As I would come to find out from Jacobson at the fragrance lab’s headquarters at Millenia Walk, Oo La Lab is all about capturing. Capturing a moment, an emotion, a memory or even a fabric. (Oo La Lab was behind the scents at the recent Singapore Fashion Week.) Silk, cotton, velvet, suede. It gets crazier. If you’re looking for it, they’ll create it, even if it is the smell of Singapore’s favourite dish – the chilli crab.

With fall and the festive season finally here in full force – in case you’re out of gift ideas already, a bespoke fragrance session will be a gift like no other, believe me – I decided to seek out Jacobson to talk about the mechanics of scent creation, the scent of fall and yes, the oddest scents they’ve had to create to date.

What was the inspiration behind the creating of Oo La Lab?
Being in the perfume industry over a decade, I have worked with brands to create fragrances for their events. The clients have such strong objections or agreements around scent, but have so little knowledge about it. I wanted to create awareness and allow people to channel these emotions by providing a platform. That’s how Oo La Lab came about.


What is your take on fall fragrances? What should they encapsulate in terms of how they make you feel?
Fragrances are very personal and cultural. North Americans are prone to going for sweeter scents like pumpkin spices. While here in Asia, palettes aren’t as sweet – they are more muted and savoury. Tea-based fragrances like green or white tea are very popular. In terms of seasonal fragrances, we do have limited edition notes that we craft time to time. Currently, we are introducing “Pine Forest” – a fresh and herbaceous scent into the current 27 notes.

What are some of your fall-ready scent notes?
We are a little more personal when positioning our fragrances. At this moment, we are inspired by fashion and translated fall fabrics such as suede, velvet and cashmere into scents by capturing the essences and attitudes. Fashion is tangible while scent isn’t, so we investigated the narratives and experiences to create a multi-sensory experience.


How does one get started with creating bespoke scents at Oo La Lab?
Our workshops are typically an hour, where you’ll get acquainted with the 27 scents and decide what you want to achieve at the end. It’s always about the journey and the creative process. Whether you are a working adult or graduate, there’s always a narrative to tell through your scent. What’s great is that you get to label your own scent at the end of it, and there’s always an option to remake or change up the notes in the next bottle!

What is the most interesting note that you’ve had to try to recreate? 
Probably the scent of a burning electric wire, or a jet fuel scent that a client recreated because it reminded him of boarding the plane for holiday. The fun thing about bespoke fragrance is that you can put in scents that you personally love, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty. We are now experimenting with a chili crab candle scent and clients who have smelled it always give such a strong reaction because it tapped into our emotions and experiences. That is so important during scent creation. 


Bespoke fragrances are a rising industry, but there are still a plethora of ready-made fragrances to compete with. What edge do bespoke fragrances have beyond the obvious?
Apart from having an amazing mass produced perfume that takes on the designer’s aspirations, it can’t be applied to everyone. We are living in a time of personalisation and scent itself is so personal and intimate. We now have the ability to customise our fragrance that enhances our moods, and taps into notes that appeals or is meaningful to each individual. Similarly to fashion, we have a fragrance wardrobe to match our moods and for different occasions. We don’t want to be sitting on a massive bottle of fragrance that we won’t finish.

What are some of the common mistakes people make when either choosing or creating their own fragrance?
As we are firm believers of self-discovery and tapping into core ingredients that make sense to you based on your journey and memories. We give our clients a certain structure to design a fragrance, and try not to insert ourselves when someone is creating a fragrance, but it’s really just a matter of balancing out the notes based on harmony (the number of ingredients so it blends in seamlessly) and contrast (the different notes highlighted at different point in time).


What To Read Next: Room Diaries: Irene Kim Takes Us Inside Her Studio In Seoul, 6 Foolproof Ways To Create Stunning Floral Arrangements and There’s More To Scenting Your Home Than You Think | Main Image of Terry Jacobson from Oo La Lab. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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