Nathalie Feisthauer has been cheerfully writing her new book of fragrances (not a chapter!) as an independent perfumer, since 2014! You might know her work reaching back to 1986, from the range of Azzaro, Cartier, and Versace while she was working for Givaudan, or drool over her niche fragrance creations as I do over the Putain des Palaces for Etat Libre de Orange (2006) for example, but let’s see what’s Nathalie doing here (in around 30 countries, to be precise), and now.
We had many “now” moments before this interview, brief meetings during Esxence in Milan, and chatted frequently about some of her creations. Nathalie invited me to come to Paris and visit her eclectic and already famous LabScent studio in Montmantre, featuring a fabulous rooftop with a view but life happened, and funny enough, we managed to finally meet and spend some time together – in Dubai, during Beautyworld Middle East 2023!
Nathalie was extremely busy during her stay in Dubai, being a member of the jury for Beautyworldthe ME Awards, but what brought us (finally!) together was – coffee! We briefly met one afternoon after the Fair at Starbucks, and when she heard that the coffee served in my hotel is great, Italian style, and served on a lovely terrace, we immediately had a coffee date set for the next day! Yes, good coffee brings people together…
We chatted, exchanged impressions about Beautyworld ME Dubai, and rushed off to get ready for the Awards evening.
I won’t list all of Nathalie Feisthauer‘s achievements and creations here – the list is so long and impressive! A Master Perfumer, a first Givaudan (then Roure Bertrand Dupont) trainee not being the fifth, sixth, or seventh-generation perfumer in a family coming from Grasse, roaming around New York during her Estee Lauder years, she chose, after thirty and some years – a path less traveled for someone as “corporate” as she was.
The drive to create scents that make sense led to going independent and LabScent was born. In an ancient art gallery, a fresh flame of passion began to burn brightly.
She still remembers how it all started, 40 years ago: thanks to Opium (YSL) her dream started to come true. A life-changing perfume it was for her, a trigger that ignited passion, inspiration, grit, and a strong drive to create perfume. One to rule them all – she still smiles when you mention Opium, the vintage, first editions of course, her eyes sparkling with sheer love. She smiles a lot when talking about her recent creations, trips around the world, old and new clients, and yet her feet are firmly on the ground.
Back to here and now! This is what we talked about:
The Plum Girl: What are your impressions of the Beautyworld Middle East 2023?
Nathalie Feisthauer: It is huge, a great place to meet people, and to see the new brands. It was impressive! I was happy to finally have a coffee with you!
TPG: Can you single out the most important niche fragrance trend(s) currently in the Gulf region, in your opinion?
Nathalie Feisthauer: Oudhs are still very present, and also they like to fusion Arabic and Western tastes… It is a mix of traditional oudhs and very modern fusions. But overall GCC countries are still super dynamic, perfume-loving, and have a „nice“ budget, so it is very nice to be here.
TPG: How long and elaborate were your formulations 20 years ago, and how long are they now? What influenced the reduction of the length of your formulas? Was it a process that gradually took place over the years?
Nathalie Feisthauer: I tend to be more and more precise. To my mind, having a short formula is not the purpose, per se, however, I enjoy having „written“ formulas and I want to keep their energy, their stories, even after working on them. I think we can lose the heart of the formula if we constantly add different ingredients while working on it.
TPG: Could you share the number of perfumes you’ve created for various niche brands in 2023? I also noticed numerous nominations and awards for your creations.
Nathalie Feisthauer: This year, I launched many perfumes in collaboration with various brands. A lot more were supposed to be launched this year and got delayed for next year (2024). The ones that launched this year are the following:
Saphir Du Bois for J’Elle Bulan Creations; Be Rosy and Be Earnest for Rosy&Earnest; The Diamond Garden for TZARINAH; Queen’s Gambit for THUNYAN; The hand cream Jazz Night and Amorgos for Buris in Korea; Passion Riveira and Santal de Paris for Place de la Rêverie; Eau de Manufacture for Joseph Duclos; Santal Nirvana for Maison Rebatchi
Papilio for Puredistance; The Chaud Maple for TSICY; Antelope, Gardenia, and Rose for CZAR,
and there are more to come !!!
I was also honored to be nominated as an Awards finalist for past creations, such as the following fragrances :
– Taboo by Alendor, finalist at the FiFi Russian Niche Fragrance Awards
– The second place for Peilan by TSICY at the Golden Osmanthus Awards 2023
– Oud Latté by LÔR, finalist at the Beautyworld Middle East Awards 2023
– Serotonial by Kalit, awarded at the Elle Norge Beauty Awards 2023
– Be Rosy by Rosy&Earnest, which won the Global Green Beauty 2023 and has been chosen for the best perfume for 2024 by RETAILBOSS
– Sweet Taboo by Chris Collins, chosen by Robb Report for the 10 best long-lasting
So it was a pretty busy year with a lot of creations, but also travels – like Italy, Kuwait, Singapore, China, and notably Dubai for the Beautyworld Middle East Awards 2023!
TPG: As a perfumer, you are obliged to learn constantly. Could you name two unusual and not-so-widely used raw materials you used recently that managed to thrill you? Which ones and why?
Nathalie Feisthauer: Carrot seeds. I like the vibrancy of this interesting ingredient and its luminous tone. Sichuan Pepper too, in which I love the freshness, and the unique scent. I like to „know“ my palette well, and to know how to use all the raw materials it contains.
TPG: What do you enjoy the most in your work here and now?
Nathalie Feisthauer: What I like is the dialogue with the Art Directors. It is always easier and more interesting to have a shaped idea, with a defined story. I love to listen to my clients, to understand their points of view, but sometimes, I can also show them another perspective based on their ideas, therefore it is a two-way collaboration. Perfumes, which are on the market, are always a balance of what I create and what they like.
TPG: How would you describe your current „way of writing“, style, and expression?
Nathalie Feisthauer: My fragrant handwriting is precise, memorable, with a story, sometimes walking on a less traveled path, but also wearable. I don’t like overdosing on some „weird“ ingredients just for the sake of being different! Perfumes still need to be beautiful and nice to wear.
TPG: Did you ever feel not compatible with a client/brand brief/creative idea and how did that result?
Nathalie Feisthauer: Of course! I don’t „push“, being independent is also having the liberty to say no.
TPG: Your perfume philosophy: art vs. technique? Perfume as art versus commodity?
Nathalie Feisthauer: Both, but if you aim at creating art without technique, you will not be able to go too far. You need a strong technique to be free to express yourself. Nowadays, with GC you can „win“ even if you are not a good perfumer…
TPG: If I were your intern, what would be the first thing I’d hear from you? What would you want me to unlearn and what would you want me to learn first and foremost about perfume creation?
Nathalie Feisthauer: The most important thing when you start creating perfume is to have a solid creation basis before trying to reach your ideal, your wildest dreams. You must work hard to have more possibilities in the future. So you need work, talent, and some… luck. Or better said, you need to work hard to be able to get lucky.
TPG: If I asked you to wrap up your professional 2023 and describe it in five words, what would these be?
Nathalie Feisthauer: Very busy, with a lot of brands and fragrances already out, others launching soon. Well-traveled, too.
TPG: In just a couple of words: what are your professional plans and expectations for 2024?
Nathalie Feisthauer: I want to keep going in the same rhythm. Companies all over the world suffered from the pandemic, inflation, etc. recently. But we are still here, alive and kicking, and I hope we will all have good conditions and predispositions to keep working and creating, and to keep sharing our passions and dreams.
I’m at the „Right Place“ here and now. I enjoy (again!) my work. I need to have a deeper meaning in life when I create perfumes. This is a privilege for which I am grateful.
This lady knows what she’s doing, and she’s having fun! Thank you, Nathalie. As I write this, my SOTD is Papilio by Puredistance: oh, what a beauty! Have you tried it yet? I’m absolutely smitten by its poetic beauty…created by Nathalie.
If you want to know how Privilege smells, try Nathalie’s creation for Der Duft.
These photos provided by LabScent are new, never published before. Nathalie did a photo session just a couple of days ago, so you are the first to see them!
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