By: April Long
The stars came out last night at New York’s Alice Tully Hall to celebrate what host Jane Krakowski proclaimed to be “the best in smells” at the 2018 Fragrance Foundation Awards. There was tap-dancing, impromptu push-ups, a dazzling array of sequins, and more than one standing ovation over the course of an evening that showed just how much the Fragrance Foundation has grown, while honoring the accomplishments of the brands, perfumers, and visionaries who keep the fragrance world so vibrant.
The presentation opened with a spirited and hilarious intro from 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actress Krakowski, who emphasized the unique prestige of the Fragrance Foundation Awards—“A perfumer has a better chance of being attacked by a bear during a lightning storm than winning a Fragrance Foundation Award”—and joked that she was pleased to be in front of such a well-scented crowd. She then kicked off the awards by bursting into song, showcasing her impressive vocal range—and dancing skills—performing “Fragrance is a Girl’s Best Friend,” a clever take on a suitably effervescent classic.
Fragrance Foundation Chairman of the Board and President of Fine Fragrance Worldwide at Firmenich, Jerry Vittoria, praised the Foundation’s new President and “dynamic industry veteran and insider” Linda G. Levy, and delivered the organization’s straightforward new mission statement: “To inspire the world to discover the artistry and passion of fragrance.” Levy then stepped up to give an inspiring speech in which she shared the milestones that the Fragrance Foundation has accomplished in the past year. The jaw-dropping social media impact of the first-ever Fragrance Day on March 21, 2018—a campaign that reached 400 million people—elicited an audible gasp from the audience, and when she revealed that the Consumer Choice Awards engaged a record six million people, with 250,000 Americans casting a vote for their favorite fragrance, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. Levy also outlined the Fragrance Foundation’s goals for the coming year – to go global, to give back, to make sure the perfumers (the “major stars” of the evening) stay at the center of the conversation. In conclusion, she quoted Yoko Ono: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.”
More highlights followed: Rita Ora jumped up on stage unexpectedly with ELLE editor-in-chief Nina Garcia to present the Women’s Prestige Fragrance Award (won by Gucci Bloom), Naomi Campbell, in a floor-length spangled gown, wowed the crowd when presenting Women’s Luxury Fragrance of the Year—a prize nabbed by Tom Ford Oud Minerale, marking the 10th consecutive year that a Tom Ford fragrance has received a Fragrance Foundation award. Consumer Choice Vlog winner Jeremy Fragrance charmed everyone present by being a living embodiment of how fragrance can actually change lives (“I’m from a little German town,” he exclaimed, “and now I’m in New York!”), and by dropping to the floor to do 10 one-handed push-ups to giddily express his excitement.
The evening’s most touching moments came courtesy of the year’s biggest honorees: Hall of Fame Award recipient Ann Gottlieb, Game Changer Frederic Malle, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Olivier Cresp. Gottlieb, introduced with a heartfelt speech by Patrick Firmenich, who hailed her as “ a remarkable executive and an even greater human being,” received the first of the program’s exuberant standing ovations. Following a short film highlighting Gottlieb’s astonishing achievements, including the creation of so many of the scents that surround us every day, from the shampoo we use in the morning to the candles we burn at night, the industry titan revealed that she was also celebrating her 75th birthday on this day: “I’ve got to say, you know how to throw a girl a party.”
In her speech, Gottlieb recounted her early “discovery” by the legendary Estée Lauder, revealing herself to be humble, kind, and generous, in addition to being supremely talented and driven. In an extremely powerful moment, she asked the under-recognized players in the fragrance world—the perfumers, evaluators, and fragrance house marketers—to stand up for a round of applause.
Leonard Lauder, Chairman Emeritus (who did a little jig with Krakowski en route to the podium) presented the Game Changer Award to Frederic Malle, praising him for his business acumen and vision, and for being the man who brought perfumers back into the spotlight by giving them top billing. Following another gorgeous short film that traced Malle’s journey—the fact that he unwittingly grew up in the former Guerlain family home seemed particularly auspicious—Malle stepped up to express his humble gratitude to the Fragrance Foundation for recognizing the impact of his career. “Nothing gives me more pride than having put the parish back in the middle of the village,” he said.
For the evening’s grand finale, Armand De Villoutreys, President of Perfumery and Ingredients Worldwide at Firmenich, introduced Master Perfumer, and the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Olivier Cresp. Cresp, whose lineage in the perfumery Mecca of Grasse is so ingrained that there’s even a street named after one of his ancestors, told the story of his career, from his “disastrous” first concoction at the age of 7 to his creation of Thierry Mugler’s blockbuster Angel, the first-ever gourmand fragrance. “And in the coming years,” he promised, “I’m going to keep surprising you.”
Afterwards, the festivities continued into the night, with a lively, celebrity-studded dinner and an after party at the Lincoln Ristorante. The atmosphere was exuberant, and the energy unflagging: a testament to the dynamism of the fragrance industry as well as to the genuine excitement surrounding the many accomplishments of the Fragrance Foundation itself.
As Levy so beautifully stated in her welcome speech, “Tonight, together, we enjoy the artistry and passion of fragrance.”