By: April Long
Everyone smelled fantastic at The 2019 Fragrance Foundation Awards last night, an effervescent gala event honoring achievements in the world of fragrance. The gorgeous crowd at Lincoln Center came together to celebrate the fragrance industry and perfume as an art form. This elegant crowd did so in high style, with rousing speeches, cutting edge fashion, and genuine emotion.
After enjoying the exquisite florals of an ambient fragrance created exclusively for the event by Lifetime Achievement, Perfumer honoree Dominique Ropion, the crowd gathered in the David H. Koch Theater, where the ceremony began with an inspiring welcome by The Fragrance Foundation President Linda G. Levy. Levy drew attention first to the new, larger venue, allowing the awards “to be more inclusive and increase our audience,” confirming an impressive 900 people from the fragrance community in attendance. She then also shared the great success of The Fragrance Foundation’s Consumer Choice Instagram campaign, with over 3 million impressions, 1 million engagements, and a reach of more than 5 million followers across social media. These landmark achievements set the tone for a night which would, in Levy’s words, “celebrate the artistry and passion of fragrance.”
Hosting for the second year in a row, 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Jane Krakowski kicked off the festivities, thanking Levy for her “passion and dedication,” and expressing her delight to be back at an event she described as “truly the Oscars of fragrance.” Krakowski then launched into song with versions of “I Feel Pretty” (“I smell pretty”), “Another Little Piece of My Heart” (“take another big sniff of my arm”) and Lady Gaga’s mega-hit “Shallow,” all cleverly rewritten to perfume-theme.
An evening of one high note after another followed, with appearances from celebrities such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Rhoda, Jason Wu, Bebe Rexha, and Maye Musk, Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding, looking flawless in a Tom Ford velvet tuxedo jacket, presented the Hall of Fame award to Tom Ford, who spoke eloquently about his life-long love of fragrance. “Since I was a child, I was obsessed with the smell of things,” Ford confided in a video tribute to his work. The Hall of Fame Award was Ford’s seventeenth Fragrance Foundation award; before the end of the night, he would go on to win his eighteenth, for Lost Cherry, Women’s Luxury Fragrance of the Year.
Between awards, Jerry Vittoria, Fragrance Foundation Chairman of the Board and President of Fine Fragrance Worldwide at Firmenich delivered a rousing speech about the future of fragrance and the challenges facing the industry, calling crucial attention to issues in the American market, where “many American consumers are intimidated by fragrances [and] some have been led to believe fragrances are dangerous.” He counseled that “we must find a way forward with smart transparency,” and reminded the assembled audience that “our united voices on this topic will be as important as any award given tonight.”
Perhaps the most emotional moments came in the presentation of the Game Changer award to Laura Slatkin, founder of NEST Fragrances and co-founder of NEXT for Autism. The award was presented by her husband, Harry Slatkin, who told the story of he and his wife’s life and work together, both their business collaborations and how their life changed with their son’s autism diagnosis. After a brief film celebrating Laura’s achievements, with testimonials from luminaries such as Leonard Lauder and Tommy Hilfiger, her husband, visibly moved, introduced her as simply “the love of my life.” Laura’s beautiful and moving speech addressed both her innovative work in fragrance and her passionate advocacy for autism awareness. She spoke about the importance of collaboration in all aspects of her life, returning to her guiding philosophy that “one plus one equals three.”
The ceremony culminated on a reverent note as Nicolas Mirzayantz, Group President of Fragrances at IFF, presented the Lifetime Achievement, Perfumer Award to IFF master perfumer Dominique Ropion, creator of such classic scents as Mugler’s Alien and Frederic Malle Portrait of A Lady. Mirzayantz described Ropion as the fragrance world’s answer to Star Wars’ Yoda, and praised his staggering contributions to the perfume landscape. When Ropion took the stage, the audience burst into thunderous applause and a spontaneous standing ovation for the great “master of flowers.” In his gracious speech, Ropion thanked his lab assistants for their work on “the millions of trials” it takes to create a perfume, and spoke to the importance of mentoring future generations of perfumers, noting that “nothing replaces time spent on learning technique and understanding the great perfumes of the past.” “More than anything,” he concluded, “I see this as an encouragement to keep discovering.”
Krakowski ushered the ceremony to a close, and the festivities continued with a beautiful dinner and a celebratory after-party on the terrace. The evening was an elegant reminder of the changing face of the fragrance industry, combining of humor, high glamour, and serious reverence for the art of perfumery as well as the stewardship of its future.