Goutal celebrates four decades of fragrance – Camille Goutal & Isabelle Doyen in conversation

The house of Goutal Paris have been celebrating an incredible forty years of fragrancing the world – their scents from the get-go regularly among most-often mentioned in glossy magazines as being worn by celebrities, and their gender-inclusive, forward-thinking fragrances helping to revolutionise the perfume industry before ‘niche’ was a description on anyone’s lips.

Annick Goutal dedicated her early life to playing the piano, with the dream of being a pianist, but turned, instead, to a differing dream that had been denied to her early on – creating fragrances and opening her own perfumery. That dream, as we now know, became a reality, and her legacy lives on through her daughter, Camille Goutal, and Isabelle Doyen – the perfumer who helped shape and bottle those dreams for both mother and daughter.

And it’s quite some legacy. Indeed, I remember the moment my nose woke up in the late ‘80s. I was on a perfume shopping trip in London with my mum, sniffing everything. I came across a bottle of Goutal Eau d’Hadrien and my eyes lit up, it was so vibrant! Unlike anything else I’d smelled. Many years later, now a fragrance writer, I took a trip to Paris with two other journalist friends. We made a beeline for the Goutal boutique on the Rue de Castiglione – it was like walking into a contemporary cathedral of scent! And smelling Eau d’Hadrien again, it was as fresh and new as that first time. It made me smile. I felt like a child in a sweet shop again.

Funnily enough, sweet shops feature in the inspiration behind the iconic Goutal bottles and luxury packaging, just one of the insider secrets I learned while listening to Camille in discussion with the brilliant nose, Isabelle, who’s had that longstanding and deeply rooted working relationship with Goutal since 1985. I could quite honestly listen to these two woemn talk all day, but that would fill a book, and you can learn much more about their history in our page dedicated to Goutal Paris; so, for now, here are a smattering of some of the choicest treats from their fascinating and so-insightful conversation that revealed scented secrets behind the perfumes, where the inspiration for the ribbons came from, and even a battle with Elizabeth Taylor…!



Annick Goutal


Camille Goutal: ‘My mother wasn’t meant to be a perfumer, but there were very few female perfumers in the 1980s. My grandfather was very strict and decided he wanted my mother to be a chemist. Mum rebelled as a teenager and went to London to become a model but got bored of that and came back to Paris. She sold prints in a little shop and wanted to fragrance them – and this is how she first met the world of perfumery. The brand is like her, she was beautiful and full of emotion, sensitivity, but with no compromises. She wanted to make people dream, to make them happy with fragrance. For Eau d’Hadrien, she was inspired by the Emperor Hadrien and his travels through the Mediterranean.’

Isabelle Doyen: “She was always telling me about the cypress brances she loved to crush and smell the leaves of. If you think of ‘dHadrien you can really smell the cypress, a fizziness of citrus with mandarin, but also the woodiness. When it was launched, you really didn’t have any niche brands!’



Camille: ‘The second shop my mother opened, was on the Rue de Castiglione. My mother would take me to Angelina (a tea and chocolate shop) at teatime when I visited, along with Isabelle. I have such happy memories of these trips. Emotions and memories are at the heart of the brand. My mother created fragrances inspired by love – the main source of her inspiration – and happiness. She found happiness in her life, I could hear her laughing with Isabelle all the time!’

Isabelle: ‘We had such fun together, to me these are ‘smiling perfumes’.’

Camille: ‘Absolutely! There was always fun, and adventures… One time my mother travelled to New York to defend her ‘Passion’ fragrance against the one Elizabeth Taylor had later launched, with the same name. In fact this trial made my mother famous in America because she won the case and it was reported in the newspapers!’

‘The bows on the first and the anniversary bottles were another wink to the past – my father was a chocolatier and at Christmas and Easter he’d get in coloured velvet to tie around the boxes, so I’m sure my mother was inspired by that. Petit Cherie was the name my mother gave me, and I recently found that it was also the name my grandfather called her – I discovered letters to my mother from my grandfather, which all began ‘To my petit Cherie…’ The Petit Cherie fragrance she made for me is actually a younger version of Ce Soir Ou Jamais. They are so important to me, these connections, these threads.’


Annick / Camille


Isabelle: ‘That thread carries through. It was really easy to work with Camille, right away, it was natural as she is so like her mother to work with. She’s been surrounded by perfume all her life. And after all, I watched her grow up!’


By Suzy Nightingale

Camille Goutal & Isabelle Doyen in conversation

Powdery, silky and sexy in that seemingly effortless, so Parisian way, Goutal‘s just-launched Étoile d’une Nuit joins Tenue de Soirée and Nuit et Confidences in Goutal’s ‘Night Birds’ collection. For us, it embodies a sense of neglieés and déshabillé dressing room glamour via rose, iris, a kiss of raspberry and swooningly soft leather.

Continuing our shameless revelling in the be-ribboned boudoir theme of our recently published magazine, The Scented Letter, ‘We’ll Always Have Paris,’ it was an honour to sit and speak with Camille Goutal and perfumer Isabelle Doyen, to discuss the inspiration and creation of this scent, and to ask if they shared any memories – as we certainly do – of that childhood longing to be grown up and glamorous; lusting after dressing tables and their mysterious contents.

Our discussion revealed the most poignant perfumed memories, for Camille, of her mother Annick; and the sweetest memory for Isabelle, when she believed grown up, glamorous women could naturally create a cloud of scent at will…

Isabelle Doyen has watched Camille Goutal grow from the young girl who delighted in daring to wear heady perfumes she created, and dressing up in her glamorous mother’s leopard print shoes; to successfully stepping into those shoes many years later, when Annick Goutal sadly passed away and bequeathed the now world-renowned perfume house to her beloved daughter. It’s so much more than a working relationship, and when they talk it feels like family. The fragrances, too, are extended family members, it seems, and inspired by precious memories…

Camille: ‘Most of our fragrances are constructed by the inspiration of memory, that’s true, and so vital for Goutal – they all have roots in experiences we draw on for the creation. This one differs slightly because for its creation we imagined the woman first who would wear it. For Étoile d’une Nuit we wanted to go back to a certain type of woman who’s sexy in her own way…’

Isabelle: ‘Maybe more romantic…’

Camille: ‘Yes, perhaps it’s Petite Cherie who’s now grown up into a bit of a starlet.’

Did they think there was a comeback for more feminine fragrances, in a market that’s seen so many ‘shared’ or ‘genderless’ fragrances of late?

Isabelle: ‘We do have a lot of mixed fragrances in the house but yes, I think this is more overtly feminine.’

Camille: ‘My mother launched Eau d’Hadrien and it was one of the first gender free fragrances I think, but yes here we wanted to celebrate the power and confidence of femininity. I see in my own daughters how different they are, the oldest is very confident and knows her own mind, she’s just like ‘here I am!’, the younger is lacking in confidence because she’s still finding out who she is.’

Isabelle: ‘It’s interesting now in this Instagram age, because I see my own daughter following these beautiful models, and she wants everything they have. So she’ll say, ‘Mum you need to go to Victoria’s Secret and get me this perfume because it’s what she’s wearing!’ So you know, I go and get them, but every time she comes back to wearing Petite Cherie I’m very glad to say!’

At The Pefume Society, we were already obsessed by fragrances as children (you will be unsurprised to learn), so was it the same for Camille, growing up surrounded by them?

Camille: ‘Fragances were so part of my everyday life that they weren’t as mysterious as lipstick, for example. I dared wearing very heavy fragrances when I was young, but my mother told me I wasn’t allowed to wear lipstick. And of course what’s forbidden is always more exciting…

I remember stealing my mum’s lipstick and trying to put it on, but ended up smearing it halfway across my face, and then putting my tiny feet in her leopard print shoes – slipping around in them, trying to be her. When my mother and Isabelle where creating Grand Amour she would wear so much of it around the house, you could smell the trail of her – and I have this particular image of my mother wearing that perfume whenever she went out for a glamorous occasion or special meal, so the excitement of the occasion was bound up in the smell of that scent.

Usually she wore fragrances that she and Isabelle were creating but one day she tried wearing Estée Lauder Youth Dew – and it was a nice scent but it wasn’t HER. She did also sometimes wear Guerlain fragrances, and I liked those on her, she loved those. She was just this very glamorous woman, the kind who walked into a room and all eyes were on her. I remember seeing men’s jaws drop, and realising the power of the overall impression you give – the clothes and attitude, yes, but also what you leave behind… that trail of perfume.’

Isabelle: ‘It was a very different experience for me, because my parents weren’t at all in the perfume world, so I had no knowledge of fragrance or what it was, growing up. When I was six years old we lived in Tahiti, and there, nobody wore perfumes during the day because it was so hot, it just wasn’t the culture.

One day, my mother went into the dressing room before an evening out, and came out with these red Helena Rubenstein lips. But what I remember most is her emerging from that place with… something around her. I asked my father, ‘what IS that?!’ My mother laughed and said ‘Oh, that is my perfume’. But I didn’t know what that was. I thought it was because she was a grown woman and somehow had naturally exuded this incredible smell – perhaps this was something all grown were able to do?

And then one day her equally glamorous friend came for tea. She was wearing red lipstick and huge earrings too, and had this… something around her. And so I asked again, what is that? And she also laughed and said it was her perfume. For some time I imagined that when I was a grown woman I’d be able to make this gorgeous smell just magically appear. Many years later I found out the ‘somethings’ were either Guerlain Mitsouko or Rochas Femme for my mother, and Miss Dior for her friend. And that they didn’t just magically appear from a woman’s body – they had been created by someone.

Now, that someone is me…!’

Fascinatingly, for my boudoir-themed feature in the latest edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, named We’ll Always Have Paris, and before this interview took place, I’d chosen not only Goutal’s Etoile d’Une Nuit, but also looked back to Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Rochas’ Femme for inspiration. Clearly, there’s something in the DNA of these fragrances that echoes through the ages as a kind of unrestrained, confident femininity; found in the pots and powders, frills and furbelows of a woman’s most private, perfumed lair.

Goutal Étoile d’une Nuit £89 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at johnlewis.com

Written by Suzy Nightingale