Nov

SPOTLIGHT: CIRCLE OF CHAMPIONS HONOREES VIRGINIA BONOFIGLIO + STEPHAN KANLIAN

SPOTLIGHT: CIRCLE OF CHAMPIONS HONOREES VIRGINIA BONOFIGLIO + STEPHAN KANLIAN Stephan Kanlian, Virginia Bonofiglio
Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT: CIRCLE OF CHAMPIONS HONOREES VIRGINIA BONOFIGLIO + STEPHAN KANLIAN

SPOTLIGHT: CIRCLE OF CHAMPIONS HONOREES VIRGINIA BONOFIGLIO + STEPHAN KANLIAN Stephan Kanlian, Virginia Bonofiglio

This year’s Circle of Champions event was the first in the Fragrance Foundation’s history to honor educators. Reflecting TFF’s firm belief that access to education is key to building a flourishing and diverse fragrance industry fueled with fresh ideas, the two honorees are top-of-class veteran educators with unsurpassed knowledge about what makes the scent business tick. Virginia Bonofiglio, assistant professor and head of FIT’s undergraduate program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing (CFM), and Stephan Kanlian, professor and head of the college’s graduate program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM), share their insights on the importance of FIT, its relationship with TFF, and education for all. 

Virginia Bonofiglio:

This was the first time that educators have been honored with the Circle of Champions awards.  What did that mean to you?

I have always believed that education is the path to success. 

The recognition by the Fragrance Foundation of the importance of education for the fragrance industry is a confirmation of the importance of educating the next generation, which is FIT’s mantra. I was deeply honored by this award and thrilled that the Fragrance Foundation and its membership values the work we are doing in preparing students for the role they will play in this fabulous industry. I applaud the Foundation’s forward thinking in making education an important part of their ongoing mission to support fragrance as a business, an art form and a societal touchpoint.

What is unique about the programs at FIT?

 FIT’s Fragrance and Cosmetics programs, CFM and CFMM, are built around academic excellence and industry know-how. There are very few college programs that follow the industry as closely as these two programs do. In order to provide the fragrance industry with innovators and game changers we need to offer students a profound understanding of the industry’s current toolkit while providing a pathway to where the industry should be going in the future. 

What has always been most important for you to teach your students about the fragrance industry?

We live in an opti-centric society. Our main way of relating to the world and things around us is by using our sense of sight. This has become even more prevalent during the time of Covid, where our reliance on screens has escalated and our world has become two dimensional. I always start every fragrance class with a review of all of the sensory experiences we need to have in order to enrich our lives. My focus is to drill down to the importance of the sense of smell and the role of the fragrance industry. I confirm for my students that in addition to covering malodors and providing pleasure, fragrances can define a decade and delineate a culture.  

What unifies the undergraduates coming into the program?

The great unifier for our students is their passion for this industry. While there are other universities that offer similar programs FIT has three distinct advantages: cost, location and a fragrance laboratory on the campus. 

Our students are a unique brand of college student that has made a choice about their field of study at the beginning of their college career. Many of them have taken high school classes on the campus and this solidifies their desire to come to FIT for the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing program. We find that students who do not get in the first time they apply, will return and apply the following year.

What is so special to you about your relationship with The Fragrance Foundation?

The Fragrance Foundation has been an integral part of the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing program at FIT since its inception.  Annette Green, President Emeritus of the Fragrance Foundation, was one of the original founders of the CFM program.  It was her vision to create a course of study at FIT that would prepare the next generation of industry leaders. The Fragrance Foundation supported the creation of a Fragrance Studio on the campus of FIT to ensure that the curriculum included a strong commitment to fragrance knowledge.

Linda Levy, current President of the Fragrance Foundation, and her team continue to support the CFM program at FIT, and CFM’s relationship to the Fragrance Foundation remains strong. We share common goals and ideas about the fragrance business. The Fragrance Foundation’s dedication to DEI mirrors FIT’s devotion to the same objective. The Fragrance Foundation FIT Diversity Scholarship demonstrates this mutual commitment. We are both ardent about education and its importance for moving the industry forward.  

We will continue to partner with the Fragrance Foundation to build a like minded community of fragrance enthusiasts including members of industry, students of fragrance, and ardent supporters of the Fragrance Foundation and its mission.

Stephan Kanlian: 

What did being a Circle of Champions honoree mean to you?

It meant everything to me. FIT educators have been very honored over the years to be the “first educator” to represent the beauty industry in many roles, all owing to the investment the industry has chosen to make in not only educating talent for industry, but “educating the educators.”

What attributes do you think are most important for a graduate to succeed in fragrance?  

First: the dual competency of being both analytic and creative, is a foundational benchmark, given the sophistication of consumer science and competitive nature of the business. Second: a global perspective and appreciation of global culture, both for consumer understanding and inspiration. Success in fragrance depends on having the mind of an entrepreneur and the heart of a poet! 

Why and how is a global perspective especially important for your students? 

 The intimacy of fragrance and all beauty products, and their representation of individual expression requires a deep knowledge and nuanced understanding of global culture.  As a former business diplomat, that seemed elemental to me when I became an educator. We normally take the students to six countries in two global regions on their academic field studies.

What do you think are the greatest achievements of the CFMM program? 

 Two things stand out as the lasting legacy of the CFMM Program: the leadership of its graduates as change agents in the re-shaping of industry, and the prescience of the student research in accurately predicting coming shifts in the marketplace and recommending ways to future proof businesses.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the 22 years of heading the program? 

Change is a constant in the consumer space – as fundamental as change in individuals themselves. I like to think of these 22 years as a “generation” and the changes have been generational, indeed: the development of lifestyle marketing, the growth in the sophistication of behavioral and consumer science, the evolution of retail, the blurring of lines of distinction in distribution, the importance of people & planet in measuring profit, the importance of supply chain to innovation, globalization, and the advent of technology have been the hallmarks of this particular epoch of change. 

What do you find most gratifying about teaching? 

I deeply admire the intellect of the fragrance industry, and to be entrusted with educating it’s best and brightest is a great honor. But the gratification of teaching itself, and the joy of watching students discover their leadership voice, is an exceptional privilege. There is no more important role in society to ensure its future than that of “teacher”, whether it is in families, schools, the workplace or volunteer organizations.

 What is so special to you about your relationship with The Fragrance Foundation?  

Without the Fragrance Foundation, these programs at FIT would not exist. It was the support and “push” of industry and President Emeritus Annette Green that established the Bachelor’s program, and her successors have all been believers in education who have partnered with FIT in creating a unique collaboration and the only working fragrance laboratory on a US college campus.  Before Linda Levy led the Foundation, for example, she was an Advisory Board member to the Master’s Program in the early 2000’s while at P&G. That combination of industry insight and academic expertise is the future of education, in my opinion, and what makes the FIT/Fragrance Foundation partnership so visionary and so special in the world of academia. In my heart I am an entrepreneur, and the limitless possibilities of this industry/academic collaboration, and its ability to push the boundaries of normal academic pedagogy, are what feed me as an educator.

Sep

The Reimagineer: Michael Clinton

The Reimagineer: Michael Clinton
Spotlight

The Reimagineer: Michael Clinton

The Reimagineer: Michael Clinton

September 2021

“I appear to have struck a chord,” says Michael Clinton, whose book ROAR Into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late) is currently—and with considerable zeitgeist-capturing buzz—climbing best-seller lists. ROAR (an acronym that stands for four actionable steps towards a more fulfilling future: Reimagine yourself, Own who you are, Act on what’s next, and Reassess your relationships) was born when Clinton stepped away from his role as president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, and it’s an inspirational, motivational exhortation to view growing older as an opportunity to forge new opportunities and experiences. Clinton—an accomplished photographer, pilot, philanthropist, marathon runner, and wine maker—is himself a role model in this regard, and while ROAR may be targeted at the post-50 set, it resonates with anyone looking to re-examine their relationship with work and envisioning moving through the chapters of their life with passion and gusto. Here, Clinton shares his advice with ACCORDS on how to take steps – and yes, even fragrant sniffs – towards a happy future.

You interviewed 40 people who made major life pivots for ROAR. Who did you find most personally inspiring?

We called them Reimagineers. One was a woman named Stephanie Young. She was a book editor for her whole career. She had studied English in college. She was 53 when she decided that she wanted to become a doctor. She applied to American medical schools and she faced a lot of ageism, but she then got accepted to a Caribbean medical school. During that process, she went through a divorce. So, after getting scholarships and grants to fund her education, she went off to the Caribbean on her own in her mid-50s. I thought that took an enormous amount of courage. She’s now in her early 60s and she is a doctor. She had a lot of twists and turns along the way, but she just kept going. She kept pushing forward. She had a great quote: “You can’t read about the top 10 most beautiful futures. You have to find it through yourself, keep the vision, even when you stumble along the way.

You also conducted a huge survey, gauging people’s feelings about their life choices. What were some of the most surprising findings?

We had 630 respondents, a cross-section of people from all kinds of walks of life, and we asked them if they could do a major redo of their life, would they? Seventy-six percent of them said they would, which was a surprise to me. Then we gave them the opportunity to write in what defining moment in their life they would redo. The number one response was, “I would redo my marriage or not marry the person that I married,” which was really interesting. The second was, “I wish I had taken school more seriously so that I could have done more, expanded more, had other opportunities.”

But the majority of people still felt optimistic about future possibilities and things they might do. This gets back to the thesis of the book, that if you’re 50 and you’re healthy, you may live to be 90, and when you pivot out of a first career, you begin to realize that you have another 20, 30, maybe more, years to live. It’s not your father’s or your mother’s retirement.

What can hold people back?

Two things. One is self-imposed barriers. They say, “I coulda, shoulda, woulda” or “I made a mistake and I didn’t do X or I didn’t do Y.” The second thing is self-imposed ageism. They say, “I’m too old to do that.” Where did that come from? In the book, instead of using the term age appropriate, I say person appropriate. Women are having babies at 50. You may decide to adopt in your 50s. You may decide to completely change your career in your 50s. To say you’re too old for something is an old-fashioned way of thinking about it.

What are signs people should be aware of that it might be time for change in their lives?

I think we all have this little nagging voice in the back of our heads when we need change. Generally, what happens is it gets louder and louder and you can ignore it and be dissatisfied or you can confront it and identify it and say, “Okay, I know that I’ve got to leave this profession or this company or this relationship.”

One of my favorite stories in the book is Rob Smith. He wanted to work in social justice, but his father told him, “I’m only going to pay for college if you study business.” So, he studied business, and had a long successful career at Macy’s, but then when he was around 50, he had kind of a meltdown and he said, “I need to check out and think about my life.” He went traveling and did an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, and in a hallucinogenic state, he saw his 16-year-old self and said, “I’m so sorry that I abandoned you.” I thought that was very poetic and also poignant. He came back home and he started the Phluid Project, and moved into the social justice space in his 50s. He’s now thriving and loving it.

What’s your advice for people who feel like they need something new, but don’t know where to start?

What I learned from the interviewees is they identified what it was that they needed to change, then they spent a year-plus going deep into it, really pulling it apart to figure out how they were going to make that change. It wasn’t a spontaneous thing. It was very well thought out. Some of them started creating parallel lives to their existing life by turning a hobby into a passion or starting to freelance. A lot of them went back to school.

You also shared a very nice concept of life-layering to find your passion.

That’s right. If you start building a layer, over time that layer may become your launchpad into a new business, or into becoming an entrepreneur. In the beauty industry, there are lots of examples of people who worked for established beauty companies but then went off and launched their own skincare or fragrance or something else in the beauty world. That’s an example of layering. You learn different aspects of the job you already do. If you’re a marketing person and you’re weak on the financial side, then you can go and take some courses in financial management and start rounding out your business experience.

Do you think fragrance is a tool that can be used to focus, or open up connections that might help someone find their path?

We have to find the triggers that can put us into a state of reflection, introspection—let’s even call it meditation. I think fragrance is a great example of something that inherently brings that out. If you are sitting in your private space and you are reflecting on your life, having an aroma that can help facilitate that is a great tool. Sometimes that’s an applied fragrance. Sometimes that’s a fragrance in a candle.

Fragrances and aromas also invoke lots of memories. My grandmother was a huge influence on me, and when I smell the fragrance she wore, which was Youth Dew, it takes me right back to her wisdom, her advice. It makes me stop and think about her. If you had a powerful mentor or you had a powerful influence in your life and she or he wore something that was comforting to you, it will take you back to thinking about them, and put you in the state of really being able to take a deeper dive into your own life. Maybe it will take you back to a time when you were younger that you had a discussion with someone about what your dreams and aspirations were. You may pick up a thread just from that alone.

Ageism escapes a lot of DEI initiatives. What are your thoughts on how even employers can be more inclusive about age?

A very good point. If you think about it, ageism affects you regardless of your gender, your race, your ethnicity, your religious beliefs. It’s a universal experience that people over 50 have. Part of it is language. Part of it is government and corporate policies that haven’t kept pace with the change that is happening with the dynamic 50-plus cohort. Thirty-four percent of the population is now 50-plus. Every day, 10,000 people turn 65. In 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.

I think that you’re going to see over the next few years a lot of change in policies, government institutions, and corporate policies, especially because a lot of people who are “retirement” age are going to leave a huge gap in employment needs. So you’ll have a lot of people who are 60-plus who are going to be working in different kinds of hybrid roles. There’s going to be a rethink because there are not enough people to fill what will become the jobs that the boomers will be leaving from their first careers.

In the book, instead of talking about retire, we talk about rewire. Instead of talking about getting older, we say we’re living longer. Instead of talking about self-imposed ageism, we focus on self-imposed growthism. Ultimately, things are going to change because the people are going to force change.

Mar

FLOWER POWER: LOUIE SCHWARTZBERG

FLOWER POWER: LOUIE SCHWARTZBERG
Spotlight

FLOWER POWER: LOUIE SCHWARTZBERG

FLOWER POWER: LOUIE SCHWARTZBERG

March 2021

Talk to Louie Schwartzberg for two minutes, and you’ll immediately get caught up in his enthusiasm about the awe-inspiring splendor of flowers and the natural world. Watch one of his films—even for two seconds—and the same thing will happen. Whether with his Moving Art series on Netflix, his Wonder & Awe podcast, or films such as Fantastic Fungi and Wings of Nature, Schwartzberg’s mission is to explore both the magnificence and the minutiae of the planet, inspiring us to look beyond ourselves. This is why he was the perfect partner for the Fragrance Foundation to bring the theme of Fragrance Day 2021—florals—to life.  The award-winning artist and filmmaker has been focusing his gaze, and camera, on flowers for 40 years, documenting them in time-lapse as they progress from buds to glorious open blooms. His flowers blossomed on the Fragrance Foundation’s social media feeds and throughout the Fragrance Day celebrations, providing opportunities for meditative moments on the miraculous, spellbinding glory of nature. “It’s a beautiful way to get people turned on to being more aware, more conscious,” Schwartzberg says. “It’s all about the one-ness of it all. Let life flourish.”

How did your collaboration with the Fragrance Foundation come about?

I think that Linda went to see my film Fantastic Fungi on the big screen when it came to New York, and we connected after that. I always encourage people to see my work on the big screen if they can, because it’s mind-blowing. That’s one way to shift consciousness and to have people open their hearts, and look at life from a different point of view. It’s all about connection, oneness, beauty. People come out of the theater crying, and it’s not a sad movie. But anyway, that’s how Linda and I originally met.

How do the flowers that you filmed for Fragrance Day connect to your work as a whole?

I’ve been on this lifelong journey with my films. Before I did Fantastic Fungi, I did a film called Wings of Life. In it, Meryl Streep tells the story from the point of view of a flower getting it on with bees, bats, hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s really amazing that beauty is nature’s tool for survival, because we protect what we love. Why and how did that happen? Well, billions of years of R&D, figuring out how to make life flourish. And what orchestrates all that? What motivates all of that? I love the fact that it’s beauty. We’re hard-wired to respond to it. And flowers use color, movement, aroma, pattern. All these things trigger the senses of every living being.

A kid might ask, what is a flower? Is it just a pretty little thing? Hell, no. It’s the sexual organ of a plant. And it has evolved over millions of years with pollinators in this beautiful love affair that’s been going on. The flower seduces these messengers. Us included, because we’re slaves to flowers too. We plant flowers by the billions. We’re helping them reproduce. Why? Because they’re beautiful. They make us feel good.

For me, that’s just, as a visual artist, I’m never going to get tired of looking at flowers because no two are alike. Every color is different, the way they move is different, the way they open is different, the way they smell is different. Each one is a completely different journey into an essential experience that makes me present, makes me connect with the divine.

When did you film your first flower?

About four decades ago. I graduated from UCLA as somebody who took fine art and photography and shot a lot of the anti-war protests and fell in love with photography and history. When I got involved with filmmaking, I wanted to shoot in the highest quality format possible, because especially with nature imagery you want high resolution. But it was very expensive back then. I ended up retrofitting these old cameras that were built in the ’30s, and super high quality, that enabled me to film one frame at a time which is what time-lapse is. It really speeds up reality. With flowers, you could shoot for two or three months to get a four minute roll of film. It fit my budget. And nobody had ever shot time-lapse in 35-millimeter before.

But the other aspect of what I was doing was that it was really about capturing a sense of wonder. I wanted to be able to look at life from a different point of view than the arrogant human point of view. When there’s a fly on your arm, it would look at you like a slow-moving giant, because it’s in hyperspace. Its lifespan is maybe a couple of weeks. To redwood, which lives 500 years, we’re the ones in hyperspace. I use the camera as a time machine. It’s something that blows your mind from a scientific point of view, but also from a spiritual point of view, because it changes your perspective to realize that everything has its own way of life on this planet.

What are the biggest challenges in filming flowers this way?

It’s challenging in a lot of ways. I shoot mostly indoors, where I have grow lights and cameras and timers set up. You can’t have wind. You can’t have bugs. I need to keep the flowers happy. And it’s slow. I’ve been going nonstop 24 hours a day, seven days a week for four decades – and I’ve got 16, 17 hours of time-lapse footage.

Do you have any idea how many flowers you’ve filmed in that time?

I would say hundreds. Basically, there’s no rhyme or reason to what I choose to shoot next. There’s a casting couch actually, right outside my room where I have all these little flowers growing. But it’s whatever excites me. I’ll go to the nursery, and see something’s about to bloom. I don’t care what the name of the flower is, it’s just being able to capture its beauty.

I’ve shot some over and over again. Because it starts with a bud. How do I know where it’s going to be, three days from now? How it’s going to open? How big is it going to be? What direction will it move? Part of the joy of doing it is anticipating the future. Like surfing the wave, where do I need to be to catch a wave? It makes you present. It’s a meditation in a way. I really have to understand the flower, look at it, maybe look at others around it. If it’s a little bush or a plant, see how it opened, then I take my best guess when and how it is going to bloom. The joy is when it finally does happen. If it’s beautiful, hooray. Failure, I learned something. There’s a ratio of failure. Probably get one out of six.

Do you have favorite flowers, and favorite flower scents?

I would say when it comes to scent, I’m a sucker for the ones that smell tropical, like plumeria, but they’re all good. And then, pansies are just insane when it comes to their colors. I like those deep dark purples with yellow. The velvety rich color. There’s nothing quite like it.

Watching the Fragrance Foundation flower films has such a calming, meditative quality. Why do you think that’s particularly resonant, given the pandemic?

It’s super valuable because everybody has not been able to travel and go outdoors. And so what I try to do is I try to bring nature into our environment and digital nature is certainly better than nothing at all. It’s not a replacement for the real thing, but it’s still valuable. The other thing that I think is important is, I don’t just show you a picture of a flower. I’m actually showing you a flower move, and open. I’m opening your horizons, to look at things, and take you on a journey through time and scale. It challenges the brain, because it’s like, what am I looking at? Is it real? Is it animation? Is it CGI? That is good. It means it stops you in your tracks and makes you think about it. I’ll tell you, the common reaction I get from people who watch my stuff is they go, “Oh, my God.” And what does that phrase mean? The oh means I stopped you in your tracks. The my means, it touched something deep inside of your soul, and God is universal energy that we all want to get connected to. That to me is the ultimate compliment.

What would you say your greater mission is?

To turn people on. I may have started just because I was seduced by flowers, but when I learned that the bees were disappearing, I made Wings of Life. I needed to tell the story of this love affair, and show how pollination is the source not only of our food supply but the majority of life on our planet. If you take the foundation out of life on the planet, which are the little things in life, the flowers, the bees, the fungi that creates soil, then you’re killing everybody. That would be a giant disaster. They predict we’re going to lose 50% of species in the next 30 or 40 years, which is heartbreaking. But if we lose the bees for example, Einstein said we have less than five years left to live.

The mission is to celebrate life and have life flourish. I need to tell stories that can help make people aware of how amazing the natural world is, and want to protect it and celebrate it and make the right choices, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because they’re emotionally connected to it.

Feb

2021 NOTABLES: THE YEAR AHEAD

2021 NOTABLES: THE YEAR AHEAD
Spotlight

2021 NOTABLES: THE YEAR AHEAD

2021 NOTABLES: THE YEAR AHEAD

February 2021

TFF introduced its inaugural Notables Awards in 2015, and has inducted exceptional individuals, nominated by their colleagues for their contributions to the fragrance community, every year since. On February 10th, 2021, in the first ever virtual Notables ceremony, a new generation joined the growing group. The contribution of Notables is extremely valuable to TFF, not only in their roles as ambassadors to the greater world, but directly, as they weigh in on strategy and generate creative ideas as part of the Notables Think Tank. For this edition of Accords, we spoke to the new inductees about what the honor means to them and what they hope to bring to the table going forward.

“It’s such an honor to be in company with these other young leaders and the brands they represent,” says 2021 Notable CeCe Conner, Marketing Manager, North America for BYREDO. “Being part of 2021 TFF Notable Class is a reminder of all the creativity, passion, and innovative thinking that exists in the fragrance industry today and the exciting future it has.”  Andrea Duarte, Director, Integrated Communications, Shiseido, says that being named a Notable “has been a proud moment, both professionally and personally. Fragrance has always been a part of my life, and it feels like coming full circle to be recognized for the role I play in the industry today. I am honored that my genuine passion for the art of fragrances has translated into the work I do alongside my amazing team.” The thrill of being positioned so that they can share their enthusiasm and ideas with like-minded peers is a sentiment shared by all. Or, as Cailin McCarthy, Director of Marketing, NEST New York puts it, “I love the fragrance industry and feel so lucky to be a part of it. To be recognized within it is mind-blowing.”

The new Notables are unanimously aligned with TFF’s goals for greater inclusion within the fragrance industry, calling it out as something they consider very important going forward. “The Fragrance Foundation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are critical to creating a more welcoming industry environment that’s representative of society around us. I would like to see TFF drive this essential change in the year to come,” says Jessica Leslie, Senior Marketing Manager for Firmenich. Education and mentoring, too, are top of mind for the 2021 Notables, who will be active in connecting with students at their alma maters as well as working with industry fledglings who are learning the ropes. “I think sharing my personal experience and growth in this industry could help to inspire others that are interested in this field. I am looking forward to the Fragrance Foundation mentorship initiative and the opportunity to speak to students at FIT and other local colleges and universities, says Chantell Gerena, Fragrance Development Director, Symrise. “TFF is such an inspiring organization and uniquely positioned as it serves as the mouthpiece for an entire industry. Promoting TFF as an educational resource, especially for young professionals in the industry is something I’m looking forward to taking part in,” says Tim Halle, Marketing Director Fragrances, Christian Dior. “I hope that I’ll be able to connect others with the amazing resources TFF provides.”

Paying forward the guidance that they themselves received is key, too. “I look forward to mentoring people coming up in the industry,” says McCarthy. “I was lucky that I had a handful of incredibly generous people who shared their passion and knowledge.  It makes such a difference when you have someone looking out for you.”

As we all are, the Notables are looking forward to the TFF events of 2021 and beyond, and already have some thoughts about what they would like to see. “In the coming year, I hope to see TFF continue to offer new and exciting educational opportunities, such as Masterclasses that provide the chance to hear and learn from iconic changemakers in the industry, in addition to expanding the knowledge of the fragrance industry as a career path to college students and entry-level candidates,” says Lindsay Tomaro, Senior Manager, PR and Influencer Marketing, Coty. “In a time where many are still working remotely, the coming year offers an excellent opportunity to expand our reach and capitalize on the ability to bring many people together in digital forums.”

But of course, what will be better than finally being able to join together and celebrate IRL? “I simply can’t wait to finally meet and connect with people in person again!” says Leslie. “To be able to bond and chat about what’s next in this industry over a glass of wine is the dream. Second, the opportunity for unexpected discovery or inspiration is so much greater when exploring the world in person. I look forward to doing this again soon.” There will be much to enjoy and share in the months ahead, when even the simplest things will seem revelatory. Like, says Halle, “Being able to have conversations without realizing 30 seconds in that you’ve been on mute the whole time.” Cheers to the Notables class of 2021.

Jan

THE STRATEGY: LINDA G. LEVY & SHARNÉ JACKSON

THE STRATEGY: LINDA G. LEVY & SHARNÉ JACKSON Linda Levy, Sharné Jackson
Spotlight

THE STRATEGY: LINDA G. LEVY & SHARNÉ JACKSON

THE STRATEGY: LINDA G. LEVY & SHARNÉ JACKSON Linda Levy, Sharné Jackson

January 2021

As the fragrance community begins 2021 with a fresh surge of optimism, The Fragrance Foundation is stepping forward to implement a number of initiatives to help make the industry more diverse and accessible. The Fragrance Foundation continues to build upon the progress made with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative (DEI), which was introduced in 2020 with a goal of forging permanent change within the organization and the fragrance world as a whole. For this New Year edition of Accords, Fragrance Foundation President, Linda G. Levy, joins with Senior Director of Events, Education, and Give Back, Sharné Jackson, to discuss the ways in which the Foundation will rally its members—both long-standing and new—to enhance education, accessibility, and engagement, making the fragrance industry stronger and more connected as a result. 

When you decide to introduce something as important as DEI, what is the process?

Linda: 

The Fragrance Foundation is making big strides towards inclusivity. We are embracing all diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, genders and identities. We have a sequence of how we make changes at The Fragrance Foundation. First, I share my vision and strategy with my small but empowered team. Next we brainstorm about what we want to do. Then we translate and articulate it so we can share it in a clear and succinct manner. Then we plan our objectives and actions. Next I propose it to the TFF Executive Committee and with that input I present it for discussion to the TFF Board. Once the board is aligned, we share it with all of our TFF membership, and afterwards we announce it to all in our TFF communications and to outside media. At that time, we open the runway and go into full action mode, as I say, “the plane is taking off.” We’re exactly at that point, the plane is past lift off and in the air, heading for its first landing.

What objectives have you set in place so far? 

Sharné: 

We’ve had several meetings with our Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee and talked about certain initiatives within the community that we want to implement. For 2021, it’s all about action. One of the initiatives that I’m really proud of involves education. I think that from an educational standpoint, young people do not know that working in fragrance is a career. We really want to step up our game. So, we have tasked each of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee point of contacts to find people who work within their companies who have connections with their colleges — to visit these schools and talk about their careers in the fragrance industry. I attended Spelman College, a Historically Black College (HBCU), and throughout my career, I’ve stayed very connected to my school. I always go back to talk to students about my career in the retail industry, and now the fragrance community, to share opportunities because I’m very passionate about mentoring and education.

There will also be a digital piece to this, so that students can really see what a career path in the fragrance industry looks like. That’s one of our big goals. When we talk about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, it’s very important for young people to see that there’s somebody who looks like them. Historically, there have been few people of color in the fragrance community and I cannot tell you how proud I am of Chris Collins, for being a trailblazer and all that he’s achieved as a black man who has had fewer resources available to him. When I talk to people within my community it is a source of pride, the expectation is that there will be other diverse brands to follow in Chris’ footsteps.

Part two of this is that we’ve asked the DEI committee members to provide us with a list of colleges and companies regarding internships, as well as job placement. I’m getting some great responses thus far, and we’re looking to roll this out with Summer Internships.

Linda:

We always knew that we needed to be involved in the student community. It seemed like a separate lane for a while, but now we’re closing the gap. I will be reconnecting with my alma mater, Lehigh University, with ELLE Beauty Director, Katie Becker, who is also an alum and one of my mentees. Taking this step with Katie will allow me to close the gap of … hmmm… several decades.

The other thing that allows us to take this leadership position is that in this industry we represent very big organizations, as well as mini brands, so we can create overall guidance, and each can adapt in their own way and culture. We formed our DEI committee by going to our board and asking them to identify people who are passionate about the subject. We have HR heads, people in marketing, all different categories. We’ve got this group that can really be aligned with us. They’re very grateful to us that we’re doing this without making rules for them and letting them just express themselves. It’s a big deal.

You’ve also been very proactive about expanding membership. How is that a part of this?

Linda:

We wanted to bring in a more expanded, diverse community. Plus, I realized that there were a lot of talented small brands that might not necessarily be on our radar. There was a backlog of indies, who had been turned off by the Fragrance Foundation in the past and couldn’t join because of monetary restrictions. So we went to the board and we changed the bylaws officially, allowing us to bring in brands, with voting rights, as well as a different type of membership structure. We have to keep this membership a short list based on our tiny team and limited bandwidth. We need to ensure we can deliver on our benefits and commitments. TFF Indie membership applications will open in July 2021. In future years we expect this will not be so limited based on our learnings and expanded partnership in our fragrance community.

Maison d’Etto is a great example of an Indie brand who contacted us way back. That is a brand that was so involved in the community, and really wanted to join TFF but was put off by the expectations of monetary commitments. I realized, instead of just looking for new, we need to embrace those people who have been trying to get in. Harlem Candle Company and Teri Johnson we did not know. So when she was brought to our attention we went after her. It’s really working both ways. But the other thing that is important is that we wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t just be about being able to say you’re a member of the Fragrance Foundation—we wanted to give them benefits.

Sharné: 

This spring we will launch the opening of our Fragrance Online Academy, which will be complimentary to our new Indie members. We will also provide them with marketing and PR in terms of including them in Noteworthy, Accords, and on Instagram – really in all parts of our Fragrance Foundation communications. 

Linda:

The key word is access. I make sure that I include these smaller brands in every conversation that I have with the media and the business network. I also make sure that we find ways that we can help them with our different members. It used to be that in order to sell at a major retailer, it could almost make a small brand bankrupt. So we’re asking our members to be a bit more lenient just as we are with our participation. We can’t redo their financial model, but we can really ask them to help us nurture these brands and give them access in ways that they would not have had before. 

Based on my 20+ years in the beauty business I was able to reach out and identify experts for an Indie Advisor Panel. They no longer have full time roles, but have great fragrance expertise and are gracious and generous enough to share their time to provide guidance to our TFF Indies in group zooms as well as one on one discussions. We are thrilled about it. The panel so far includes Gary Borofsky, Terry Darland, Nance Hastings and Nancy McKay.

What is the strategy going forward?

Linda:

We will include DEI in everything we do. The Notables will join us in our efforts. When we do our Awards, we want to make sure that the people who are presenters, and those who are nominated, are strongly representing diversity. I think we’re joining hands and we’re doing it. And when we get to the Masterclass or to Fragrance Day, which is a big conversation with the consumer, as well as within the industry, it will be clear that this is part of us. This is not just a special event.

Sharné

I’m very excited about the next generation of leaders. At the TFF Notables meeting last week I spoke about the DEI initiative and said, “You all are really going to be the ones that move this needle in everything that you do.” I was so inspired by the meeting and the enthusiasm and future participation of the Notables and how they will help to make an impact. The Fragrance Foundation understands that we can no longer do what we’ve done in the past and we have to move forward to be inclusive, putting into place the steps that we must take for change. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s an ongoing commitment.

Linda: 

I do not think there’s anything we’re going to be prouder of when we come out of this stay home pandemic year. It’s really, how do we support the industry? And without question, the enthusiasm from the Notables, from the board, from the fragrance houses, from everywhere, is huge. We’re going somewhere all together, and it’s very exciting. What we are calling diversity is opening up all we do for everyone to join us. The USA is the melting pot of the world, and there’s great optimism now. I think it’s the time to take it and make it happen. 

Dec

MAKING HISTORY IN PERFUME: LEONARD LAUDER

MAKING HISTORY IN PERFUME: LEONARD LAUDER
Spotlight

MAKING HISTORY IN PERFUME: LEONARD LAUDER

MAKING HISTORY IN PERFUME: LEONARD LAUDER

December 2020

Could this year be capped off more memorably? On December 15th, TFF President Linda G. Levy sat down (virtually) with the man most people consider to be the biggest name in the beauty business: Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder. In this incredible, very special Masterclass event, Lauder shared his memories of working with his mother Estée Lauder to build what is now a global corporation, and reflected on his experiences in business and in fragrance—even beyond what he has written about in his new, must-read book The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty. Lauder, who was inducted into the TFF Hall of Fame in 1990 and was the inaugural honoree of TFF Circle of Champions Award in 2000, is so sought after for his guru-like advice that he has taken on the unofficial mantle of Chief Teaching Officer at the Estée Lauder Companies, and to have such an intimate audience with him was truly remarkable. Now, this issue of Accords goes even further, as Lauder was generous enough to expand on some of the Masterclass conversation topics and reflect on some of Estée Lauder’s most impactful moments in the history of perfume. 

Estée Lauder has had so many significant chapters in American fragrance history. You shared the story behind Beautiful and how it became a favorite for brides in the Masterclass. Can you tell us about the development of Pleasures, and why you think it became so popular?

My late wife, Evelyn, came up with several ideas for Estée Lauder products throughout her time with us. Many of these items are now considered staples, including Pleasures, one of our best-selling fragrances. Perhaps one of the reasons it became so popular was because it had her brilliance behind it. For those who don’t know, Evelyn took charge of training our beauty advisors and sales staff, and eventually created our training program with the knowledge she acquired from her experience. Thanks to her teaching background, it’s no surprise she was great at this! She always listened and digested the information and advice she received from her advisors and used this insight to enhance her work with new products. She later became the director of new products and marketing and oversaw the creation of Pleasures from start to finish. Her ability to listen to the direction from our sales team and advisors was likely why the fragrance became so popular—because it was guided by the advice of those on the shop floor!

White Linen was a pioneer in the idea of fragrance layering when it was first launched. How did that evolve?

Starting with Estée, we introduced a new fragrance almost every other year throughout the 1970s—including White Linen. Every fragrance has its own personality, but the point was, no matter what your preference, Estée Lauder had a scent for you. We wanted our consumers to be able to express themselves with our fragrances, using whichever product (or products!) fit their needs. The idea of having a plethora of options to choose from was appealing at the time, which is why we produced a new fragrance almost every other year. We didn’t stop there either. When White Linen matured, we came out with White Linen Breeze, a lighter version.

As an art collector, what similarities do you see between visual art and fragrance?

Everyone has a unique taste! Whether it’s fragrance or visual art, everyone has their own, distinct way of expressing themselves. Everyone is fascinated by something different—a smell, an image, a painting—different art forms speak to different people. It’s magical when you think about it!  

Nov

THE PERFUME PUBLISHER: FRÉDÉRIC MALLE

THE PERFUME PUBLISHER: FRÉDÉRIC MALLE
Spotlight

THE PERFUME PUBLISHER: FRÉDÉRIC MALLE

THE PERFUME PUBLISHER: FRÉDÉRIC MALLE

November 2020

One of the brilliant rays of light in 2020? This year marked the 20th Anniversary of Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, the perfume publishing house that revolutionized modern perfumery. When fragrance impresario Frédéric Malle decided to boldly embark on what was then a completely unheard-of business venture, he did so because he believed that it was time for perfumers, the unsung heroes of the industry, to finally get their due—and he knew that by giving them complete freedom, both financially and creatively, they would produce works of art destined to revitalize and galvanize the world of perfume. As we have seen, he was absolutely correct: Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle creations such as Carnal Flower, Portrait of a Lady, and Musc Ravageur are now icons, and the idea that perfume should be recognized and cherished as a true art form (signed, of course, by its creators) is not merely accepted, but celebrated.

In honor of this milestone year, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle has issued seven perfumes in limited-edition bottles specially designed by Patrick Li. A retrospective book, published by Rizzoli, reveals the breadth of ambition and the accomplishments of this visionary undertaking. The Fragrance Foundation is also shining its spotlight on Malle, who was honored in 2018 with The Fragrance Foundation Gamechanger Award, and his perfumers. This month’s special webinar edition of The Creatives featured an intimate conversation between Malle and perfumer Carlos Benaïm with Fragrance Foundation President Linda G. Levy, and here, Malle sat down with Accords to reflect on two decades at the top of his game.  

How did you first propose your idea to perfumers 20 years ago?

I was certain that it was a good idea, but I didn’t know how anyone would take it. Pierre Bourdon was one of the perfumers I was working with most closely at the time, and he was one of the most vocal perfumers against what was happening with marketing, against the fact that he was not working with people who had full power and knowledge of the industry. I came to him and said, I have a solution to your problem. I said, things are tough for you, but I think they’re also tough for the public and I would like to create a link between people who are not happy to have a choice only between smelling very mass market and smelling old. There was no such thing as contemporary perfumes of quality at that time.

So, the first meeting was with him. I had this idea of naming the perfumers because I felt that not only was it a good story, it was simple justice. He was fascinated. Then the one who always saw himself as an artist, as an author, was Jean-Claude Ellena. He just had his break with Bulgari Green Tea. He was a bit like Zaha Hadid in the sense that everybody considered him extraordinary, but he didn’t yet have the success that he deserved. He was very true to his commitment to being an artist perfumer with a specific writing and a specific philosophy. It was very natural for me to call him, though he was not the one I was most intimate with at that time. Jean-Claude was so enthusiastic about the idea of being given carte blanche that he said, ‘I’ll do one every year for you.’ Then I called Edouard Flechier who was another huge star. I knew that he would do it out of friendship, because he’s so generous and so kind. So now I had the three most prominent perfumers in the industry backing my project.  I went progressively to complete the list of those first nine perfumers.

I knew from the beginning what the bottle design would be. That was part of the initial conversation that I had with each of them. I showed them what it would look like. I also knew that making such specific perfumes would only work if I went back to full service, not what Sephora was doing with no service. In nine months, literally from September to launching in June, I found the store, designed the store, invented a modern version of a classic perfumery where people feel comfortable and could be helped by true experts to find a perfume matching their character and their desires. The very nature of this enterprise called for an entire reorganization of the business. I even had to have my own distribution. It went deeper and deeper.

Did anyone tell you that you were crazy?

No, because I’m a very secretive person and I did not talk to anyone—especially my mother, who had been in this business for many years and who would have never believed in this. And the people who were addressing the business in a way I felt was wrong—I didn’t want to have a conversation about what I was doing with any of them, for fear of diluting my energy. I was very sure what I was doing. It was very clear in my head, and I didn’t want to pollute that. I only called a handful of people, including Christian Louboutin who was always a maverick and extremely bright, and even though we do things differently I always admired how independent he is.

How quickly after you opened could you tell that the concept was working?

One thing that really amazed me when we opened was how supportive the French press was and then the international press. I remember having a huge article in ELLE France. And I had an article in every single daily paper. We opened in June and in July couture happened as it always does and all the big buyers from the department stores came to visit. Each individual entrance was like a movie. People from Barneys explaining to me who they were and what Barneys was, and being so modest; Burt Tansky from Neiman’s having his entourage come earlier to make sure that the store was cleaned. Burt comes out of his limousine with a bodyguard. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was so funny. But they all came, and I was very happy about that.

Everything was ahead of plan, but I didn’t sell more than I expected. It worked as I hoped, but I thought that with the amount of press I would have sold more. It takes a while before things kick in. The smallest article two years later was much more effective than this amazing launch that we had that friends and families were impressed by. That was really interesting. And it made me understand that you can’t rush things. You have to show who you are first. So, things went better than planned as far as communication is concerned. And as planned, as far as sales are concerned.

Our opening in America at Barneys was delayed due to 9/11. We opened in the springtime rather than before Christmas. It wasn’t wow within five minutes, but it was wow within six months. We became kings of the floor.

What was the first bestseller?

Musc Ravageur.  What’s interesting with Musc Ravageur, which is a bit like the story of Cool Water, is that it was exactly opposite of the prevailing trend. In those days, Dior J’Adore was It. We were just finishing with the L’eau d’Issey type of trend. Transparent florals were all over the market. And this uncompromising non-floral amber oriental seemed very classic to me, although generous and opulent and incredible, completely against trend. But sex appeal is always there. It’s not because you have a wave of purity that people stop having sex and stop wanting to seduce—and surely enough, it became a very well shared secret on the Left Bank. Men and women alike came to wear Musc Ravageur. It gave us this modern Guerlain type of image right away in France, sexy but quality perfume, which is what the respectable French person is after. That did a lot for us.

Were there fragrances that surprised you because they were best sellers or because they were not?

Yes. La Parfum de Therese. It has always been seen by people in our industry to be a masterpiece. Someone like Pierre Bourdon will tell you it’s a great perfume of the century. Roudnitska’s wife gave it to me. It’s one of my prides in this collection. I thought, it’s going to make millions for us.  But in fact it was probably too sophisticated to become our best seller. You learn when you do these things.

I also sold Musc Ravageur mostly as a feminine perfume in the beginning, because being heterosexual I sort of projected that I’d love to be with a girl that smells like this. Then all of the sudden I saw hordes of men wearing it, and I thought to myself how stupid I am. I didn’t see that.

It’s interesting that the consumer can teach you these things.

Yes and it did a lot for the way we sell. I have always told sales people not to have preconceived ideas and to follow the customers instinctually. They should use those perfumes like a palette of different colors that would suit the people that they have in front of them. Don’t think this is for men and  this for women, just give them what they feel comfortable with. We’re not there to tell people how to seduce, but to help them, with the instruments we have created. The perfumes are almost like weapons of seduction.

What guided your selection of which perfumes got the beautiful limited-edition treatment by Patrick Li?

Sales is one element, but I also wanted diversity because I think one of the beauties of our collection is how eclectic it is.. From an En Passant to a Musc Ravagaur to a Portrait of a Lady, you have extremely different perfumes.. What this collection expresses what we have done in the sense that I have never tried to impose my style. I have a few principles, but it’s not a style. Just as when I go to the Met, I like Van Eyck as much as I like Pollak or Rembrandt or Mondrian, I don’t have a preset idea about what type of perfume we should publish, just as long as they are very good and best in class.

In doing this, we have made those very, very specific perfumes. And sometimes as if, in sports terms you hit a home run; in a more spiritual way, you’ve been touched by grace. And all of a sudden there’s a little miracle that’s happening where one of those very specific perfumes touches a much wider audience than it should. We have been blessed by that a few times. And these are the perfumes that are the most successful. Musc Ravageur was certainly that. Portrait of a Lady was a perfume that I thought might be too difficult because it’s so sophisticated. And I wasn’t sure how well it would do, but I had to publish it because it was so beautiful. But it touched a wider audience than I ever imagined.

Something that I’m super proud of is that they have stood the test of time. Musc Ravageur is 20 years old, but I wore it today and it hasn’t aged a minute. There’s a reason for that: none of these have made the little compromises of adding materials that make them a little bit easier, because there are raw materials everyone uses at a certain time which is a sure way to make something that becomes dated quite quickly. The collection is a way of saying that we have really managed to make things that are timeless, diverse, and have touched a wide audience.

What was your approach to the book?

It was fun. I always wanted this book to be like a scrapbook and to be walking down the memory lane. I’m not a nostalgic person, but for once, I was ready to look back and sort of have a look at what I had done in the past 20 years. And as if I were doing a book to leave to my children literally. That was really what I had in mind.

What do you think might surprise people and what might they learn about you or that they wouldn’t have known?

I don’t know, to be honest. What I was surprised by when I saw all of this myself was how much we had done in 20 years. I never congratulate myself, but when I opened the book, I must say I was impressed. I thought, this is a lot. So many adventures.

So, I don’t know what will surprise people. I suppose at a moment where everybody is so specialized, especially in those big perfume companies, the fact that I’m seeing this job as a whole, like being good like a conductor who knows how to play each instrument, might be surprising. To be good, you have to know about glass making, know about printing, know how to design, know how to do accounting, know about distribution.

Given this time to look back and see what you’ve done, what do you feel most proud of?

It’s always perfumers. What I’m most proud of is the beginning of our conversation, the fact that they all followed me. And this is also what committed me to taking this huge risk of putting everything I had into this adventure, regardless of the fact that I already had three children and that if I had to talk to people, they would have said that I was crazy. What I’m also proud of in retrospect is the example that we set for the industry, including the fact that perfumers are now considered true authors. I have participated in creating what perfumery looks like in its present form. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I’m proud of that.

Oct

THE STORYTELLER: TERI JOHNSON

THE STORYTELLER: TERI JOHNSON
Spotlight

THE STORYTELLER: TERI JOHNSON

THE STORYTELLER: TERI JOHNSON

October 2020

Teri Johnson is a natural storyteller. In her former work as a content creator in the travel space, she wove tales of far-flung locales and the allure of experiencing the world at large. But it was closer to home—in founding Harlem Candle Company—that her stories truly came into their own. Inspired by the energy and atmosphere of the Harlem Renaissance, the brand’s first collection featured meticulously researched and wildly evocative scents that paid homage to such figures as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Duke Ellington. Housed in luxurious glass keepsake vessels, the candles conjure the elegance and sophistication of days past, but with a truly modern sensibility. Here, Johnson reveals her vision for the expanding brand, and why officially joining the fragrance community is a dream come true.

How did you start making candles?

I have always loved beautiful fragrances. The very first time I smelled a Diptyque candle many years ago, I was so moved by the fragrance that I bought it and candles became my affordable luxury. No one at my age at that time was spending $60 on a candle, but that was where I would much rather spend my money than on a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a designer handbag. For me, it was candles because it’s about the constant, feel-good effect of fragrance. It’s long lasting and it’s beautiful and it makes me happy.

It really started there, just understanding what luxurious fragrances can do to you and do to your mood. Then I happened to meet a chemist, maybe about seven years ago, who had created fragrance oils for different candle companies and had worked for different perfumers. He gave me some fragrance oils and I used them to make candles for friends and family for Christmas. I had so much fun figuring out what I was going to call each candle and how I was going to package each candle and who was going to get what, based on the things I thought they would like the most. At the time it was not the Harlem Candle Company because it wasn’t a company. I called it La Maison Des Bougies de Teri, Teri’s House of Candles, and I put them in little craft boxes with some stickers that I printed on my printer. It was cute. People really, really loved it and they saw the thought I put into it. They all told me: You should do this.

Were you surprised to find that you had a nose for scents?

For a lot of my friends and family, I’m the one who chooses their perfume. I will choose it for them because I know what mixes best with their body chemistry and I’ve always gotten such great feedback. I had a friend who had worn the same perfume since college but I knew it wasn’t right for her, so once when we were shopping I had her try on several perfumes on different parts of her arms just to see what she might like. There was one that was beautiful on her so I convinced her to buy it, and she came back to me and said, ‘Teri, you changed my life. I’ve never gotten so many compliments on how good I smell.’ I was like, “Yeah, I think I’m kind of good at this.” If I had more time I would love to do that on the side.

What brought you to connecting the inspiration of the Harlem Renaissance with candles?

Once I started making candles beyond just giving them to friends and family, I started selling at local pop-ups here in Harlem, and I decided to change the name to Harlem Candle Company. I realized then that I couldn’t just make lavender and vanilla candles. If I was using the name Harlem, it had to be of significance. I’ve always loved the Harlem Renaissance period—the art and the literature and the music and even how people carried themselves. Everything about it. I felt like this would be the best way to pay homage to all the greats who have come before us, like Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington. It was also just a great way for me to deepen my knowledge about these people and to help share pieces of history through fragrance. I felt like this is a really cool way to just kind of preserve the legacy of Harlem and what made Harlem so special back in the 20’s and the 30’s and to do it through a fragrance. I wanted it to be really elegant and I wanted it to personify these people in some way.

How do you go about creating the scents?

I do a lot of research to understand my subject. Who was Langston Hughes? What did he love? What inspired him? How did he work? Did he smoke? So, we put tobacco notes in there and we learned that he spent a lot of time in Mexico. His father actually relocated to Mexico, and he went with him and would spend time in these really small churches in Mexico that were candlelit and dusky with incense burning. And while his friends were playing soccer, he didn’t want to play soccer, so he’d just go into the churches and just hang out there. So we put incense in the candle. He also did much of his work really late at night, so I wanted that sort of after dark scent,  like Harlem nights. There’s some leather and some smokiness and just something that’s just sexy. I communicate all of those things to the perfumers that I work with and they’re so fun. They just run with it, they’re amazing. They do their own research on top of mine, and they know even the notes that were in the sweet tobacco during that time period. Their level of knowledge is so awesome.

It’s fun to see people’s reactions when they smell the Duke Ellington and they’re like, “Something about this reminds me of my grandfather.” We wanted to ask, how did men scent themselves? What was that classic gentleman walking in Harlem wearing? Was it this kind of bay leaf? We look at what  fragrance notes were prominent during that time, and then we make it fun and sexy and exciting for today.

How did your work in travel and design enhance what you do now?

I was producing, hosting, and creating video content and content for different brands, different tourism boards, car companies, and hotel chains. Inspiring people to travel to cool destinations. I don’t think I would have had so much appreciation for the smell of a destination, especially a place that I love because sometimes you might smell a flower or smell something, and it takes you back to that place. I do like to travel with all of my senses wide open. I started traveling at such a young age and I’ve lived abroad a few times, so traveling and just being in other places and experiencing different cultures has always been a really big part of my life. I love everything that comes with it, from the different foods and the way the language sounds to the smells and spices of the food.

The vessels themselves are very beautiful. Why was that such an important attribute for the candles to have?

I wanted to create something that was timeless. Something that you can see now, and you can see in 20 years when it still has this elegance. I was very thoughtful when it came to the logo. If you look in the H, in the logo, it looks like it’s a flame, but it’s also a person. You can see the head in the middle and the person has their arms up almost like in prayer and almost like in a yoga position. It represents unity, community and love. I feel like no matter where we go in the world, those are things that are important to everyone. And  I am very inspired by the Art Deco period. You can see it in the gold braiding and that rich sort of deep gold. I just wanted it to be elegant, and I wanted it to really represent the people that I’m celebrating.

What have been the biggest challenges you faced as an indie brand?

The biggest challenge is being self-funded. You can only grow so fast and you’re just reinvesting the money back into the business constantly. You want to grow so much faster, but you must be really thoughtful and careful. And then of course, production. Everything started out getting made in my kitchen and then we outgrew that. So, finding the right manufacturing partners who are able to understand and who are ready to grow with us was a challenge.

How has social media helped you grow?

The look of our social media reflects the brand ethos, and it has consistency.  People look at it and they can  get the brand right away.  I think those are extremely important things, but I think people also like to know that you are active on social media. Before they buy from us they like to see that we’re active, we’re posting, we’re doing Instagram Lives. That gives people a little bit more comfort when they are purchasing from a new company, because we’ve been doing these Facebook and Instagram ads, reaching people who might have never heard of the Harlem Candle Company before.

It’s been fun. I don’t feel like we’re ever going to run out of content because it’s not just candles, it’s candles, it’s history, it’s celebrating different people and it’s also interior design, I love that, because our candles complement so many spaces. I think because the brand is about storytelling and that we really do love beautiful spaces and design, it makes doing social media a lot of fun.

How does it feel to be a new member of the Fragrance Foundation?

It’s exciting. I feel like, “Ooh, I’m official.” When I was 18, I was a freshman in college and I was in this development class and one of the requirements they had for us was write out a hundred things you want to accomplish in life. And of course at 18 you think okay, this is the stupidest exercise ever, but I’m just going to do it just to show I did it, but once you’ve gotten to like 20, you’re like, “What? Now I’m just making stuff up.” So I’m just making things up. But you realize that the exercise is actually really quite good because it’s stuff that subconsciously you might not have ever really given thought to. It’s things that have just been in the back of your mind. And one of those things I wrote down was, I’d like to have my own perfume. I’ve always wanted to be in the fragrance industry. I just had no idea how I was ever going to get there. And I never made any conscious steps to do it. The things have all presented themselves when the time was right. It’s really fun to say, ‘Now I’m part of the Fragrance Foundation.’ But it’s not a surprise at all to people who’ve known me for a long time.

@harlemcandlecompany

Sep

PERFUMER SPOTLIGHT: CELINE BAREL

PERFUMER SPOTLIGHT: CELINE BAREL
Spotlight

PERFUMER SPOTLIGHT: CELINE BAREL

PERFUMER SPOTLIGHT: CELINE BAREL

September 2020

Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year Winner – Zoologist Squid

Celine Barel, IFF

Celine Barel is a rarity: someone who grew up in Grasse, but had no family members in the fragrance industry. She initially went to business school to work on the brand side, but soon fell in love with the art of creation and went on to study at IFF, honing her olfactive talents and ultimately bringing her unconventional and spirited approach to fragrances for Diana Vreeland, Jo Malone London, Norell, Maison d’Etto, Lancôme and more. Barel is widely regarded as a rising superstar, and winning Perfume Extraordinaire for Zoologist Squid surely cements that reputation. Here, she shares the inspiration and ideas that went into the making of this special award-winning scent.  

What was the initial idea behind Zoologist Squid? 

There was no real corporate brief. All I got was this word: “squid.”  It actually meant a lot to me, as it opened a whole fantastical world without boundaries. I love how Zoologist’s animals are portrayed as true characters and have an olfactive identity. It talks to my Peter Pan side!

What were some of your inspirations while formulating it?

The animal portrait brought me to the Victorian age, one of my favorite historical periods; to the XIXth century, at the height of Romanticism. Immediately “Squid” made me think about Jules Verne’s A Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, with a frightening giant squid coming from the deepest part of the ocean. Those abysses are supposedly located in the Chinese sea, so I also thought about incorporating frankincense.

But the true starting point was serendipitous: when Victor and I started talking about creating Squid I just came back from a trip to Dubai. While swimming there, I injured my foot walking on a massive squid bone. I seized the bone, smelled it and fell in love with its smell: it had an intense solar saltiness, was pungent, sweet and grainy like tonka, and more raw than ambergris. I brought it back to IFF and we did a headspace analysis.  

How does the fragrance express your style as a perfumer? 

 Squid is telling a story. It takes you on a journey. It has a universe of its own, and is unexpected. It is NOT obvious nor common. It evokes totally what it is supposed to. I love to create this type of perfumery. 

What made Squid a unique experience for you personally?  

I truly loved collaborating with Victor, Zoologist’s founder, because of his unique vision, his great culture, the richness of his brand’s universe with each animal. The fact that when we thought we had a good olfactive idea, he encouraged me to overdo it! 

And now, what makes Squid’s creative experience even more unique is this TFF Perfume Extraordinaire Award, which means it has been appreciated by my peers and experts of the fragrance industry. It is a very very sweet award to receive. I am really grateful and deeply honored. 

And I am happy that a “small gem” like Zoologist is made visible among the industry’s giants thanks to TFF and this award. Self-funded brands don’t always have the financial means to shine in the glossy magazines so the role TFF is playing in supporting them is major.

What effect did you want the finished perfume to achieve for the wearer?

I wanted Squid to express at the same time a calm and stormy mind, going from a deep dark mood to a bright happy place. I imagined the wearer becoming a romantic hero! I totally imagine Louis II of Bavaria wearing it! 

Aug

THE ROLE MODEL: MAYE MUSK

THE ROLE MODEL: MAYE MUSK
Spotlight

THE ROLE MODEL: MAYE MUSK

THE ROLE MODEL: MAYE MUSK

August, 2020

On September 10th, the gorgeous, gracious Maye Musk will host the special 2020 TFF Awards Webinar. Has there ever been a more aptly named master of ceremonies for a scent celebration? Musk is a dynamic, inspirational personality with an extraordinary biography, from a childhood spent traveling South Africa with her parents in search of archaeological treasures to her wildly successful career as a model, culminating in her current role as age-defying CoverGirl ambassador. She is also a dietitian and author of the recent A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success. Almost incidentally, you might also know that she has 3 highly accomplished children, including a well-known son. As we prepare to celebrate together the achievements of the fragrance community, Musk shares some insight into her own relationship with the enthralling world of scent.

Having presented at last year’s TFF Awards, how does it feel to be this year’s special Webinar host, knowing that TFF was inspired by the positive message of A Woman Makes a Plan?

This was a huge surprise and an honor. I couldn’t believe that I would be given such a special hosting position. Attending TFF awards has always been a highlight for me in New York. Now I am so happy my positive messages in my book are inspiring women, and men. We need more positive messages.

What is your personal connection to fragrance?

From when I was a little girl, I used to play with my mom’s fragrances. She had many. I would clean the face powder off them after my Mom put on her makeup and put them in pretty patterns on her dresser. They were gorgeous bottles and they smelled so good. As a teenager I would wear perfume every day and spray my neck and wrists.  Now I line up all my fragrances and wear a different one every day.

In the 1970s, my children were teased and called MuskRat. Musk was not a nice surname. In the 80s, Musk became a popular name with fragrances. People asked if I changed my name to Maye Musk as I was a model. I told them I had to live with being called MuskRat for 9 years, and now it’s a great name.

You have lived and traveled all over the world. Are there certain fragrances or smells that conjure specific places or memories for you?

Funny enough, many cities and countrysides have different smells. We won’t talk about New York City. Haha! I enjoy reading about the origins of the ingredients in the fragrances, which come from different countries. I remember the scents of spices from India and the floral markets in The Netherlands, and so many other countries with memories.

What is your fragrance routine (ie, a different scent for day and night)? 

Every morning, before I walk my dog, I spray my neck and my wrists with a fragrance. If I’m going out at night, after my bath, I will change my fragrance. depending on what I feel like.

What guides your selection?

I pretty much change my perfume every day, depending on my plans for the day. It’s so much fun for me and brings me joy. We need more joy.

How does fragrance relate to the bigger picture of beauty and success? 

When you wear a fragrance, you feel good and it gives you more confidence.  This gives you a bounce in your step and will help you succeed in life.

Jul

THE RENAISSANCE MAN: CHRIS COLLINS

THE RENAISSANCE MAN: CHRIS COLLINS
Spotlight

THE RENAISSANCE MAN: CHRIS COLLINS

THE RENAISSANCE MAN: CHRIS COLLINS

July, 2020

If you recognize Chris Collins, there are a few reasons why. For 20 years, he was the face of Ralph Lauren, appearing on billboards and in ads, and traveling the globe as a brand ambassador. But talk about a pivot. In 2018, Collins launched his own eponymous fragrance collection, an assemblage of beautifully crafted, luxurious scents, each brought to life with a vivid, inspiring story. His first collection, Harlem Renaissance, drew a scented line between Paris and Harlem, celebrating the spirit of early 20th century artistic pioneers who hailed from the borough and traveled abroad, such as Josephine Baker, as well the creative energy that flourishes in Collins’s home neighborhood today. A passionate force in the world of fragrance, Collins is on the core leadership team of The Fragrance Foundation’s initiative for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and has made it his goal to help fledgling brands flourish.

How and when did you first become interested in fragrance?

This goes back to when I was a kid. I’ve always loved cologne. My dad used to wear all of those now iconic scents like Grey Flannel and English Leather. As I grew older, I became more infatuated with it, never thinking that my love affair with fragrance would one day end up with me owning my own brand. But along the way, I met a few people who were able to make that journey happen. I knew I had to go for it. Because this is the thing that I’m in love with more than anything.

What initially inspired you to embark on creating perfumes? 

Meeting Kilian was probably the most important connection I made that led to where I am now. Kilian and Frédéric Malle were the first two brands to introduce me to the world of niche fragrance, because before that all I really knew were brands like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. I was introduced to a Frédéric Malle fragrance by a friend of mine, and when I ran out of it, I went to buy it again. But I went to the wrong store and I ended up buying a Kilian scent. That started me down a path of discovery.  Then our universes sort of collided. I was wearing one of Kilian’s fragrances, and I met someone who worked with him. I said, “I would love to meet Kilian.” And not only did we meet, we worked on a project together—a customized, bespoke fragrance. When I had the bug to launch my own brand, he was very supportive and still is. He’s been an incredible mentor.

How did you find the perfumers to work on your brand?

 I knew that in order to fully understand the world of perfume I needed to go to Grasse, to the birthplace of perfumery. I flew to Cannes and I started to do research on fragrance houses like Givaudan and Robertet and some other small houses. I showed up and said, “I have this idea to launch this fragrance brand. I would like to know how the process works.” And they were all very welcoming. I stayed there for a few months and met some Perfumers to learn about the science behind perfume. I ended up, for my first collection, with a smaller fragrance house, because it was important for me to start from scratch. Finding the perfumers was challenging, but it was part of the process. I had to pay my dues and take the time to be taken seriously. Now I have a group of incredible Perfumers that I work with who do a great job of telling the stories that I like to tell. Perfumers to me are the artists. It’s fascinating the way we work. I always say that the Perfumer and I need to have a great dance together. They have to understand me personally as well as my ideas, and literally speak for me to tell the story of the perfume.

Why do you believe the storytelling aspect is particularly pertinent for perfumery, and why was it so important to you to create a brand with a real connection to Harlem?

Along the way, I figured out that I had a lot to say. And I really believe that not only should every perfume have a great story, every great brand should have a great story. For the first collection, the idea to launch the brand happened in Harlem, so I knew that I needed to pay homage to Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance of the ’20s and the Renaissance that’s happening as we speak. In my opinion, there’s a real resurgence of fashion, art, and food going on, and this is my contribution to that.

Danse Sauvage is the story of Josephine Baker. Harlem Nights is my depiction of a Harlem speakeasy at night. And Renaissance Man is the rebirth of mankind, not just men in general, but the rebirth of men and women together. Those three fragrances told stories that were important to me to tell from the very beginning. There’s also an incredible connection between Harlem and Paris. Josephine Baker, and Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes all left New York and went to Paris, where they were welcomed with open arms.

How do you think your experiences in the fashion industry influenced or benefited your perfume business? 

I’ve always felt like fragrance was an accessory to fashion. I was able to connect it to what I learned through fashion, when I was involved in working for Ralph Lauren. Working with and for him I learned so much about branding and marketing, messaging, packaging—it was almost like I went to RL university. I think it all happened for a reason. Over 20 years it taught me so much. Now I’m here with my own brand, which is an incredible, humbling feeling.

What are your favorite notes? 

My brand, I would say, is genderless, because I don’t believe in saying that fragrances can only be for men or women. Some men are drawn to florals. There are a lot of women who love to wear a more masculine scent. The one common denominator to most of my fragrances is that they have an intensity to them. They all have 20 to 25% fragrance oil. I love boozy notes. I work with a cognac accord. I work with a rum chord. I love oriental, woodsy notes. Even the one floral that I have, Tokyo Moon, is very musky and woody, even though the violet note is the hero. I’m now transitioning into teas and more florals and solar scents to open up the wardrobe of my collections. But my DNA is still going to be imprinted on them with boozy notes, gourmands, and woods.

What are your plans for the brand in the future? 

Obviously with everything going on, a lot of my plans have been slightly delayed. But I’m adapting and figuring out the way forward. I’m just going to continue to make more incredible fragrances. I may enter into the world of home fragrance and possible auxiliary products and grooming. I do plan to expand the brand, but right at this particular moment, I’m still focusing on mastering the universe of perfume.

How has your relationship with The Fragrance Foundation been beneficial?

 The other single most important connection or relationship that I have in the perfume businesses is with Linda. She’s been so helpful in ways that only she and I will ever know. I’ve had legal questions, I’ve had creative questions, relationship questions with retailers. She’s been incredibly helpful. She’s always there for me. We’ve had some brilliant heart to heart discussions. What she’s done with The Fragrance Foundation is more than impressive. And now we’re working together on an initiative to bring more diversity to the world of perfume.

How will you contribute in your leadership role on TFF initiative for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion? It was on my mind prior to the racial unrest that is happening in the country. I had already had a conversation with Linda about it. I said, “It’s very rare for a person of color to have a brand in perfume. We need to talk about it more,” because one of the responsibilities that I have is to inspire others and help or lend whatever advice that I can give. One of the things that we’re going to work on is using my resources and what I’ve learned through my successes and my mistakes to help others, because they both go hand in hand when you’re launching a brand. I think it can be very daunting to people, and especially people of color who don’t honestly think that it’s possible.

I’m here to say that it is possible. I want to be able to help and to make sure that this world of perfume is more diverse. Women of color, men of color, women in general. I just think there’s enough room, enough space for all of us to thrive. When I started having this conversation with Linda she thought it was a fantastic idea. Then the idea just accelerated after everything happened with the racial unrest. I’m very proud to be on this committee. I’m here to build an incredible brand that all people can be proud of, especially people of color, because I want them to be inspired.

What can new TFF indies learn from you and your experience?

 I’ve made so many mistakes. We’re all going to make mistakes. The key is to be able to live another day to be able to fix those mistakes. To me it’s three things. There’s the creative process, which is obviously the most fun, the most fulfilling. But there’s also the business aspect and the legal aspects. It’s very important to pay attention to all three, because if one of those legs is not done properly or doesn’t stand strong the whole business can be affected negatively. My advice to indie brands is to pay attention to all of it, the creative, the legal, and the business parts, because the brand cannot be successful without all three moving together.

Jun

THE BEAUTY DIRECTOR WITH INCLUSIVE VISION: JULEE WILSON

THE BEAUTY DIRECTOR WITH INCLUSIVE VISION: JULEE WILSON
Spotlight

THE BEAUTY DIRECTOR WITH INCLUSIVE VISION: JULEE WILSON

THE BEAUTY DIRECTOR WITH INCLUSIVE VISION: JULEE WILSON

Julee Wilson is a veteran beauty editor with a keen eye and a dynamic career path that has taken her from Real Simple to Huffington Post to Essence—and now to Cosmopolitan, which she joined as Beauty Director in April. Wilson has been a vital force for change in beauty, fashion, and media, joining forces with purposeful organizations and making her voice heard as an engaging Instagram presence and public speaker. As a key participant in The Fragrance Foundation’s initiative on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she will work to bring attention to those in the fragrance industry who have been underrepresented, and contribute her invaluable insight and energy to the cause.

What excites you most about joining Cosmo?

For most of my career, I was in mainstream media. I spent six and a half years at Real Simple. I spent almost five and a half years at Huff Post. Really only a blip of my existence has been at a more niche Black publication, but I think that being at Essence allowed me to really hone my voice and understand the problems within beauty and fashion. That’s given me the confidence to now go into an iconic brand like Cosmo and be bold and unapologetic about the direction that I’m hoping I can push the beauty content. It was dope anyway, but as a Black woman, I can bring new ideas, and more diversity and inclusion. And just in general, I’m a beauty fanatic. I’m interested in making sure that everyone feels celebrated and excited and that we give them the best content Cosmo has ever had.  

You’ve been such a strong force in pushing for diversity across the board in beauty and fashion. What have you been proudest of along the way?

I’m most proud of my work in diversity and inclusion. I’m hell bent on making sure that my seat at the table is not taken in vain and that I’m not just there going through the motions. I’m really pushing whatever company I’m working with to be more woke. I don’t take that lightly and I don’t hold any punches. I’m tactical about it. I obviously want to make sure I’m presenting my ideas in a way that makes sense and from a loving place. But at the same time, I’m very forward about the things that I think need to be done and changed in the industry. And so a lot of my work has centered around that. I love the project I started at Essence where I pulled back the curtain of the beauty industry at different beauty brands and celebrated the Black women there. A lot of times there are not that many, but they are the ones doing the work. Part of the legacy that I would like to leave is that I told really dope stories and that I was able to celebrate people who might not be celebrated otherwise.

What are some of the organizations or groups that you support that we should all be kind of watching and supporting and learning from?

Harlem’s Fashion Row is an organization that champions designers of color to make sure that they get the visibility and the resources they need to succeed in the fashion industry. I’ve been on the advisory board since it started, which was 11, 12 years ago. I’m also a part of 25 Black Women in Beauty, which celebrates Black women in the beauty industry and Black-owned companies. These are women from all aspects of the beauty industry, from founders to women who work for the big corporations to editors like myself. That’s a really great organization, really championing diversity within beauty.

What would you say are some of the biggest obstacles that we still need to overcome in beauty and media?

There are a lot of problems, but I’m a glass half full type gal. So, I definitely approach it from “Okay, but how can I help?” Instead of just wagging my finger. It’s about being a changemaker. I think it’s everything from soup to nuts in the beauty industry. It starts with product development and goes on up. I always use the example of edges because they are a universal truth for Black women. No matter how we treat our hair or how we wear our hair, our edges matter. And if you look at the top beauty brands in the industry, how many of them have products for edges? If it was universal for white women, every brand would have multiple products. The fact that even just our basic needs are not being met is such an opportunity for growth within beauty.

I think things happen when you have people of color in leadership positions and at the table in your company. I’m not just talking about interns and assistants, I’m talking about true leadership, people who make decisions. That goes for beauty brands, that goes for magazines and media. You wouldn’t know that edges matter if you didn’t have a person of color on your editorial team saying, “You’ve never printed a story about edges, that’s a huge mistake.” Again, that’s just one small thing. I could run a list of things within ethnic communities, not just Black. I think a lot of times we get stuck in Black and white, what about our Latin X, brothers and sisters? What about our Indian brothers and sisters? What about our indigenous brothers and sisters? There are so many nuances within our culture when it comes to beauty that people completely forget. I think it’s dangerous to only be concerned with the beauty that’s reflected in the mirror.

What do you hope to accomplish with your involvement in The Fragrance Foundation’s initiative for diversity, equity, and inclusion?

It’s about shining the light on a group of professionals within this space that have largely been forgotten. There are Black perfumers and Black-owned fragrance companies out there that have been trying to establish a presence and haven’t really been able to the way that their white counterparts have. And I think that’s due to a lack of visibility, and a lack of resources for a start. I think that this will be a great opportunity to give them the attention that they need in all of those different areas. I’m really excited about that because I think that it’s a new frontier for the fragrance industry. Not only is it morally right, but business-wise it makes sense. The fragrance industry can feel very elitist, and so I think that this is an opportunity to kind of open those doors and show that it can be diverse and it can be welcoming and inclusive.

What do you personally love about fragrance?

Fragrances to me are like shoes, I have way too many of them and they really dictate my mood and my personality for that day. At home I have probably 80 to 90 fragrances. Obviously, it’s an occupational thing, too, but I’m that girl. One of my beauty rituals is that I put a fragrance on every time I wash myself. After I shower in the morning, and then again if I take another shower when I get home at night. Even when I’m just getting ready for bed, I put fragrance on.

I don’t feel like I’ve completely gone through my wash routine unless it ends with putting on a fragrance. Sometimes it’s more than one fragrance. I shadow my fragrances, wearing something different on different parts of my body. At night I usually only just wear one, but I love picking out which one that might be based on my mood and how I’m feeling after that long day. It’s nice to have a little finishing touch.

May

VISION BOARD: TFF BOARD MEMBERS ON THE CURRENT & FUTURE STATE OF THE BUSINESS

VISION BOARD: TFF BOARD MEMBERS ON THE CURRENT & FUTURE STATE OF THE BUSINESS The Fragrance Foundation Board of Directors Meeting – January 2020
Spotlight

VISION BOARD: TFF BOARD MEMBERS ON THE CURRENT & FUTURE STATE OF THE BUSINESS

VISION BOARD: TFF BOARD MEMBERS ON THE CURRENT & FUTURE STATE OF THE BUSINESS The Fragrance Foundation Board of Directors Meeting – January 2020

TFF Board Insight: Current & Future State of the Business

For this month’s special edition of Accords, we reached out to Fragrance Foundation board members to learn about how they and their colleagues are navigating the unchartered territory of Covid-19. As brands, fragrance houses, suppliers, and retailers adjust their business practices to changing circumstances, they are finding creative ways to tackle challenges, make vital connections, and carve out exciting opportunities that will propel the industry into a bright and prosperous—if somewhat different—future. Here, leaders share how they have adapted, and the lessons they have learned along the way.

Marc Blaison, EVP, Cosmo International Fragrances

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

Daily touch base with leaders of the organization and with the cross-functional teams where we promote a constant message of positivity, appreciation, connection, trust and solidarity.

Trusting each other, effective communication and company wide support of shared common goals, sentiments & vision allowing us to stay motivated and on track, even when distance.

Initiatives where we can work together cross-functionally & globally, whether it’s giving back to the community, gaining new perspectives, having a virtual discussion or a virtual happy hour.

Strengthening and fostering a deeper connection with our colleagues by staying more connected amidst the distancing.

Not losing our sense of humor.

How have you seen consumer habits change during this stay home time?

The crisis will not only carve out change and open up new opportunities but fast track existing trends into overdrive; i.e. technology, sensorial escapism, wellness, clean ingredients, transparency and social responsibility.

Consumers are searching for ways to foster a sense of togetherness while apart; connecting in the digital world has never been so important and many are having a greater appreciation for technology more than ever before, virtual spaces are facilitating human connections and social engagements.

Transparency will be a non-negotiable for consumers, more transparent supply chains will ensure the health and wellbeing of those involved in the creation of a product.

People are re-assessing their priorities and values, and shifting away from an uber fast-paced lifestyle, taking this time as an opportunity for a slowdown, a reset…. slow living, slow beauty, self-reflection, mindful consumption, and inner wellness will gain traction.

Penny Coy, Vice President Merchandising, Fragrance and Prestige Skincare, Ulta Beauty

How have you seen consumer habits change during this stay home time?

The guest is even more focused on self-care and wellness. During this time, they have made time to develop regular routines for a sense of “normalcy.” Treatments, like masking and exfoliation, whether it’s face, hands or feet (may be even all at once!). We see these categories continuing to trend, along with candles and home fragrance.  Do-it-yourself hair color kits and nail kits are also very popular.

What is the biggest challenge you find with the new work from home reality?   

As a team we have thrived working together through Microsoft Teams Meetings, Zoom, etc.  What I miss is the interaction with the products—that first moment you experience touching and smelling something new and exciting! Just talking about it isn’t quite the same.

Diane Crecca, SVP, Arcade Beauty

How do you envision the future of fragrance?

Fragrance will always be a part of our lives.  People will need it to relax them, to make them feel good, make them feel sexy and just make them “feel.”

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

I motivate my team with one on one calls, which at this point I think are vital—I need to make each person feel important.  The Zoom calls certainly serve a purpose but I find it’s hard for me to focus on what each person has to say.

What is the biggest challenge you find with the new work from home reality?

Biggest challenge from working at home is to “step away from the laptop” after a certain time of day.

What is the most positive aspect you see coming out of this situation in terms of work?

I have realized that our company team members know how to step up and pitch in—no matter what the task!

Maria Dempsey, CEO, Nest Fragrances

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

More frequent Town Halls to update the entire company on the priorities of the business. Lots of calls (rather than emails) so people feel connected.

What is the biggest challenge you find with the new work from home reality?

We are so used to using all of our senses while we work on fragrances—it is hard not to be able to smell, touch and see the products. We are having to create and develop new products without all of us smelling and evaluating them. I also love the energy that people bring to a meeting and that is hard to get from a Zoom call!

Pierre Desaulles, CEO, Interparfums

How do you envision the future of fragrance?

Positive and Bright. Fragrance will have a role to play in re enchanting the world. And doing this with a smart approach.

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

Staying straight and honest on current challenges and outcomes, and also on the bright future. Also never assuming you know someone else’s every day challenges. Humility in today’s world is key.

What is the most positive aspect you see coming out of this situation in terms of work?

I believe that I will say the opposite of what most people will say. It shows how strong and indefinable the supplement of soul a face-to-face meeting brings to the discussion. I hope it will put the Human back in the center of everything and to me it is through real face-to-face moments. Digital helps and is SO convenient but it is like listening to music online vs going to a live performance. I am sorry but I love live shows.

Nata Dvir, SVP/ General Business Manager at Macy’s – Beauty & Center Core

How do you envision the future of fragrance?

Fragrances have always been a reminder of a special moment or person in one’s life. I think now more than ever people are more sentimental so I see our classic fragrances have a continued resurgence as people want to have a comforting scent surrounding them.

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

We get together every day as a team for a business update, sometimes it takes 30 minutes sometimes it takes 5. We use this time to celebrate wins, solve opportunities as they come or just joke around. I find during this time it’s important to stay connected and put your camera on! People want to see you! 

We instituted “Future Friday’s” early on where we talk about the future – either holiday 2020 or 2021. This allows us to focus on something other than the day to day that can feel overwhelming.  

How have you seen consumer habits change during this stay home time?

Customers are experimenting! They are looking for advice from friends, family, influencers, experts—anyone! They want to try new products since they have more time on their hands and they want to treat themselves to something that will make them feel better.

Julien Gommichon, President Americas, Diptyque & BYREDO

How do you envision the future of fragrance?

After a long period of low consumer confidence during the pandemic, focusing on essential and “panic” buying, customers (who still have the purchasing power) will go back to impulse buying of fragrance and home for themselves or gifting. New ways for testing and sampling need to be created to provide a unique experience while taking into account the new safety measures.

How do you keep your team motivated and on track when you can’t see them face-to-face?

We were also surprisingly happy to see a strong team moral week after week, with efficient technology (Zoom, Teams), daily connection on one to one or small team discussions. We implemented weekly social activity via Zoom (birthday celebration, bingo, toddler picture quiz) and weekly business updates for US and global, trying to be the most open and transparent as possible about the situation.

What is the most positive aspect you see coming out of this situation in terms of work?

Capacity of the team to work remotely and efficiently. We’ll review the work from home policy moving forward.

Mark Knitowski, VP Product Innovation, Victoria’s Secret

How have you seen consumer habits change during this stay home time?

Digital engagement—everything seems to be cashless, groceries delivered at home (through Amazon, Target, and Walmart).  Even people who may have been resistant to using or buying online now have no choice. They have had to get comfortable with it.   

Julianne Pruett, VP Fine Fragrance Sales, Symrise

How do you envision the future of fragrance? 

A share of fragrances will likely incorporate more value-added benefits, integrating cosmetic ingredients and skin-friendly textures, evolving fragrance into a “fragrance plus” category; something that Symrise has been predicting for years.

Jerry Vittoria, President Fine Fragrance Worldwide, Firmenich

How do you envision the future of fragrance?

Very bright! Fine Fragrance will always be a small indulgence and an escape for consumers. This will only be enhanced. Fragrances always bring a smile to all who use them. It’s a happy product needed now more than ever. We will create lots of new ways for consumers to enjoy fragrance, for themselves, for their families, for the home and to signal good hygiene and safety.

What is the biggest challenge you find with the new work from home reality? 

Schools being closed has been very challenging for many as they juggle home school with work.

You cannot smell fragrances via Zoom! So there are some logistical challenges. We have kept Fedex healthy!

What is the most positive aspect you see coming out of this situation in terms of work?

Crises bring out the best in most people. All the little things that we waste too much time on are forgotten and we all focus on what’s really important. I also think we will reinvent the role of live meetings in the future to be far more time efficient and effective and will only hold live meetings when absolutely necessary. This was a real wake up call for all of us in fragrance but I am convinced we will come out of it even stronger. The now accepted balancing of working between home and the office will raise motivation and productivity and lower commute costs, waste less time and less crowded rush hours leading to less pollution. Cities will become much more livable longer term. 

How have you seen consumer habits change during this stay home time?

Obviously staying at home has changed many behaviors. The question is what will stick once we are out and what will be forgotten? We will mostly go back to similar habits but there is no doubt that consumers will enjoy more than ever the freedom to be outside and away from crowds. They will also invest more in their homes to create their even more special place and fragrance will play a significant role in that.

Apr

ART FROM THE HEART: REBECCA MOSES

ART FROM THE HEART: REBECCA MOSES Photo by Kelly Taub/BFA
Spotlight

ART FROM THE HEART: REBECCA MOSES

ART FROM THE HEART: REBECCA MOSES Photo by Kelly Taub/BFA

When Fragrance Foundation President Linda G. Levy first encountered internationally renowned designer and artist Rebecca Moses, it was a meeting of scent-loving spirits and like minds. On a studio tour, Levy saw illustrations that Moses had done inspired by the island of Capri—particularly by its enchanting Mediterranean scents—and a grand idea was hatched: that Moses would bring her whimsy and exuberant talent to International Fragrance Day 2020 by creating a series of artworks depicting seven different aromatic profiles as highly individual (and fashionable) women. These enchanting images were unveiled at the Italian Trade Commission in February and will continue to bring color and delight to Fragrance Foundation events and communications, even as the year unfolds quite differently from what anyone had planned.

Moses’s response to the pandemic has been, beautifully, expressed through her artwork: She has created a new series of illustrations she calls The Stay Home Girls, each devoted to how a different woman is coping with the crisis, or finding bright moments where she can. Posted daily on Instagram, the works have galvanized a support system, opening up a network for women all over the world to share their stories and bond together in commiseration and in hope. Here, Moses talks about the power of art, her journey with fragrance, and the importance of putting good energy into the world—now, and always.  

What sparked the idea for the Stay Home Girls?

When the pandemic hit, most of my projects came to an end — they were canceled or put on a back burner, and I didn’t know what the future was. So, I had to create a project. I felt extraordinarily helpless not doing anything. I wanted to help people. I started creating these women, just sort of around the stories I was hearing. Some friends were reflecting on why they still bothered to put makeup on in the morning, others decided they would foster a dog, another said they started playing cards. After a certain point I had done about 30 creative ones that weren’t far from the truth, but they weren’t specific people. Then one night I was on the phone with a girlfriend of mine who is a brilliant lawyer and works for the state, and she told me about being home every day doing these Zoom conferences with five cats around her, and I just thought—this is a real story, I need to make these real stories. I started reaching out to a few people, and then it was like wildfire. I started getting letters and letters. Some of them are really heart-breaking. I go on video every couple of days to talk to the girls and tell them how remarkable they are, and they’ve kind of become a support group for each other. It just keeps growing. Now I paint all day long. I try to do four paintings a day. It’s a marathon. I’ve done 65 so far, and I just want to keep doing it.

Why do you think the Stay Home Girls have resonated so much?

It doesn’t really matter what we do, what our social status is, what our income is, what our ethnicity is, where we live, this is a global pandemic. It affects everyone. We’re all at a common crossroads. And I think that women want to relate to other women and hear what’s going on in their lives. Sometimes thinking about someone else’s problems makes your problems not look so serious. It can give you comfort. And even if it’s through social media – it gives you immediate comfort.

What has it meant to you personally?

If it can make a difference in one person’s life, then I’ve fulfilled my mission. It makes women feel proud to be illustrated, they love to be shared, there’s a common denominator that’s in all of us, and we all need hope. It’s been probably one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done. It gives me oxygen every day. It gives me hope. I think our lives will never be the same after this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be better.

Let’s talk about how you shifted away from being a fashion designer. When did you begin to focus more on art?

After living in New York and getting the crazy idea of starting my own business, I fell in love, and I moved to Italy in 1992. I became the creative director of Gruppo Genny, which was a big deal for me, being young and American. But later, after I lost my husband, I decided to move back to New York, because it was so painful living there without him. When I got to New York, I started to do a lot more in the arts and with illustration, working with Italian Vogue and Marie Claire. All of a sudden, my life changed. Sometimes you don’t know what your road will be, but you just go with it.

How would you describe your illustration style?

I like to animate women. I like to make them larger than life. I like them to have personality and an attitude. It’s not about beauty in traditional terms. I did a big exhibition in 2016 called Imperfectly Perfect. The whole concept was that beauty today is so different from beauty of 10 years ago, and definitely from the beauty ideas that I was raised with. You can be so unconventional in your look, and in the way you express yourself. We all have things about us that are unique, some call it an oddity, some call it an imperfection. But to me those are the strengths that define us. Whether it’s the way we talk with our hands, whether it’s a certain look in the eye, whether it’s our approach to things. That’s what I like to communicate in the women that I create. It’s about telling a story through one woman, and I think being able to do that is so important. If I had to advise young creators, I’d tell them what they really need to do is master the art of storytelling.

You accomplished that so beautifully in your work for the Fragrance Foundation for Fragrance Day. 

Yes, it was a really natural project for me. The idea was to tell a story about something so important in the fragrance industry — the concept of what notes are. How do we illuminate what they are, how do we celebrate them, how do we show an emotion in each one?

What was your starting point for each one?

When Linda gave me this fabulous project, I thought, ‘oh, this is so much fun!’, I began to think about how there are profiles to people who choose certain notes. It’s all about how you express yourself. The first one I did was Floral [Click here to see all the Fragrance Day Artwork]. I wanted to make her the most regal woman in town, like she really did just come out of Versailles. I imagined music carrying her along in her beautiful rose skirt, and her crown of tuberose. Then, when I thought about Sweet notes, I saw cotton candy and vanilla and caramel, and I thought about someone who liked to have a good laugh. Someone who could wear a coconut bra, and really embrace a joke. Woody is very sophisticated. She’s savvy and she takes herself pretty seriously. To me, patchouli and amber are very seductive notes, so I saw her as someone a bit mysterious. Spicy has a zip to her — she’s not intimidated by anything. She has no trouble being feisty, and kind of kooky. Citrus has a cleanness and a brightness about her, a zest, and I did twins for fruit because I wanted them to be comical and vivacious. Lastly, for Fresh, I wanted somebody who was really celebrating life. Someone who could just be effortless. When you smell something fresh it takes away the tension. Think about the smell of basil and the sea and green notes. Isn’t there something that just makes you want to breathe in and sigh?

How did you approach the animations?

It was just about taking the girls and setting them to music and bringing them to life. It was so much fun! To see Fresh with the turtles swimming around her ankles, and Citrus with her lemons dancing. We wanted to add a little bit of something that would give you even more insight to who this lady is. But I think what’s unique about what we’re doing is that we’re bringing together fashion, beauty, style, fragrance, music, and color — all of these different forms of expression — to celebrate a note.

What do you want people to get from your work?

I like to make people smile. The feel-good factor is very important to me. I think that we all have a responsibility to put good energy into the world. We all have a responsibility to be kind to each other. And if I can use the gifts that I have to lift people out of their troubles, then I’ve done my job.

How does it feel to be such a big part of the Fragrance Foundation’s mission to inspire the world to discover the artistry and passion of fragrance?

I think that Linda is very visionary. She realizes that in order to move the fragrance industry forward, we need to tell stories and bring more art forms into the fragrance world. It’s a huge thing to help people understand that there’s a true art form here, and to celebrate and share information and educate the consumer. I feel so honored to be a part of it.

Feb

IT’S PERSONAL: UP CLOSE WITH LEONARD A. LAUDER

IT’S PERSONAL: UP CLOSE WITH LEONARD A. LAUDER
Spotlight

IT’S PERSONAL: UP CLOSE WITH LEONARD A. LAUDER

IT’S PERSONAL: UP CLOSE WITH LEONARD A. LAUDER

What makes a legend? In Leonard A. Lauder’s case, it’s been generosity, curiosity, and of course, genius business acumen. Working alongside his self-made woman of a mother, the indomitable Estée Lauder, and ultimately taking the reins of the biggest beauty corporation on the planet as CEO from 1982 to 1999, Leonard Lauder has always innately understood that good business begins with good relationships. Since joining Estée Lauder in 1958, he has expanded the definition of a family business to include all of those who work for, and with, the brand—supporting the success of others, and forging lifelong friendships with colleagues, beauty advisors, and fragrance suppliers along the way.

Here, the legendary executive, philanthropist, and art collector sits down with Accords to reflect on his journey at the helm of the cosmetics giant. In the first of a three-part conversation, he looks back on his mother’s game-changing, history-making impact on the fragrance industry as we know it. 

What is your first scent memory?

Well, Youth Dew was launched in 1953. It was my mother’s favorite and it attracted a huge following. And what I do remember is that in 1953, I was still at the University of Pennsylvania. I was a junior and I had just gotten a car. It was a brand-new Plymouth, powder blue, and I had a little ceremony where I christened the mud guard with a bottle of Youth Dew, but then wiped it off because I was afraid it would take off the paint. Youth Dew has been with me over these many years. Now, as it turns out, my wife Judy wears it all the time—and when I smell it on her, I smell love.

What did you learn by watching your mother’s approach to beauty when you were growing up?

That you have to love helping people feel beautiful. You have to love people. And you have to never give up.  She was persistent, and she kept on selling, selling, selling. She truly felt fragrance. She could see it.

What did Estée teach you about the fragrance business?

Again, never give up. I remember, when I first joined the company, I shared a tiny office with her, and I heard her on the phone with a man from van Ameringen, which was the predecessor to IFF. She wanted to have a Youth Dew spray, and the salesman said to her, “Estée, I’m not going to sell you this, because it’s too strong and women don’t like to smell strong.” She said, “I’ll buy it somewhere else,” and hung up. 15 minutes later, guess what? The phone rang. “Okay, we’ll sell it to you.”  It’s about believing in what you believe in, and sticking to your guns.

What do you think Estée understood about women and what they want from fragrance that others did not?

Well, like I said, she loved to make women feel beautiful. Leo Lerman, who was the editor of US Vanity Fair after it launched, was a fellow student of my mother at Newtown High School, and he remembered that she used to love making up her friends and combing their hair. You have to love beauty, and you have to love women, and she did. Which is one of the reasons why Estée Lauder has always been a company that believes in women, as customers and as employees.

There’s so much about Youth Dew that’s legendary—from its introduction as a bath oil to the moment Estée dropped it on the department store floor to draw attention to it to the character of the scent itself. What, in your opinion, was most key in Youth Dew becoming a sensation?

A few things. First of all, it smelled great and it lasted forever. And number two, the techniques of selling it were great. We sampled it and sampled it and sampled it. And when we were tired of doing that, we sampled it some more. I had just started at the company and I was in a little tiny office and I received a cosmetics buyer from Neiman Marcus. He said, “You know, every time we sample your Youth Dew bath oil, people buy it.” So I took all the money we had, which was very little, and bought something like 50,000 samples. We gave it out, and the rest is history. If the product is good, sample it.

There’s a great story about my mother. She got into a taxi to go to the Plaza Hotel for lunch and in those days, taxis didn’t have a screen between the driver and the passengers. So, the man behind the wheel said, “Mmm, you smell wonderful. I think you’re wearing Estée Lauder. All my fashionable passengers wear that.” And as my mother got out of the taxi, she said, “You know, I’m Estée Lauder.” He said, “Yeah, and I’m Cary Grant.”

What perspectives did your father bring to the fragrance side of the business?

He was always the one who helped maintain the quality, and he and my mother were partners. Basically, she was the chief creative officer and he was the chief operating officer. That’s how it worked. He was the calming influence, and he was great at that.

What were Evelyn’s insights on fragrance and why were they so important?

Evelyn had the same skills as my mother did. She dreamt fragrance and she could see fragrance. And when my mother was getting older, she called Evelyn up and said, ” Evy, I’m working on my new fragrance. Can you help me finish it?” And Evelyn went in and spent a lot of time on it, and that became Beautiful.  

When you say that they could see it, what do you mean?

I can’t explain it. My mother said, “I can see fragrance” and Evelyn said the same thing. I took them at their word.

Didn’t your mother also invent the idea of the fragrance wardrobe?

Well, as time went on, we had children. I don’t mean actual children, I mean more fragrances. We had Estée and Aliage and White Linen and so on until we had 10 or 12 fragrances. We used to do a huge business at Christmas time with a package of mini versions of all of them, called Small Wonders. But the idea for our fragrance wardrobe came from Mrs. Estée Lauder, my mother. She said, “You have to wear something different at night than what you wear during the day.” Simple, right? She was the first person to say that.

Dec

THE TREND PREDICTOR: WENDY LIEBMANN

THE TREND PREDICTOR: WENDY LIEBMANN
Spotlight

THE TREND PREDICTOR: WENDY LIEBMANN

THE TREND PREDICTOR: WENDY LIEBMANN

Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail

Wendy Liebmann knows what you’re going to buy before you do. She also knows why, and where you’re going to shop for it. The Australian-born founder of WSL Strategic Retail has been conducting research and reading the tea leaves about consumer habits for more than two decades, helping companies across beauty, fragrance, food, and fashion build retail strategies by staying connected to the desires and priorities of the customers navigating the shop floor. “We observe shoppers everywhere from the subway to some mountain in Peru,” she says. “We look at things and ask, ‘What is happening? Why is it happening? How can we ground that in data? What’s the insight? What does it mean about the future?’” The answers are often surprising, and always invaluable. Here, Liebmann talks to ACCORDS about the state of retail today, and shares her thoughts on how the fragrance industry can capture more consumers as we head into 2020. 

How does WSL work to create shopper-led retail experiences?

We help our clients, who are both manufacturers and retailers, stay focused on what shoppers are doing and thinking and how that will impact their purchasing behavior. We know how people want to consume a product, but when it comes to how they want to buy and where they want to buy, that’s something that companies can get stuck in their own heads about. We help them anticipate where shoppers are headed. Our focus has always been on understanding the economic, political, social, and technological factors that are impacting how people are living their lives, and how that impacts how they choose to spend money on goods and services, and ultimately on specific categories and products.

We do a lot of our own primary research, under the banner of How America Shops. The first study we did was almost 30 years ago, and it was really based on our curiosity about changes in where people were shopping. They were shopping high and low, mass and prestige, and it was weird in those days. Why did somebody who shopped at Saks also shop at Walmart? Now, because we’ve been tracking consumer behavior for so long, we can help our clients see how things have shifted, and then help them determine where the shopper is headed, so they can build a relevant retail experience, whether that’s physical or digital.

What are some of the larger trends that you’ve seen coming before anyone else?

One of the most impactful is the shift we saw coming back in 2015 or 2016 from acquiring things to what we call buying happiness. It was the moment we saw how the notion of the American Dream, which had been grounded in acquisition—I want my own home, I want my own car—move into this very emotionally-driven set of values, and that evolved somewhat out of the recession. That’s when people started to talk about things like well-being and less stress and financial stability in ways that were highly emotive. It’s really changed everything, and driven the whole trend towards health and wellness.

Now, the big trend that we have been tracking with our clients has been all about time. That has become a foundational shift in everything you deliver, whether it’s products like fragrance, or how you’re presented at retail—people are making choices that are saying, “If it’s not easy for me, I’m not interested.” The idea of “taking stress out of my life” has evolved into “I value my time.” That’s one of the big threads that we see today.

What else are you seeing now that you think points to the future?

What we’re looking at here is this major reset in the shopper’s mindset. Last year, we talked about shoppers trying to wrest control in a world of chaos, and what’s emerged in our recent work is that the shopper is now saying, “I have to take control.” They’re incredibly purposeful about everything they do. It’s grounded in this fundamental trust that people are now thinking through. If you talk about perfect beauty, they turn it on their head and talk about how it’s fine to be imperfect. People are challenging the old truths. They’re thinking about their purpose in life, not their possessions in life. That’s changing the way that brands and retailers need to think about how they do business, because there’s now a very different sense of how we need to engage shoppers.

How would you describe what’s happening in fragrance retail specifically?

The fragrance industry is doing what everybody else in the beauty industry is doing, which is not understanding the magnitude of the change. The good news is that they’ve been fairly level for some time. But to me, the companies, both brand and retailers, need to understand that fragrance has to have a different emotional tenor now. It isn’t only about a designer or celebrity or a gorgeously designed package, it’s about the emotional value of the moments that fragrance creates in our lives and in our memories and in our health and well-being. It’s a massive opportunity that a lot of companies are not responding to.

We talk to younger consumers all the time about their shopping, and they think of fragrance in different ways. They think about fragrance in terms of candles or the lavender spray they put on their pillow. It’s become much more holistic than just a bottle of perfume. I think the good news for the industry at large is business is stable. The bad news for the industry at large is business is stable. Meaning that the value of fragrance as a tool for well-being has not really been captured or taken advantage of yet.

How do you think they should seize that opportunity?

I think stepping back and saying, “How can we talk about fragrance in a different way?” We did some work years ago with a retailer who was trying to create a different focus for their fragrance experience, and we brought all the executives into a strategy session and asked them to talk about a moment in their life where fragrance had an emotional impact. It was such a valuable tool because all of these fragrance executives were able to remember the essence of what a smell does to you. We had people talk about everything from their mother’s kitchen and special meals to the smell of their newborn baby to their wedding day. It was extraordinary. I think these are the levels of engagement that consumers are looking for again. And I think that’s part of the tremendous opportunity here. Look around at who’s doing interesting things—for example, you walk into a hotel like the Westin and it has a fragrance. It’s not just like, “Isn’t this clean?” but rather, “Oh, we must be at the Westin.” That is what consumers of fragrance are looking for today, an emotional resonance and memory that only a wonderful smell can create.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about how people shop for perfume?

On the one hand, the industry at large thinks about fragrance as a browsing experience where somebody wants to come in and immerse themselves. What we’ve come to know is most of that mythology was driven in a time when people had more time, and the retail experience was more relevant for them to come in and wander through. Today, life has become so frenetic that people buy fragrance the same way we see them buy everything. They are in a hurry, and they are so overwhelmed by the choice. Walking into a department store is like walking down the beauty aisle or into the grocery store—it becomes so challenging to pick one or to immerse yourself in one, that people now go on autopilot. Fragrance, which should be an emotional purchase, has become a category, like lots of other categories, where people go, “Can I get it fast?” “Is it easy to understand?” “Am I just replenishing?” “Do I care to spend my valuable time immersing myself in something new? “Celebrity A has talked about it, I’ll just buy it.” We need to break that rhythm. We’ve seen it in categories like specialty food, where the goods are presented through sight and smell and curation. 

What are some examples of the way those other categories have broken the rhythm?

I’m struck by the new Comme des Garçons store in Paris, which I’ve been reading about. The way that store has very selectively chosen the brands that it will carry, which is not only Comme des Garçons but other fragrance brands. Each of the brands are presented in ways that are limited, and each with their own very selective space. I think that allows the voice and message and the story to be clearer to the consumer. Less is more, which is always a challenge in this market because we’re so used to “more is more.” The storytelling needs to be much more differentiated. I think the storytelling now is left outside the physical space and left to social media and Instagrammable messaging. The experience in the store is just to literally pile it on, and I think that’s a big miss.

If you walk into an Eataly, the messaging of what it stands for—that it’s about Italian lifestyle and food—is immediate. It’s also clearly organized by either food type or experience. So you’ve got the fishmonger, and then the prepackaged fish and the place to eat the fish. And, “Okay, now how about some wine while you’re buying your fish?” They’ve created these microcosms of specialty that enable people to immerse themselves in a cultural message, an experience from the highest level down to the very utilitarian question of “What’s for dinner tonight?”

I think that’s why the smaller, independent specialty retailers who are doing fragrance are continuing to grow, because there are people who want that immersive experience that they’re not getting it in a larger retail space like a department store. Sephora turned fragrance on its head two decades ago by saying, “We’re going to make it much more democratic. We’re going to let you shop by alphabetized fragrance.” When they did that, it was novel, and it was approachable. You could test scent without people leaning over you all the time and trying to force something on you. But we haven’t seen that kind of innovation in a long time.

What can digital fragrance retailers be doing beyond sampling?

I think digital has the ability to create emotional visual experiences, and it’s missing out. We can create a virtual reality, like walking through the lavender fields of Provence, but what the industry has done is it has used the online platform more for just replenishment. Or, there’s the fragrance, there’s the model, there’s the bottle, there’s the price, ship it home.  Some fragrance brands have beautiful imagery, but they’re not using the technology to create a mood board that takes me into the visual experience and enables me to understand what the sensory experience is. Those things can be so powerful. It’s like hearing a perfumer talk about how they’ve created something, and you can smell it without actually smelling it.

So the brands that are putting perfumers front and center are doing it right?

That’s the other piece, right? The power of storytelling about the fragrance. I never think it’s about a green note or whatever note. I just like what I like. But that whole proposition about hearing a perfumer talk about a scent, it’s like hearing a great artist talk. Even if it’s just about how they created the fragrance that’s in my laundry detergent. It’s incredibly palpable.

Nov

THE CULTIVATOR: CAROL HAMILTON

THE CULTIVATOR: CAROL HAMILTON
Spotlight

THE CULTIVATOR: CAROL HAMILTON

THE CULTIVATOR: CAROL HAMILTON

Carol Hamilton, Group President of Acquisitions, L’Oréal

On October 30th, the Fragrance Foundation named beauty business icon Carol Hamilton the 20th annual Circle of Champions honoree. Hamilton’s accomplishments and contributions to the fragrance industry cannot be underestimated: She has transformed L’Oréal Paris as a company, not only by making it more successful and more charitable since she joined in 1984, but also by touching the lives of people she has worked with as a mentor and guide. She’s a crusader for women’s rights, a formidable philanthropist, a creative force to be reckoned with—and an extraordinary gardener. Here, she reflects on 35 years at the top of her game.

What does it mean to you to be welcomed into the Circle of Champions?

I’ve been trying to think about exactly how I would define a champion, but I think it’s someone who has made a difference in the world and who has championed ideas and people and causes. I think it means I’ve really pushed for things, and achieved something. I love it.

What have been some of the greatest moments in your career?

The greatest moments always involve people. To hire someone and mentor them, and then see them get promoted up the ranks and achieve their dreams—that’s one of the things that has made me most proud. I would say the other is being able to blend my love of business with finding related purposes that give back to the world. For example, the first philanthropic cause for L’Oréal was to join with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in 1995. That was before we bought Kiehl’s. I joined the Ovarian Cancer Research Board and started doing events, not only to raise money for the fund but also to create advocates of our employees and to have events that made survivors feel more beautiful and loved during their fight. I also got very involved with doctors to understand where the money that L’Oréal raised was being spent, which was tremendously rewarding for me personally and for the company. Over a fourteen-year alliance with them, we became the number one fundraiser on behalf of ovarian cancer research.

Then you went on to expand L’Oreal’s philanthropic work even more.

When I moved to the Luxury Division in 2008 in the depths of the recession, I thought if we just keep looking at the sales numbers, we’re going get really depressed. We needed to use the time more constructively. I asked each of the brands to select a philanthropic cause that was very closely connected to what they stood for. The Giorgio Armani brand, whose number one fragrance was Acqua Di Gio, decided to work with UNICEF and created a program called Acqua for Life, which is now ten years old. We’ve raised 10 million dollars to bring clean water to the most needed countries in the world. With Lancome, we partnered with St. Jude, because the fact that the brand was one that was transmitted from mother to daughter resonated with the importance of family relationships to the way St. Jude treats childhood cancer. I believe if you can couple the power of a brand and the passion of its employees with a cause, you not only give back but you make a much more purposeful brand, and that’s what consumers are looking for.

How did you get started with gender equality work?

I’ve always been a big champion for women, but in about 2013 it dawned on me that maybe I should understand gender equality more from a fact-based point of view and really study it, rather than just be the victim of a subtle, sometimes-unconscious bias. I found a course at Harvard called Women in Power. It’s a week-long adult course, and it really made me understand that there are true physiological and biological reasons why men and women are different in terms of the way they approach negotiation, networking, everything. It made it much easier for me to tackle conversations that before I had avoided. And last year I became the chair of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard, so I’m responsible for leading the agenda for the next 20 years.

What advice do you give to young women who are just getting started in the industry?

It’s kind of trite because so many people say it, but follow your passion. Also be very serious about learning, and never allow yourself to be typecast because you look or act a certain way or you’re a certain gender. You will be good at what you want to be good at and what you choose to focus on. It’s really about being very strong and committed and not letting one-off situations derail you.

How did you find the transition into the Luxury Division after having worked with mass brands for so long?

I loved it. Now, it was most at the most difficult time. There wasn’t one number on any sales sheet that was positive, not one. And everything was different: especially the relationship with the retailer. I always say the most important word when work in mass is yes. The most important word in luxury is no. It took me a while to get comfortable with that.

You’re now Group President of Acquisitions. What does that entail?

My scope is to find American brands that can be globalized. It’s a job that has made my schedule much more external than my previous schedule used to be. I’m constantly out talking to founders, going to summits, going to forums and really just trying to spend as much time as I can either understanding the market and brands. And then of course, internally, I’m working with each of the divisions to understand what brands really fill the gaps in their strategy. It’s a very broad, all-encompassing role that is very exciting for me at this stage in my life and career.

What is your personal connection to fragrance?

It’s funny, I didn’t wear fragrance growing up, and my mother didn’t wear fragrance either. And because I grew up in my career in mass, where fragrances are not an important category, I did not have to study them or become an expert in them. I was much more of an expert in what I call the color categories, makeup and hair color. And then my second categories were skin care and hair care. So, when I joined Luxury, all of the sudden I had this portfolio of fragrances and I must admit that I was a bit nervous. It seemed very foreign to me. But Leslie Marino who was running our fragrances at the time came to my office and said, “What’s your favorite fragrance? I want to group our fragrances around and give you the ones that you will want to wear.” I had to admit in a very low voice, “I don’t wear fragrance. You’re going to have to help me.” I decided to choose one fragrance as my signature scent to really help me focus and understand the category. I chose Flowerbomb because I loved the fact that it was all about female empowerment. It wasn’t about the man or the girl trying to get the guy and vice versa. It was just this iconic visual of a powerful woman that was so beautiful. And I loved the designers, Victor and Rolf, who I found very interesting in kind of an exotic way. I also realized that I had a connection to fragrance in my garden.

I’ve heard you have a very special garden. How did you make that connection?

I do. We have a house in Litchfield, Connecticut that was designed and built by Marcel Breuer, the Bauhaus architect, in the early 70s. Breuer really celebrated nature and built his homes so that you could experience that. I spend all of my free time, from April to October, tending to my garden. It’s what I love the most. It’s the colors and the shapes, but also the scents. And I realized that I do love fragrance, I just wasn’t wearing fragrance. I started to use my garden as inspiration for my fragrance journey, and I realized that in retrospect that’s why I chose Flowerbomb.

Do you find gardening to be calming?

It totally stimulates me, especially my creative side. But it totally relaxes me at the same time. The only problem with it is that my wine consumption goes up extraordinarily high in the summer because I can’t garden without a glass of wine.

Is Flowerbomb still your favorite fragrance?

I still love it. I also love Giorgio Armani Si, and I really love Atelier Cologne. Especially Orange Sanguine, which is their number one.. I like Beach Walk of Margiela, because I grew up in California on the ocean.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the fragrance business?

I think the recognition that there is a place for clean, lighter fragrances. Especially with the American market growing, there is a difference between the very beautiful, historical French approach to fragrance and the way Americans are looking at really just having it as a lifestyle statement.

What do you foresee happening in the future?

I think that it’s going to continue to become very much a part of our lifestyle. Fragrances are going to become a bigger part of the wellbeing movement, in terms of being something that can alter our moods in a positive way. I think fragrance will be thought of more in terms of emotions than sexuality.

Oct

THE ARTIST: MATHILDE LAURENT

THE ARTIST: MATHILDE LAURENT
Spotlight

THE ARTIST: MATHILDE LAURENT

THE ARTIST: MATHILDE LAURENT

Mathilde Laurent is a true trailblazer—not only is her work consistently stunningly original, but as house perfumer for Cartier since 2005, she has also been a beacon of inspiration for aspiring female perfumers. A born and bred Parisian, Laurent is an advocate for—and living embodiment of—creative freedom: She has established her lab and office within the walls of the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, and is always looking for ways to communicate the true artistic potential of fragrance with the rest of the world. One of her most dazzling achievements to date was dreaming up a perfumed cloud, which she created in collaboration with climate engineers Transsolar, and first exhibited in Paris in 2017. On October 30th, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will unveil Laurent’s latest USO—Unidentified Scented Object—enabling museum-goers to once again immerse themselves in a floating cloud of scent. 

What inspired the perfumed clouds? 

It started with my perfume L’Envol, which was launched in 2016. The inspiration for that perfume was mead, ambrosia, the drink of gods. It immediately launched me in the clouds, because the gods are meant to live in the sky above the clouds, and when you drink mead you are said to be near them. Also the historic function of perfume was to link humans on earth and the gods in the sky. So when doing my research around L’Envol, I was always thinking of elevating one’s mind and spirit towards the sky. That’s how he original concept came about.

And then how did you make it happen?

I always try to help people who are smelling my perfumes understand them, not only from an olfactive standpoint but from an intellectual standpoint. So we were searching for something that would show the idea of L’Envol and give people an experience. This is how we started to talk about a perfumed cloud that smelled of L’Envol. We did some research and we heard about the work of Transsolar, so we contacted them, and that was the start of the adventure.

The cloud in Abu Dhabi will be at the Louvre. Do. You consider it a work of art?

When the cloud was presented in the Contemporary Art Fair in Paris, it took on an artistic dimension that I love because even if I don’t consider myself as a contemporary artist, I want to show that perfume is not just a product, a consumer good. I want to show that perfume is poetry, perfume is art, perfume is sensation, perfume is speaking of who we are and how we live. This is why I’m so glad to put it in Abu Dhabi. I think it also has such a great thing to say about where perfume is going nowadays. 

And where do you think that is?

I have always thought that perfumery shouldn’t be only industrial. I have always felt like there is a lack of consideration of the artistic aspect of perfumery. And there is also a lack of contemporary olfactory artists and we must help that exist, because that would make everyone so much happier. If there is more variety, more ways to wear and use and understand perfume, we will all be happy.

Your working space is within an art gallery. Why is it important to you to be near art?

It’s more than important, in fact. Being in Fondation Cartier gives me a relationship to art, and also an opportunity to meet artists, philosophers, and writers  – people who are very diverse and at the highest level of expertise. It’s a very lively, very sparkling environment. It gives me so many joys and so many ideas and so many friends.

You’ve talked about the idea of this kind of olfactory shock. How do you go about kind of having an element of surprise in your creations?

I think that I always pay a tribute to Mr. Edmond Roudnitska. He’s the first one who said, “A good perfume is the one that gives you a shock.” I want to follow that path and to make it feel alive. I think that it’s like love at first sight. Love at first sight is not something quiet. It’s something that makes your heart beat very fast and strong and it’s something which is violent but sweet, in fact. And I think perfume is the same. If you meet a perfume and it doesn’t make an impression, it will not become the perfume of your life. Very often, the perfume of your life is the one that you are just amazed or just sometimes disturbed by. You are just surprised, you are not used to the smell. This is why I have the strong belief that perfume can bring something to your life—it can create passion, desire, satisfaction. 

You’ve connected fragrance and food, drink, jewelry, and more. What are some of the ways that you think about these interconnections?

I think it’s just my brain, which is always putting things in the same box and agitating the box. In my everyday job at Cartier, we very often speak of the house, speak of the gems, speak of the history of jewelry, history of perfumery. But in fact I think it’s because my brain is rather kinesthetic. It’s a kind of game for me when I hear someone speaking of his job, or his passion. I inadvertently know what matches with perfumery and what doesn’t. I consider myself as someone who is playing with odors and smells and also nature and psychology.

What do you consider the most elusive, uncapturable scent?

The vibration of life, the vibration of truth, the vibration of living reality, living nature, living flowers, living trees. That’s really my quest in my work. It is to always try to do flowers as fresh as I can so that you nearly feel them living. 

What is your favorite smell in the world?

It’s a conceptual one. It’s the smell of peace. I think it would be wonderful if I could smell it everywhere.

Do you dream in scents?

I love that question. But I don’t have the memory of a scented dream, I must confess.

You are such an inspiring presence as a woman in fragrance. What kind of advice do you share with other women? 

First of all, it’s really important to me to create perfumes which are not an olfactory caricature of femininity – nor a caricature of masculinity. I try to offer flowers for men and woods for women. And to work in notes that are unusual on the market. So that people can choose what they want to wear and not what they are told to wear, I try to offer perfume with a very large and very open-minded vision of femininity.

And I think, nowadays, there are more female perfumers than male perfumers. Or at least it’s even. When I was in school, a long time ago, already there were five times more women than men. And at the moment there are girls paying attention and thinking they can reach the job of perfume designer, but I think it is very funny to see how there are more male perfumers in the media even though they are less numerous now. It is true that until Christine Nagel joined Hermes I was alone as a female in-house perfumer. Now we are two. But in the fragrance companies, there are lots of women. 

How do you want your creations to make people feel when they’re wearing them?

I want them to feel very free. Even free to wear perfume or not. I have just as much consideration for a person who doesn’t wear perfume as for a person who wears my perfume. What I want is to give people freedom to wear any perfume; you don’t have to wear a male perfume because you are male, wear male or female or any other sex because it’s very important to consider that nowadays that we have several sexes, several ways of considering yourself.  What I really want is for people to wear perfume because it gives them a real pleasure, not because it makes them feel clean. It’s really important to go back to thinking of fragrance as something like a jewel, and wearing it like an ornament. 

Sep

GRAND DESIGN: JASON WU

GRAND DESIGN: JASON WU
Spotlight

GRAND DESIGN: JASON WU

GRAND DESIGN: JASON WU

One might think Jason Wu especially charmed, if it weren’t clear how hard he works. The Taiwanese-born designer famously dresses the likes of Michelle Obama—for whom he whipped up the memorably stunning gowns she wore at both of her husband’s Presidential inaugurations—but he actually got his start creating doll clothes for a toy company. His signature aesthetic—ladylike, sophisticated, ultra-chic—also defines the two fragrances that he has so far unveiled for his fashion house, the eponymous Jason Wu and its follow-up Velvet Rouge. ACCORDS stopped by his bustling New York studio just before Fashion Week to talk to the down-to-earth, perfume-loving designer about inspiration, new experiences and old friendships, and how to sniff out a great party.  

Your debut perfume tapped into memories of your childhood in Taiwan. What was the process of creating that fragrance like?

I’ve always really enjoyed scent in every way, so it was a longtime dream of mine to create a fragrance. I grew up in Taiwan, where we had a really big garden, which was quite unusual because it’s mostly just apartment buildings. But my father had a lifelong interest in flowers and plants, and that was a big influence on me. 

I wanted the fragrance to be about the magic of my childhood. Smell is maybe more powerful than anything else when it comes to conjuring up memories, and I really just started in a very organic way. I sat down with Frank Voelkl, the perfumer, and we went through a bunch of different ingredients. He didn’t tell me what they were, I just wanted to have a pure reaction. And then at one point a smell stopped me in my tracks. It was the jasmine. I hadn’t smelled it in a while, because it’s not really a flower you see in the city, but I immediately remembered why I like it so much. There was a lot of jasmine in the neighborhood I grew up in, and my cousin and I used to go and pick the flowers. That became the centerpiece for the Jason Wu fragrance, which also has pink peppercorn, grapefruit, and lily-of-the-valley. I wanted create something that was light, feminine, and that really represents me and also the brand.

Is it challenging to embody the spirit of your fashion in scent?

I’ve done so many different products throughout my career, from the bathroom faucet I designed in partnership with Brizo to the sofas I recently did with Interior Define.  I always set out to design the life around her, and scent and beauty are very much part of her routine. I want to know where she lives, I want to know what kind of food she likes to eat, I want to know what she smells like, all of those things. It all comes together because it’s a whole lifestyle. 

Do you think of fragrance as an accessory to the clothing in the same way as a piece of jewelry?

Yeah, I think so. Some people have signature pieces of jewelry they wear all the time, and some people are going to have a scent they wear all the time. It’s something that is very subliminal but actually extremely effective. You remember those things, good or bad. Like, ex-boyfriend—bad. There are some things you just can’t smell again. But then there are others… like my mom used to use this lotion, and when I was little I used to jump in the bed with her, so I always remember that smell as a happy one. Things like that can be very deeply ingrained. 

What was the thinking behind Velvet Rouge?

I wanted to create a naughtier sister. The first Jason Wu fragrance was really clear, really transparent and light. And Velvet Rouge is mysterious and a little bit more sensual. Something a bit more of the night. I say most people have two sides, and these are two sides of my olfactory taste that I wanted to express. Velvet Rouge is about rose, cedarwood and incense. 

I grew up around woods. My parents had a lot of old furniture, and sandalwood and cedar are very important in Chinese culture. It’s also in a lot of temples throughout Asia. That became the accessory to the rose because I wanted to counterbalance the richness with something that cuts the sweetness of the floral smell. But what’s interesting is that when I was growing up I didn’t like the smell of incense, sandalwood, or cedar. And now, in my thirties, I love it. 

Do you think it’s partly because it reminds you of that time?

I don’t know, maybe. But sometimes your taste just evolves. I think there’s something inherently sophisticated about woods that I think people grow up to appreciate more. It’s like vegetables.

Why was rose a significant choice?

I love rose. When I was designing my fall 2019 collection, the whole collection was inspired by the rose. It’s just such a classic, and there’s something very special about this rose extract—it’s so exquisite. 

Do you have plans for the next scent?

We have a lot more plans. I’m really excited. More sisters are coming! I’m just having a lot of fun. We’re always in development and I have a bunch of samples right now that I’m playing with. Something that is really nice about this is that in two years we have launched two fragrances, which is really quite untraditional for designer brand fragrances, which usually take two, three, four years to do. I think the reason for that is that it’s something that comes from me, very directly. it doesn’t go through a consumer survey, it doesn’t get tested by focus groups. It’s really about what I like.

What are you most inspired by?

I’m always inspired by the women around me, the people I dress. I’ve been very lucky to dress amazing women from First Lady Michelle Obama to the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle, to one of my closest friends, Diane Kruger, to Kate Bosworth—all are women that have continued to inspire me with their own sense of style and what they do. I think ultimately being a man designing women’s wear it’s really important to surround yourself with women.

What else fuels your creativity in your life?

I would say travel, and it doesn’t even have to be international. Like I’m starting my fall concept already and I was here and I didn’t really have any ideas, so I took a taxi downtown to The Strand and I bought a bunch of new books. That was great. I spent like two hours there, getting inspired. So it’s every kind of travel, every kind of scene. As long as I’m just always being exposed to new things, that’s all that matters.

What are some of your favorite places to go, when it is farther afield?

I love Greece. I would love to create a fragrance based on my memories there, because you can’t really go wrong anywhere there, it’s just so beautiful. funny enough I was actually there in May and there was a whole wall of jasmine, so I had to take a picture with it. It’s interesting, those things follow you everywhere, but that’s the Greece edition of jasmine.

Being based in New York, I try to go to warm places. But another place I love to go is Japan. Japan is one of the most beautiful, rich in culture, but also just a culture that really appreciates beauty. It’s in every detail.

What have your experiences been in the fragrance world versus the fashion world?

It’s very different. It’s interesting having been to the Fragrance Foundation Awards for the second time this year—it’s actually quite a different crowd. You think fashion and beauty are so entrenched together, but it is its own machine. Having the chance to meet so many different perfumers, fragrance houses, and also people in the beauty-business side of things has been really interesting for me. It’s been a great learning experience and I hope to continue to learn and meet new people. 

What have been some of your other favorite scents throughout your life?

One of the first scents that I ever encountered was Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel. I have flannel drapes all over my home and my studio, because it came in a little gray flannel pouch which I thought was really cool. That was one of my earliest influences. And then, of course, I grew up with CK1. It was the scent of my teens. 

In terms of ingredients, I love flowers. It’s apparent in my work, it’s apparent in the way we do our shows—it’s always been a very important part. I love the smell of a freshly cut stem. It’s that green, that crisp green. There’s another flower called the osmanthus, an Asian flower I grew up with. I’m looking forward to doing something with that. And I love lime, because it’s very citrusy and bright. I like to cook, so I use lime a lot. 

How would you describe the smell of the best party you have ever been to?

The smell of the best party is always champagne. Always, because that’s maybe the only thing you remember.

Speaking of parties, what did you enjoy most about the Fragrance Foundation Awards this year?

I loved it. Jane Krakowski, I absolutely adore—she’s amazing, funny, talented, engaging, and the best host ever. And of course having the opportunity to meet Linda has been really special. I love the Fragrance Awards because, as I mentioned, it’s a world that I’ve not been a part of for most of my fashion career. Getting to meet so many new people who are pioneers and influencers in the beauty industry is really great. That’s one part of it, and then the other part is that this year I got to present an award, and that was really special, because sharing the stage with Tom Ford, and all the famous perfumers, was very humbling. It was also special to see my friend Laura Slatkin get an award. I did a collaboration, in Spring 2012, with Nest Candles—one of my first scent experiences—and I was fortunate enough to meet Laura then.

How do you like to scent your home?

I have little pieces of palo santo that I light. I have it here in my studio too, it’s always burning somewhere.

Now that you like woods…

Yeah, now that I’m an old lady, yes, I like my woods very much. It’s really all you need. It’s really clean and really fresh.

Do you wear a scent yourself?

I do, right now I’m wearing Super Cedar by Byredo.

More wood!

I know! I like it. But I’m dying to make a fragrance that’s unisex, so I can wear my own. And, that might just be coming… 

Aug

THE EAU ENCYCLOPEDIA: MICHAEL EDWARDS

THE EAU ENCYCLOPEDIA: MICHAEL EDWARDS
Spotlight

THE EAU ENCYCLOPEDIA: MICHAEL EDWARDS

THE EAU ENCYCLOPEDIA: MICHAEL EDWARDS

Michael Edwards, author of the lauded 1996 book Perfume Legends, is something of a perfume legend himself. He’s been called “the perfume expert’s expert”—and yet the impact of his work has reached even those with a mere passing interest in scent. Not only is he the creator of the iconic fragrance wheel, he’s also the mastermind behind Fragrances of the World, an exhaustively comprehensive guide to every imaginable sniff that’s sold, now in its 33rd edition—while his digital database lists more than 30,000 fragrances, which can be cross-referenced by brand, perfumer, ingredients, or bottle designer.

For many, however, it’s Edwards’ scholarly—but wholly engaging—writing about the history of perfumery that’s been his most powerful contribution to the way that we understand and talk about scent. Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, which chronicled the creation of 45 epoch-defining eaus, has become a coveted cult classic, especially as copies have grown scarce. Happily, he’ll be publishing an updated and expanded edition, Perfume Legends II, in September (with more tricks up his sleeve to follow). Here, the irrepressible raconteur shares the story behind his journey into the world of wonderful smells.

What inspired you to create your first guide to fragrance classification guide?

In the mid-70s, I worked for Halston. Halston was a great brand at that time, and it was just as the fragrance market was starting to take off. Charlie was the pivotal change: Fragrance reflects the times, and suddenly women were making their own money and buying their own fragrances. Before that, perfume had been a gift—but by the end of the 70s women accounted for more fragrance sales than men. I was in Paris at that stage, and I had watched the evolution of New World wines, and the way that they had been classified in order to explain them to customers. It wasn’t a new idea, but I thought it might be interesting to apply that idea to perfumes in order to help the customer figure out what she might like.

After I left Halston in the early 80s, I started up as a retail specialist. And our problem in retail is simple: People think that they can only smell three or four perfumes before their nose gets tired. So it’s important to choose the right ones for them to smell. I thought maybe fragrance families could be the key, because if you ask people for the names of their favorite three perfumes, almost invariably at least two will fall into the same family. We don’t know why this is, we just know it’s true. That’s why, in 1984, I started my first guide. It was tiny, and really just a manual for the training I did, to be used in store. I’d ask you to tell me the perfumes you like, I’d look them up in the back, and I would give you suggestions. Remember, there were only 29 new fragrances in 1984; so it was easier than today. In 1991, Nordstrom asked me to expand the guide, and it grew from there.

What led to the publication of the Perfume Legends in 1996?

I’d always been fascinated with the stories of how perfumes came about. There were so many myths, some of which didn’t ring true. And in the early 1990s, perfumers were invisible. There were books by artists, musicians, sculptors, but nothing by perfumers. And when I came up with the idea to tell their stories, I had the luck to interest two masters. One was Guy Robert, who was at that time President of the French Society of Perfumers. He became a very close friend, my mentor, and for the last 10 years of his life, the technical consultant for my Fragrances of the World guidebook. The other was Edmond Roudnitska, the great perfumer, who did relatively few fragrances but a number of them were masterpieces that changed the architecture of perfumery—Diorella, Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage. The problem was that when I started on the book, he was already a very elderly man in his 80’s. He had a reputation of being a very grumpy old man, so I didn’t expect anything when I wrote to him. To my surprise, he agreed to receive me. I thought I’d be lucky to get 10, 15 minutes. But in the first of our interviews, he spent almost three hours.

Those two opened doors for me, and in the end, I spoke with just under 160 people, from great perfumers to bottle designers to the heads of houses. I ended up including 45 fragrances in the book, starting with Jicky in 1889 and going right way through to Angel in 1992. The book came out quietly and then over time it turned into a cult.

What do you think made it resonate with people?

Many people write about perfumes, but they write from their viewpoint. I didn’t. I was trying to find history, so I wrote it through the eyes of the creators. I’ve always had the belief that if we don’t understand how things started, then how can we interpret where we’re going today? The nicest compliments I ever get are when younger perfumers come up and say, “I want to shake your hand. Your book made me want to be a perfumer.”

Why did you decide to update the book now?

I’ve been asked again and again to do an update. I got sidetracked by the sheer explosion of fragrances. Last year we tracked nearly 3,000 new perfumes. But I finally carved out the side time to do the interviews. The book is quite extensively changed. For Chanel No 5, I’ve rewritten an entire chapter, because over the past 22 years there’s been a lot of new research.

You’ve also added eight new scents. What fragrances made the cut?

I’ve included Fracas, Germaine Cellier’s fantastic tuberose. Feminité du Bois, with that unbelievable woody note. Flower by Kenzo, created by the genius Alberto Morillas. J’Adore, Coco Mademoiselle, Timbuktu, Guerlain’s 1979 Nahema. And then lastly, Portrait of a lady, Dominique Ropion’s masterpiece for Frederic Malle.

Were there others that you very much wanted to include?

Lancome’s La Vie est Belle. But I believe that you have to give a legend time. There are three criteria to make a legend: number one is an accord so innovative that other people copy it. Number two, an impact, so profound it creates a trend. And number three an appeal that is likely to endure. So I felt it was a bit too soon for that one.

There’s also been talk of an American Perfume Legends project. Where are you with that?

I’ve been talking about it for so long. But I’m well on the way. I’ve identified 42 legends, starting with Elizabeth Arden’s Bluegrass from 1934. It was the first international success, and I don’t think I can write about American perfumes without writing about the people who made it happen—Arden, Estée Lauder, Charles Revson, Calvin Klein. You’ll see Youth Dew, White Shoulders, Charlie, of course, as well as men’s fragrances, for the first time. I’ve completed the drafts for 31 of them, and I’ve got about another 18 months to work on it before I’m finished. After that, I should retire… don’t you think?

Jul

THE EDUCATOR: FRANCIS HEMBERT

THE EDUCATOR: FRANCIS HEMBERT
Spotlight

THE EDUCATOR: FRANCIS HEMBERT

THE EDUCATOR: FRANCIS HEMBERT

Fragrance education is critical for everyone—not only for the consumer, but for those inside the industry as well. That’s where Cinquieme Sens (French for “the fifth sense,” or sense of smell), comes in. The venerable school was founded in 1976 by Monique Schlienger, a former perfumer at Robertet and a teacher at ISIPCA in Versailles. Monique saw a need for a curriculum that would enrich the knowledge of all fragrance professionals, whether they are selling, marketing, or creating scent. More than 40 years later, guided by Francis Hembert, a former Firmenich senior executive who is now partner and president of the US affiliate in charge of international business development, Cinquieme Sens continues to lead the charge in teaching perfume pros how to contextualize and speak eloquently about the artistry and power of scent. In the US, Cinquieme Sens classes are offered in partnership with the Fragrance Foundation to its members and non-members, and its global reach is expansive, with programs in Mexico, South America, Singapore, Dubai, Mumbai, Seoul, Melbourne, and soon, Shanghai. “We want to be the educational partner of the key perfumery players in every region,” says Hembert. “And the need is stronger than ever in our increasingly complex fragrance world.” After all, the more we know, the better we can engage with each other and with consumers.

What are the specific Cinquieme Sens courses offered through the Fragrance Foundation in New York?
Since 2017, Cinquieme Sens has joined The Fragrance Foundation as their official partner for in-person perfumery training in targeting a wide range of professionals: Brand Development, Brand Marketing, Sales and Technical teams for Brands, Fragrance Houses, and Retailers. We have partnered with industry experts Kathryn Balcerski and Tami Katz of Serendipitee NYC, who are both former senior executives from fragrance creation companies, to deliver these programs to TFF members and non-members. They know fragrance from the inside out: everything about fragrance development and sales, but also about the products, the ingredients, where raw materials are harvested, and what types of extractions are used. We offer: The Techniques and Language of Perfumery; the Fragrance Development Program, and the Fragrance Sales Program. We also develop tailor-made programs for customers, depending on their objectives and needs, taking into account their budget and time constraints.

What are the key elements of each Cinquieme Sens class?
In the Techniques and Language of Perfumery Program, we introduce perfumery culture starting with history, then focus on olfactive knowledge of the key ingredients (naturals, molecules) and facets as well as their emotional impact in the fragrance creation. We also explain the sense of smell and its connection to memory and emotion, and how to leverage that to speak about perfumes. In the Fragrance Development Program, the focus is on the challenges a development team has to face (in fragrance houses and in perfumery makers) from the conceptualization of a fragrance to its finalization, and the important steps to evaluate fragrances. In the Fragrance Sales program, the main objective is to give the keys to switch from an analytical language (olfactive description) to an emotional language, as emotions drive the connection with consumers and lead to more effective sales.

Those are hard things to teach! Do Kathryn and Tami have a unique approach?
All classes are interactive. There are visual and olfactory elements to the courses. The tools include a workbook and ‘Olfactoriums’, which are miniature versions of a perfumer’s palette. Each Olfactorium is comprised of 48 vials of different scents which include raw materials, accords and perfumes specific to each training session.

What do you think is most important for the students to take away at the end?
Language is key in perfumery… The challenge is to identify what you are smelling and communicate it using the language skills we teach. It can be difficult to find that confidence, because fragrance description is so subjective—but like I said, the way to make a scent come alive is through emotion.

In addition to Retail Sales Associates, professionals working as account managers, or in marketing or development teams, or even in technical departments have to understand how fragrance is made. But they also need to learn how to speak about fragrance, to convey what they smell, or want to smell, and make that understandable for perfumers, for colleagues, and for consumers.

What has been the most rewarding feedback you’ve received from students?
When they come back and say that their Cinquieme Sens training has helped build their expertise and effectiveness in their careers!

For more information or to book these courses, please contact Mary Pelzer at the Fragrance Foundation at mary@fragrance.org.

Jun

Hall of Fame: Tom Ford

Hall of Fame: Tom Ford Portrait Courtesy of Tom Ford Beauty
Spotlight

Hall of Fame: Tom Ford

Hall of Fame: Tom Ford Portrait Courtesy of Tom Ford Beauty

If ever a man needed no introduction, it would be Tom Ford. The Texas-born, New Mexico-raised fashion titan has transformed what the world wears and what it smells like. His recent appointment as chairman of the CFDA cements his status as national icon and tastemaker par excellence, while the impeccable pedigree of his Tom Ford Beauty and Private Blend scents—which have received several Fragrance Foundation awards worldwide—have made this year’s Fragrance Foundation Hall of Fame an honor both well-deserved and timely. “Everyone in the fragrance community is looking forward to seeing Tom Ford accept this award” says Fragrance Foundation President Linda G. Levy. “When a designer creates a brand and stays true to its DNA, it really shows.”


Ford’s love of fragrance began in childhood, and his first scent memory is of the heady rush of his grandmother’s signature perfume: Estée Lauder Youth Dew. He approaches fragrance cinematically, working with perfumers to create olfactive panoramas— masterfully using the endless nuances of scent to create mood, to amplify seduction, to invite the mind to travel and to dream. “You can live a moment in life with one scent, and you can live the same moment in life with a different scent, and you can have a completely different reaction,” he says. “Scent is one of the things that alters mood, and it’s incredibly important to alter your mood.”


The designer created Tom Ford Beauty in partnership with The Estée Lauder Companies Executive Group President, John Demsey and launched in 2006 with the now-iconic Black Orchid—a scent originally positioned for women but adopted by men. This was followed by the introduction of Ford’s premium Private Blend range in 2007 with a selection of 12 scents, many of which remain best-sellers today: Tuscan Leather, Oud Wood, Neroli Portofino and Tobacco Vanille. Similar to the way that Ford had revolutionized fashion when he became creative director of Gucci in 1994 by bringing back sensuality and modernizing notions of decadence, the unveiling of Private Blend was groundbreaking: It shifted the dialogue around what a designer fragrance could be, and raised the bar on could be accomplished within the realm of luxury niche perfume. Tom Ford Private Blend represents creativity without constraints—the palette of exquisite ingredients and the storytelling behind each scent makes them compelling not for connoisseurs, but also inspires the fragrance-curious to explore, to begin to learn the language.


“The 1990s were all about minimalism,” Ford says. “All the architecture was pared down, everything was empty, and clothing was that way, too. Fragrances became watery and bottles were transparent. Now there’s a rediscovery of things that are more complex. I’m much more baroque in my tastes.”


Tom Ford worked closely with now retired senior vice president Karyn Khoury for over a decade and has partnered with many masters of their craft, including Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Calice Becker, Shyamala and Antoine Maisondieu, Sonia Constant, Nathalie Cetto and David Apel. “I feel fortunate that the perfumers that I have worked with are among the best in the business,” Ford says. “They are the best at what they do, and I feel honored to work with them. I take every opportunity to learn what I can from them in terms of quality of ingredients or in terms of inspiration to make people dream.”


Ford has always remained adamant that his fragrances defy preconceived notions of gender, playfully flouting and rejecting the definition of his-or-hers—whether his scent collections are inspired by the rarest oud, musk, or roses, they are meant to subvert stereotypes. “I love how classically feminine ingredients, like florals, can be blended to have a masculine appeal,” he says. “For example, Neroli Portofino balances floral notes with citrus notes and amber undertones to give it more depth and texture. The Private Blend customer doesn’t necessarily care if it is labeled as masculine or feminine. They want something that is precious and unique.”


Ford rocked the industry yet again in 2017 with the launch of Fucking Fabulous, a trailblazing—and slightly shocking—lush hit of bitter almond, orris, leather, tonka bean and clary sage that sold out in a single day and is to this day the top Private Blend launch.


“I think fragrance might be more important than clothes,” Ford has said. “Because, like music or food, scent is a very direct sensory stimulant. It provokes the senses, it brings up emotion and memory and feeling.”

May

RELEVANT RETAIL: KATE OLDHAM

RELEVANT RETAIL: KATE OLDHAM
Spotlight

RELEVANT RETAIL: KATE OLDHAM

RELEVANT RETAIL: KATE OLDHAM

In the more than 20 years that she has spent at Saks Fifth Avenue, Kate Oldham, the senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry, and home, has proven to be a groundbreaker, a brand-builder, and a visionary. Since she began working with fragrances in 2002 she has revolutionized the category, and established Saks as a major player by being one of the first to recognize and celebrate the niche fragrance phenomenon. Throughout it all she’s kept her eye on the changing desires of the customer and has come up with endlessly creative ways to meet them—including the revelatory new beauty floor at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, which opened to much acclaim last spring. Here, the Fragrance Foundation 2018 Circle of Champions honoree shares some of her peerless, and ever-enthusiastic, retail insight.

How does Saks keep retail relevant?
We challenge ourselves to look at what we’re doing every day and see how we can do things differently with the customer in mind. Our ultimate goal is not to change for change’s sake, but to change for the customer’s sake. I think to stay relevant in retail is to engage with the customer in the way they want to be engaged with, which could be moving from communicating by phone to communicating by email to communicating by text if that’s what they prefer. It’s about making a meaningful connection and never ignoring what the consumer is looking for. As consumers ourselves, we know that we’re looking for advice. We’re looking for people to think about what we need to make our lives complete. Even now, after years and years of working in the beauty industry, when I go into stores and get a makeover, I always ask what I need. Women want to know what they are missing because they’re not the experts. And I think that’s how Saks stays relevant: by being able to tell a customer what’s going to keep them up to date and also what’s going to make them feel good.

How do you do that in fragrance, specifically?
A lot of different ways. One is that we train our associates to be experts on their brand and in the beauty space and to be able to give educated information to the customer. So if a customer is looking for new fragrance and they say, “I don’t want to smell like everybody else,” they’ll show them smaller niche brands, or show them things that might be polarizing to some people. We also have fragrance founders come in and give talks on where their inspiration came from. That gives consumers a deep connection with the brand, which I think is really different than the way that customers used to shop. Now they want to know who designed something, and what their beliefs are. Are they somebody who thinks about the world in a bigger way? I think those are the stories that the customers relate to, and of course influencers matter. They talk about why something makes a connection for them. And all this connectivity is vitally important in retail today.

The beauty floor at Saks Fifth Avenue was revolutionary. How has it resonated with customers and within the industry?
Most people embrace it fully. Before, you were sitting in the middle of a very busy, highly trafficked floor getting your makeup done. And we said, “we can do better for our customer.”  Moving upstairs was a bold move. But we felt like we could truly give people a reason to come up. For fragrances in particular we had niche brands that weren’t everywhere, and we were one of the first to really give a dedicated space to fragrances, and then to customize the fragrance area so that they were grouped together by their personality rather than by the advertising persona they created. So when we moved upstairs, we wanted to make sure that we continued to be leaders in that. The customers can now sort of meander through all the fragrances, and then discover them in new ways with a specialist who can really take them on a journey. We also put the fragrances by the window where the light comes in. It makes everything sparkle.

How has the world of fragrance changed, from the standpoint of scents and brands? How has the presentation to the customer changed?
The industry used to be a top down approach, whereas we’re doing a bottom up approach: We get to know the customer, and we stay connected to them and let them know when they need something new. But we did this slowly. We brought in Bond No. 9 in 2002 and we clienteled to the customer, so  they would buy one fragrance and then we would send them three more fragrance suggestions, so we would build the customer’s fragrance wardrobe up. We also brought in one brand at a time, and getting them fully developed before we brought another brand into the store.

You’re perceived as a nurturer of brands. What does that entail?
You don’t open the door and turn on the light and have a booming business. It’s one store, one customer, one brand at a time. If I believe in the brand, I’m in it for the long haul. And as a team we really believe that if we get brands that we believe in and we know who the customers are and we look for ways to develop that customer and that fragrance, then it will continue to grow over the years into a really prosperous and vibrant business. We don’t just think it’s going to happen in five minutes. But the world has changed and so has the speed in which the expectations are set. Before, a brand would come it, whether it was a treatment brand, a color brand or a fragrance brand, and you would expect it to take maybe two or three years to grow a really solid foundation. Now, because of the influencer world and the social media world, the expectation is that you should come in and grow double digits every year. So we’ve started to roll out brands faster and in more doors, and that’s been successful. I still don’t believe in bringing in hundreds of brands a year, I prefer being patient. But I also always want to be on the forefront of the curve.

What do you think makes a fragrance brand successful?
The authenticity of the brand. It’s that they have thought about who they are, where they want to be in the fragrance world, what they want to represent and why. And really sticking to it. I can name hundreds of them. Ex Nihilo, Bond, Creed, Kilian, Jo Malone, all of those brands know who they are. And they want to bring something to the customer that hasn’t been seen before. I love that. I think this is why fragrance is so interesting right now because people are not creating a story around a fragrance, they’re creating a fragrance, and that becomes the story.

As someone who loves to travel, do you also love to check out other department stores when you’re off the clock?
When my son was little, he used to say to me, “Oh please mom, don’t make me go into another store when we’re on vacation,” but I can’t stop myself. It’s exciting to see what other stores do, and I’m always inspired by their thinking. London department stores are different from department stores in Paris or in Tokyo or in Italy. I’d be a fool not to look at every single thing when I travel. It’s really fun.

Do you collect fragrances yourself at home?
I have a lot of fragrances, as you can imagine, but I don’t collect them per say. I have a lot and I love them all. It’s an interesting thing, I love the bottles so I always have several on my dresser. I don’t always wear them—but I love the way they look.

What does your involvement with the Fragrance Foundation mean to you?
I am so proud to be part of the Board of Directors at the Fragrance Foundation. I get to see the passion Linda and the board really have and how they are always thinking of ways to improve the fragrance business, both for retailers and brands.  



Apr

THE PIONEER: ANN GOTTLIEB

THE PIONEER: ANN GOTTLIEB
Spotlight

THE PIONEER: ANN GOTTLIEB

THE PIONEER: ANN GOTTLIEB

Industry icon Ann Gottlieb, the Fragrance Foundation’s 2018 Hall of Fame honoree, has forged a career as a true pioneer in the perfume industry—not only because she invented her own unique business as a fragrance developer, but because she was one of the first women to blaze such an impactful path. Now she’s committed to paying it forward and helping guide more women to leadership positions in the world of scent. Last month, Gottlieb moderated the Fragrance Foundation’s Women in Fragrance Panel, where she was joined by Emily Bond, head of the North America Fine Fragrance Division at Givaudan, Veronique Ferval, Global VP of Fine Fragrance Creation at Symrise, Ana Paula Mendonca, VP Regional General Manager for North America Consumer Fragrance at IFF, and Dara Quinlan, VP of Fine Fragrance Development at Firmenich, for lively discussion about the unique challenges they all faced on their ascent, and ways they can open the door for future generations. Here, the woman who started in an entry level job at Estée Lauder and went on to launch such mega-hits as Calvin Klein Obsession and Dior J’Adore shares some of her own stories as well as her vision for what lies ahead.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in fragrance?

Fragrance is a specific business model, in that there’s not a lot of departing and joining the business from outside industries. There’s also not a lot of movement at the top levels, so there aren’t many leadership roles coming up. That’s a frustration for everyone, but especially for women. We have to get more women into senior positions. Once it starts, it will grow.

You asked the women on the panel when they knew they had achieved a position of true leadership. What was that moment for you?

One of the reasons this all came about was because of the speech that I made at the Fragrance Foundation awards, when I talked about how long it took me to be able to own my success. When I went to work at Lauder, there was one other working woman there who had children. I was really a maverick—I didn’t know what I was doing, or what the rules were. And I just didn’t grow up in an environment where I believed that I was responsible for my successes, even with all of the wins that my fragrances had. Receiving the award really impacted my view of my relationship with the industry. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t feel that I was worthy, it’s that I always I measured myself against the men who handled business. And in acknowledging the award, I realized that the function I serve is just as important in terms of the success of our industry.

What came up in the panel conversation that surprised you?

Something I applaud and know is right is the importance of doing something that’s out of your comfort zone. You take something on that makes you miserable at first, but once you master it, it becomes a true success. When you see what you can do, it trains you to do more. Everybody agreed how important that was. And each one of the panelists had an experience of that happening in her career.

What was your big leap?

Starting my business and having to be on my own. I had done fine in corporate life, and was comfortable with not being the head of a company. Though I was on an upward trajectory, I never thought that I could do it on my own. But deciding to try it became the biggest moment in my career.

You also talked about how scary it felt to step away from your career and return to it after maternity leave. Do you think everyone has a similar experience?

Yes. Everybody’s scared about that because they don’t know if they’ll have their jobs when they get back. Because I was such a pioneer, I was scared to take time off. I was scared to tell my boss that I had a doctor appointment to take my child for a check-up. I wanted to be seen as somebody for whom having children did not impact my ability to do my job.

I’m hoping now that talking about it can help women who are going through this understand that they are not alone. I would love for them to know that this is something we are very aware of and that we, as women who are in leadership positions, are really going to focus on: what we can do to help the women rising through the ranks deal with work-life balance.

What are some of the things you think can be done?

There’s always safety in numbers, so I think that people knowing that there are so many people who have the same issues is helpful in itself. Also, there have to be a lot of tips that women can offer that might help somebody else. I have no idea what kinds of suggestions will come out, but I believe that every woman has her own set of recommendations. No matter what, it has to be positive because it goes from nothing to something. It’s all about keeping the conversation going.

—April Long

Mar

The 2018 Game Changer: Frédéric Malle

The 2018 Game Changer: Frédéric Malle
Spotlight

The 2018 Game Changer: Frédéric Malle

The 2018 Game Changer: Frédéric Malle

It’s no exaggeration to say that The 2018 Fragrance Foundation Game Changer award winner Frédéric Malle has changed the way the world smells. Not only has his house, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, affected the character of perfumes in general—which, with the birth of the niche category, have become more luxurious and complex since he introduced the concept of high-quality perfumer-led scents 20 years ago—his unique, individualized retail strategy has also revolutionized the way that consumers approach and appreciate fragrance. Here, he ponders the power of dedication and reveals what he’s most looking forward to.

What do you find most challenging in your work?
“It can take about a year, sometimes more, to get a perfume together, and it’s a constant back and forth between judging in a very instinctive way and then going back to a perfumer and talking rationally. It’s an exhausting combination of having to stay almost innocent, and also being very technical. And that grueling one-year effort is ultimately to please people who will judge your work in less than 30 seconds. It takes so much methodical work to create a perfume aimed at touching people’s hearts and instincts instantly. But there is another contrast in scale in perfumery, which is the intimacy of two people working in a lab and the amount of people that a finished perfume can touch. People have stopped me and said, ‘My life is different since I started to wear Portrait of a Lady or Carnal Flower.’ That’s wonderful.”

Why do think it’s so important to take this time for creation?
“Technique is very important—working progressively and rationally and checking each ingredient. The first step is to create a general sketch like a clay model of a sculpture, and then you refine that model slowly but surely. That way, you know each ingredient is in the right proportion. And if you have to do it again, because everything is relative in the formula, you do it again until you have the perfect shape. It’s a mixture of technique and patience. You can’t cut corners. That’s the way I’ve worked since I started perfumery 30 years ago. Every material is reviewed one after the other, until we find the exact balance. The quest is always to turn it into something as perfect as possible without making it boring or too perfect. You can talk to any artist in any field and they will say the same. Not everybody does this long process, but I think what gives depth to a perfume is this quality, even though when you are doing it it’s very tedious. People have a very romantic vision where they think these things are made on a whim or in a simple moment of inspiration. Great perfumes seem obvious, but in fact to appear that obvious you have to suffer through formulas that are very imperfect for a while.”

What do you think gives a great perfume its power?
“When you have a great work of art around you, it feeds you. It elevates you and there an energy that comes out of that piece on your wall—and perfume gives you that, too. It empowers you and also people who cross your path. When you see a painting by Picasso, you might think, ‘oh what a simple brush stroke,’ but in fact there are thousands of hours of drawing behind it, so there is power in the brushstroke, and confidence which speaks very loudly, and makes the painting very powerful. Even though you don’t know about them, those thousands of hours are speaking to you. And I think it’s the same with perfume. Great perfumes, like Portrait of a Lady or Musc Ravageur took thousands of hours that aren’t obvious in a little drop of liquid. But that drop of liquid has encapsulated all that energy that we put in it, and is released into the public, and that’s why these perfumes are so touching. That’s what we try to do, and every perfume is designed to become hopefully classic tomorrow, a little monument of its kind.”

What impact do you think Editions de Parfums has had on the industry?
“When I started out 20 years ago, we had arrived at a point where image was everything and perfume was put to the side. The idea was to put perfume back in the center and put perfumers forward, which is what the Fragrance Foundation is doing now. It’s a funny thing because it was a novel idea then and it was seen as a bit of a revolution, that people were talking about the real authors of perfumes. But for me then it was such justice and such a good story, that I always questioned why no one had done it before. I have this constant quest to tell the truth. And I think the business will in general win if we manage to do that. It’s so important to portray the perfumers and express the fact that they have different styles—like Picasso has a different style than Matisse. It’s talking about ingredients, it’s talking about the way we work, and explaining to people how we smell, and the benefit that scent can give you. We’re trying to do that every day in a humble way.”

What are you excited about for the future?
“There are so many incredible young perfumers. It’s a little bit like in music, where you see young kids playing astonishingly well. A few years ago, I was concerned that the perfumers that I started my business with, who were really the icons of this business, were slowly reaching retirement age. And I didn’t know was next because the following generation had just been given bestsellers and told, ‘give me one like this but more fruity.’ They didn’t really come up with something that started on a white sheet of paper. They worked too fast, and didn’t learn technique. But now there is a very strong generation coming up behind them. You have kids in their twenties who are super, super good. They were ten or sometimes younger when we opened our house, so they grew up smelling things that we made or smelling classics and then they started to work with talented perfumers capable of passing the culture on to them. So the exciting thing I’m doing now is working with this new generation who are having their chance. I think the future is going to be very good.”

—APRIL LONG

Feb

The Forecast: John Demsey

The Forecast: John Demsey
Spotlight

The Forecast: John Demsey

The Forecast: John Demsey

Anyone who knows John Demsey—and isn’t that everyone?—would call him a visionary. As Estée Lauder Companies Executive Group President, Demsey is the man who built MAC from a cult makeup artist brand to the global colossus it is today, and who ushered a staggeringly successful roster of brands into the Lauder fold, including Tom Ford Beauty, By Kilian, Jo Malone, and Le Labo. We sat down with the legendary business bellwether in his bright, book-bestrewn office to see what’s in the air for fragrance in 2019.

How would you describe the state of fragrance today?

We have a resurgent fragrance business in the United States, with changing dynamics, new brands, new distribution, new challenges, new opportunities. We’re seeing a resurgence in designer fragrances. We’re seeing what started as niche perfumery becoming increasingly more important to the overall mix of business and actually to the point of tipping the market dynamics. The stakes are different these days. You don’t see the frequency of the big media buy launches that you saw a few years ago. And a big launch today is a fraction of what a big launch was five or 10 years ago. There’s more focus on methodical brand building, test and learn, and scaling up businesses once they get traction.

What do you think will keep the upswing going?

We have a lot of success in the fragrance business today treating brands as not just fragrances, but worlds or destinations. We’re seeing a lot of brands that are based more on the craft or the luxury experiential components of the product, and less on the traditional promotion. Our fastest growing brand in North America is Le Labo, which has no visuals, no tester units, no advertising. We’re also going into our 11th year of Tom Ford, with unbelievable success. Unparalleled growth at very high price points with amazing juice and amazing digital storytelling and an amazing point of sale experience—and a decade’s worth of consistent Fifi awards. I like to think that we’ve had something to do with actually shaping the way that the industry is going. Because it feels to me that we’re returning to the most important things—the product, the package, and the emotional connection. I see a trading up, a focus on olfactive disruptions, and less a sea of sameness.

How has social media changed the way that fragrance is marketed and consumed?

It’s a bit of a pain point. The traditional fragrance business was about strategic sampling, getting the scent out, getting people in store, and telling a story. I’m not sure that the how-to-video influencer sensation that’s been the big driver of a huge acceleration of the makeup business lends itself to the same sort of multiplier effect for fragrance. Social media is very good in terms of amplifying brand stories, distributing films or publicity or ingredient or harvesting stories. But I haven’t seen the tipping point where it can replace some of the other techniques that are used to market and launch fragrances.

What’s your personal Instagram strategy?

I do it as therapy for myself. I don’t do it for anybody to follow me. People are always surprised that I actually have that subversive sense of humor, or that my impossible mashup of high low and culture even exists. They think I hire someone to fabricate it. But it’s truly authentic to me. I don’t show my daughter. I don’t go too far in. But I show what I like, which is part of who I am.

You’re a voracious consumer of pop culture and social media. How do you stay on top of everything?

I still try to buy every magazine on the newsstand, though there aren’t as many, which is sad. But the good news is, in the virtual world, there’s always a YouTube post. There’s always a new Instagram. And whenever I get together with friends, they always tell me about new people to follow. I find it incredibly exciting and fun. I like discovering, I’m curious. And I think my insurance policy for being in this business is I have a 10-year-old daughter and I’m experiencing the world through her eyes and her aspirations and her media habits.

The fragrance brands you’ve brought into Lauder aren’t just successful, or even merely cool, they have something more. What’s the secret sauce?

They’re all subject matter experts, artistic and creative at the core, and have an olfactive arc and a concept. Frederic Malle is the publisher of the greatest perfumers in the world. By Kilian is the master of perfume as art and perfume as seduction. Le Labo is the ultimate artisanal fragrance. Tom Ford is the new luxury and the new aspiration. They’re all rooted in something very authentic and very real. And they all have amazing products behind their successes, not just stories.

What qualities are you looking for in acquisitions now?

I’m looking for something that we’ll be talking about 20 years from now. We’re not in the business of just selling products, we’re in the business of selling and creating brands for the long term. Something that has the germ of an idea that can live generations past that idea—that’s what I ultimately look for.

What’s your biggest 2019 prediction?

What’s successful at this moment will continue to be successful. And what will be successful in 2029 is already out there, we just don’t know it yet. The world goes in buckets of 10 years.


—April Long

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