Monday 17 February 2020


Barbara Herman became well known to the fragrance community through Yesterday’s Perfume, a blog which concentrated on her love of vintage scents. This subsequently inspired her bestselling book, Scent & Subversion, and sowed the seeds for her own perfume range, Eris Parfums. With a fascination for classic fragrances, I wondered what scented secrets Barbara would reveal during “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
I was born in Vietnam, so I can remember the riotous smells of a Saigon market as a small three year old child: Fish sauce, a favourite sour-salty preserved fruit, meat, flowers, herbs, and tropical fruit. This memory makes me feel nostalgic and grateful that I was primed to love complex and not always “pretty” smells and flavours.

Probably my favourite perfume memory was the smell of a seemingly gruff but sweet piano teacher whose coke-bottle glasses, seventies slacks, raspy voice, and quirky personality I loved. Visually, think of Iris Apfel. I think she wore Fracas but, combined with the scent of menthol cigarette smoke embedded in her clothing, it gave off a mix of femininity and toughness, prettiness and roughness, whose combination seemed to reflect her personality.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
It was Lancôme’s Magie Noire. “This is what adulthood smells like: Complex, full of mystery, aspirational.”

What was the perfume of your twenties?
I first smelled Thierry Mugler’s Angel on a friend in San Francisco who rode a motorcycle. I loved the combination, in the fragrance and on her, of sexiness and toughness. I’m sensing a pattern here! I’m not sure I really carried it off, but I wore it for a while. In the other extreme, I also liked ClarinsEau Dynamisante and Creed’s Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse. They were both fresh, but complex and uplifting. I think I wore these for myself and Angel to project to the world.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
Not storing my Prince Get Wild bottle of perfume from the eighties properly! I dropped it, the bottle broke and, even though the scent was terrible, it felt like losing another part of Prince that I’d tried to preserve after his death by buying the perfume.

You can only choose one perfume?
I’ve got many favourites but I guess it oscillates between two Germaine Cellier fragrances, Bandit from Piguet and Vent Vert from Balmain. I feel like the soul of this female perfumer is in those fragrances: bold, beautiful, complex, irrepressibly joyful, and daring.

What perfume should I try?
It would definitely have to be the vintage Rumeur by Lanvin. It’s like pulling back a heavy velvet curtain onto a different time, where complexity, richness, sensuality, mystery, and luxurious ingredients ruled the day.

For more details about Barbara Herman and Eris Parfums, you can visit where the full collection of fragrances is available to view.

[Photograph of Barbara Herman © Caroline Voagen]

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