Monday 15 March 2021


How do you begin to describe Isaac Mizrahi? He’s a designer, an actor, a TV host, a writer, and a producer... and he is also unbelievably funny. Born in Brooklyn, he was torn between fashion and theatre, so decided to do both. He received early backing from Chanel, had a client list that included Naomi Campbell and Liza Minnelli, and also does the perfect imitation of Barbra Streisand. Isaac eventually released his autobiography, I.M. A Memoir, in 2019 but I wondered what extra scented secrets we’d discover during “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
The first scent I can remember was in temple when I was very little on Saturday evening. It was a ritual called Havdala, which is the ending of the Sabbath, and it was a scent they used; it was a rosewater blend and I remember it was the one thing I liked about Judaism. I wasn’t one who liked observing Sabbath and so the smell of that rosewater meant it was at an end!

What perfumes did your parents wear?
When I was a little boy my mother wore Fracas, which was a fragrance by Robert Piguet. I was mad about it, and I remember her getting dressed up in the wonderful clothes of the period - it was the late 1960s. I can clearly remember one fabulous Normal Norell sailor inspired pajama look she got at Loehmann’s, which was the first designer discount store ever. Fracas was the essence of tuberose, and about twenty years ago I bought myself a small bottle. Whenever I want to remember my childhood I take it out and wear a tiny bit. It’s very strong!

What was the perfume of your twenties?
When I was bar mitzvah’ed I got a large bottle of the Halston men’s fragrance in that unbelievable Elsa Peretti bottle. I think it was called Z-14. I remember being thrilled by the idea of having the scent but I didn’t like it. It smelled like all the men I knew who were not very nice to me, men in the neighbourhood who were bullies. I still have the bottle! When I was twenty or so I worked at Perry Ellis, who was himself a real anglophile. I was in London during that period, I’d say I was twenty one or twenty two, and influenced by him I bought a bottle of Hammam Bouquet from Penhaligon. It’s been one of my signature scents ever since.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
I was obsessed with one of the Guerlain perfumes, which I learned was a huge favourite of Diaghilev’s, and I wore it all the time even though I didn’t actually like it. [The perfume was Mitsouko, and Diaghilev reportedly used to perfume not just himself but also the curtains wherever he was staying.] There was also that tea rose craze in the 1990s which was so overbearing.

You can only choose one perfume?
If I were only to use one it would have to be Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien.

What perfume should I try?
There is a very obscure Chanel fragrance that was launched in the 1950s called Cuir de Russie, which my mom used to wear and then stopped. I thought they’d discontinued it but then I found out that it was still available as part of their Les Exclusifs range. A while back I wanted to smell it again so I got a bottle, and it’s incredibly modern in that it smells so unisex.

For more information about Isaac Mizrahi you can visit his website at where you’ll find details of his upcoming tour. His autobiography, I.M. A Memoir, is available from all good bookshops.


  1. Didn't like Mitsouko?? Say it isn't so! :-) I love it, my #1 favorite actually but in my experience among my friends it seems like the ones who really love it have strong personal associations with it.

    1. Hello Jeannine, Mitsouko is so unmistakable that it does form a big scent memory for many people. I used to wear it as well, although it's now one that's confined to the storage crate. Best, Stephan

  2. Bravo for Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien!

    1. Hello Jim, Eau d'Hadrien is such a classic scent and definitely one that should be in everyone's collection. Hope you're keeping well. Best, Stephan