Monday 17 April 2023


A picture of perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer

The third of my lost pandemic interviews comes from December 2019, just before we entered the two years of uncertainty. I met with perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer in Paris, in the sight of the famous Sacré-Coeur, but neither of us knew what was to follow. So, three and half years later, it’s finally time to discover her fragranced memories and scented secrets as we revisit Nathalie’s “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
I come from a family where nobody was really into fashion or perfume, and I was almost a kind of tomboy. One day I went into a perfume store and the assistant sprayed Opium. When I came out onto the street I was struck, I had a revelation, an epiphany, I couldn’t believe a fragrance could be so powerful, so beautiful, so incredible. I was also a little frightened because, as I was a tomboy, I didn’t feel that I should like this chi-chi French stuff. It took me a year to save enough money to buy a bottle. But I never wore it, I only smelled it from the bottle.

Vintage advert for Arpege perfume by Lanvin
What perfumes did your parents wear?
My mother didn’t wear a lot of perfume, but there are still two that I always remember on her. Miss Dior, which was so wonderfully elegant, always reminds me of my mum. Also Arpège. Even though I wasn’t into chi-chi myself, I liked the smell on her. My father never wore perfume though.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
Once I started my perfume training at eighteen I didn’t really wear perfume, but the company I was working for did keep giving me Opium for free! Since those beginnings, I’ve always tended to wear whatever I was working on, to see how it performs on the skin during the day and the night. So, unfortunately, I don’t really have a specific perfume that reminds me of my twenties.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
When I was working on Eau des Merveilles with Ralf Schwieger the brief was very specific, and wasn’t what was on trend at the time. That creative vision was completely down to Veronique Gautier. She had very definite ideas, but I kept trying to make it a little more commercial. So I kept adding pink pepper, sparkling notes, and she said jokingly to me once, “Nathalie, you do that one more time and I kick you out forever”. In the end, the fragrance we released was still at a stage that was difficult for me personally to like, but its success was testament to Veronique’s amazing vision.

Vintage advert for Opium perfume by YSL
You can only choose one perfume?
Oh that is too difficult. There are so many. To be honest, I still have an incredible fascination for Opium. When I smell it now I still think “wow”. Even after all of these years, there are still layers in it that are waiting to be discovered. I suppose I also like to keep the mystery of Opium alive.

What perfume should I try?
Oh gosh that is hard. I would say that there are three that I found brought something interesting to the market when they launched. I was always impressed by Feminité du Bois by Serge Lutens, Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford, and Terre d’Hermes, but if I had to recommend one of mine then I would say… all of them! Seriously, each one has a story of which I am very proud. However, I’d say to try Essence du Sérail by Sous le Manteau. It’s a totally crazy perfume that has an exciting love/hate response, and I would say to try this one if you want to be on a totally different planet. For me it’s almost impossible to wear because once I have it on my skin I have to stop everything I’m doing, because it's so powerful.

For more information about Nathalie Feisthauer and her latest releases you can visit her website at

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