It has been said that the Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards are the “Oscars” of the fragrance industry.  I recently had the privilege of attending the 40th Anniversary FiFi Awards Celebration in New York City and it was because of this experience, that my eyes were opened to the absolute power that the industry holds.  This is the only event that celebrates (with awards that is) the art and passion of the fragrance industry and all of the world-wide talent that it embraces. It was a great honor to have been invited.  And yes, it is indeed the Oscars of the Fragrance industry.

A special thank you to the Fragrance Foundation Committee of:  Anne Gottlieb, Peter Hunsinger, Donna Kalajian Lagani, Michelle Myers, Cos Policastro, Tanya Pushkine and Lyle Saunders. 

A very special thank you also to: Lynn Morgan, Mary Ellen Lapsansky, Terry Molnar and Jackie Simmons of the Fragrance Foundation.

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Jane Lynch opening the 40th Anniversary FiFi Awards
photo credit: beautypress

There are a few people that will scoff at mass or celebrity scents.  There will be a lot of kvetching on the blogs. Why do I bring this up?  We all know that it exists.  However, it was not until I attended the FiFi Awards that I witnessed the true power and influence of the commercial-mass-celebrity-luxury perfume market in our lives.  It’s a force not just in America, but it’s one that embraces a global market.  It really struck a deep chord within me and I realized just how powerful the fragrance industry is and this was in full evidence that night. 

There are many excellent, artistic and well made fragrances that are “commercial or mass”.  More and more, I find myself coming full circle with fragrances; from collecting beautiful mass fragrances all of my life, to delving into the world of niche back in 2005, buying only niche, then returning to where I started with mass market offerings.  I find myself back in the mainstream at high-end department stores, sniffing perfumes and craving iconic brands I may have overlooked the past few years.

Why my new found fascination?  Simply put, the FiFi Awards. 

Beautiful perfume is everywhere.  I realized that many top French and American perfumers that create for small niche brands are also creating for mass brands as well.  What brought this all together for me was the recent article on the upcoming French Fifi’s Awards by Sarah Colton and my experiences at the American FiFi Awards. 

Nicole Richie arriving at the FiFi's
photo credit: beautypress
Supermodel Carol Alt on the Red Carpet
photo credit: Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Jane Lynch arriving at the FiFi's
photo credit: beautypress
Chaka Khan on the Red Carpet at the FiFi's
photo credit: e.bruce borner
Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks
Actress Mariska Hargitay
photo credit: Bennett Raglin Wire Image
Jessica Stam 40th Annual Fifi Awards
Actress Michelle Monaghan
Beauty entrepreneur Aerin Lauder, great granddaughter of Estée Lauder
Since its beginning in 1975, this glitzy red carpet and black tie event attracted and featured top fashion designers, celebrity presenters, the fragrance industry professionals, including top perfumers from around the world, all gathering under one roof to celebrate and honor achievements of the fragrance industry. It highlights the amazing talent and the creative forces behind your favorite perfumes.  From major advertising campaigns, packaging and design, to the actual perfume that is held in the thousands of jewel-like bottles, the event makes one realize there is so much more to the fragrance industry than the general public may be aware of. 

Yearly, there are awards such as the Elizabeth Taylor Fragrance Celebrity of the Year, the Hall of Fame Recipient, Fragrance of the Year categories of Luxe Women, Luxe Men, Nouveau Niche Women, Nouveau Niche Men, Broad Appeal for Men and Women, Specialty Brand To Consumer for Men and Women, Men and Women’s Consumer's Choice, Best Packaging of the Year, Media Campaign of the Year, Bath & Body Line of the Year, Interior Scent Collection of the Year, Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year and the Fragrance Hall of Fame. The FiFi Awards salutes all these different categories and winning a crystal FiFi Award is a significant honor that conveys the ultimate symbol of excellence and achievement worldwide.

This was an over- the- top affair with the industry in full swing, waiting with anticipation to see who wins a coveted FiFi Awards.  This year’s FiFi Awards were restaged and it was a successful testament to the Fragrance Foundation in all its shining glory.

Looking from the outside into Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center before the ceremony
The foundation does not advertize a great deal in advance who exactly will be presenting during the night and this makes it all the more intriguing and exciting. The paparazzi were in full force and the event was surrounded by top security. Lincoln Center was in full bloom and the FiFi event was the star of the night.  The industry was represented by the likes of Givaudan, Coty, IFF, Symrise, Firmenich, Takasago, Mane and Arcade and of course, the large, powerful perfume conglomerates and small perfume houses. It was a rarefied world to behold. Also present was every major magazine in America including Glamour, Elle, Cosmopolitan, New York Times, Vanity Fair and major paparazzi. 

This year the event was a full blown gala indoors at Alice Tully Hall.  I loved the theatre seating and prefer this venue over casual seating at a table.  I saw images from past events and I have to say, I hope the event remains at Alice Tully Hall since it lent the evening an air of a world-class event.  The reception afterwards was held in the gorgeous, ultra chic, modern lobby overlooking Broadway. It was a stunning event from the beginning to the end including the awards show, the people watching, the winners, the gourmet Hors d'oeuvres to the champagne that flowed freely afterwards. The FiFi Awards know how to throw a party.

The event itself was provocative and emotional. Everyone that attended was dressed to the nines in full stylish gowns or ultra fashionable cocktail dresses.   I do not think it could have been any more exciting than it was and I am not exactly a wide-eyed naïveté. Even the most jaded New York socialite would have been impressed. 

This year, the presenters were Josh Groban, Martha Stewart, Nicole Ritchie, Chaka Khan, Mariska Hargitay, Knicks star Tyson Chandler, supermodel Carol Alt, Sam Champion, Philippe Cousteau, Leonard A. Lauder, Michelle Monaghan, Jessica Stam, Allison Williams and more.

Nicole Richie heading backstage
photo credit: beautypress
Martha Stewart and Josh Groban at the FiFis

This past year has been a big year for the Fragrance Foundation.  It was the Fortieth Anniversary of the FiFi celebration and we saw the first FiFi® “Indie” Category for Fragrance of the Year.  It was a savvy move when the Fragrance Foundation announced the formation of a specialized committee dedicated to developing the recognition, understanding and appreciation of ‘Indie’ fragrance brands and their creators. The ‘Indie’ Fragrance Committee was formed to “support the excellence, talent and artistry of ‘indie’ perfumes, by celebrating their individuality and craftsmanship.  The winner was honored at the 2012 Elements Showcase this past January in New York City and received the crystal FiFi® statuette as well as a congratulatory check in the amount of $10,000 from Givaudan Fragrances Corp.  This event itself was a huge a masterful step that propels the Fragrance Foundation into the future. 

Prior to the show Nicole Richie, in a black Pucci gown, was talking about her new upcoming fragrance, “Nicole”.  As she walked down the red carpet, Chaka Khan told us that she was releasing a new unisex fragrance called “Khana Sutra” and that the main ingredient is pine.  She stated that “Fragrance is everything to me.  In a hotel, my band can find me—they just follow the scent”.  I then met supermodel Carol Alt in the lobby and she was warm and very friendly (did I also mention very tall and drop-dead gorgeous?).

Jane Lynch, the Golden Globe and Emmy winning actress and comedian star of Glee, wearing a custom cream Thierry Mugler jacket and navy pants, opened the show with her hilarious jokes and the audience went wild with these remarks…“When I heard this was called the FiFi Awards, I assumed that the room would be filled with a bunch of standard poodles,” Lynch, smooth as silk, told the crowd “Selecting me as your host makes perfect sense, because when you think of a sexy, delicate, floral fragrance, you think of Jane Lynch,”.  She reflected on what her own fragrance would smell like if she had one...“Because I play Sue Sylvester on Glee, I think people must think I smell like a boys’ locker room. And I would have loved to make that fragrance, but unfortunately Kim Kardashian owns the copyright.” 

She was the ultimate perfect master of ceremonies with punch lines and jokes about what she would call her perfume if she had one. “How about Coach, by Jane Lynch?” and “I’m Not Ellen, by Jane Lynch” and then she hit the audience with “And I don’t want one of those fancy bottles made of butterflies and ribbons. I want my fragrance in a Pez dispenser. Push back my head and the fragrance sprays out.” 

I could have watched her all night.

Just when I thought that it could not get any better than this, it did, when one last time, for the “Favorite Category for Broad Appeal” (when she was not picked the winner) she jokingly quipped, “I’ve been appealing to broads for years!”   The awards went to Heidi Klum Shine, for Women’s Fragrance of the Year, and Victoria’s Secret Angel, for Packaging of the Year.
Past presenters have included Halle Berry, Nate Berkus, Fergie, Kim Kardashian,  Harvey Fierstein, Queen Latifah, Paris Hilton, Vera Wang, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Kate Walsh, Joan Rivers, Deborah Harry, Bernadette Peters, Paula Abdul, Padma Lakshmi, Saffron Burrows, Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs, John Legend, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Kelly Osbourne, Sarah Jessica Parker, Betsey Johnson, Molly Sims, 50 Cent, Randy Jackson, Sofia Vergara, Betty Buckley, Kimora Lee Simmons, Russell Simmons, Rex Reed, Elie Tahari, Cheryl Tiegs, Alan Cumming, Daisy Fuentes, Montel Williams, Renee Fleming, Florence Henderson, Jane Seymour, John Corbett, Marc Rosen, Geena Davis, Katie Holmes, Marisa Tomei, Gene Simmons, Lil' Kim, Naomi Campbell and Donald Trump.  The FiFi Awards is not about the celebrities, of course, but they sure are fun to watch.
Tom Ford Beauty scooped up three FiFi wins for categories of Luxe Women -Tom Ford Violet Blonde, Nouveau Niche Women -Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge and Nouveau Niche Men -Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge.  Caroline Geerlings, Global President of Tom Ford appeared numerous times on stage accepting awards for Mr. Ford. Three stunning accomplishments in one short night.

Nicole Richie presented the FiFi for “Men’s Nouveau Niche Scent” to Tom Ford Jasmine Rouge. Martha Stewart presented the FiFi for “Consumer’s Choice Men’s” to Bath & Body Works Signature Collection for Men Classic.  Josh Groban was on hand to give the FiFi for “Fragrance of the Year Broad Appeal” to Curve Appeal for Women by Elizabeth Arden.  There was a FiFi for Interior Scent Collection, which went to 34 Boulevard St. Germain from Diptyque, a much deserved win.

Nicole Richie and Givaudan's Cosimo Policastro
photo credit:Stephen Lovekin Getty Images
Nicole Richie and Jessica Stam
photo credit: Neil Rasmus BFAnyc
Chaka Khan Presenting an Award
photo credit: beautypress
Mariska Hargitay, Nicolas Mirzayantz, Tyson Chandler, Laurice Rahmé and Master Perfume from IFF Laurent Le Guernec
photo credit: Bond No. 9
Martha Stewart presented the FiFi for “Consumer’s Choice Men’s”
photo credit: Stephen Lovekin Getty Images
Hall of Fame Recipient salute to Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
Elizabeth Taylor Fragrance Celebrity of the Year Award for Justin Bieber via telecast
photo credit: Stephen Lovekin Getty Images
Jane Lynch once again rose to the occasion with well-timed humor when there was a technical difficulty on stage as she strode out on her long legs and stole the show. How could one begrudge a little technical difficulty with Jane Lynch up there on stage?  You couldn’t.

Justin Bieber was honored alongside top fashion names like Tom Ford and Gucci.  Bieber won the Award for his women’s cologne, called “Someday.”  The NY Daily News reports that the teen pop star’s debut women’s perfume broke records in June 2011 when it earned $3 million in just three weeks at Macy’s.  Justin Bieber appeared via telecast saying "I'm honored to be named Elizabeth Taylor Fragrance Celebrity of the Year.  It means a lot to me that my fans and The Fragrance Foundation support all my accomplishments. The best part is that my favorite charity is sharing in the success.  It’s important to pay it forward, plus I have the girls smelling great."
Caroline Geerlings, Global President of Tom Ford accepting  Awards for Tom Ford
photo credit: Raphaella Barkley
I was enthralled the moment the event started; from the ultra glamorous red carpet, to the people-watching in the lobby prior to the show, to gulping my champagne as I rushed down to my seat, to meeting Nicole Richie and Carol Alt before the show, to the break-neck opening video where the audience cheered wildly for their favorite perfume, to the emotional and touching “Legacy of Excellence Tribute” to Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder.  There was the Elizabeth Taylor Fragrance Celebrity of the Year Award for Justin Bieber and the memorable Hall of Fame Recipient salute to Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.  It was a visual feast to view the video of Coco Chanel’s achievements, which was just one of the many highlights of the evening.
Jane Lynch and Nicole Richie
Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage

It was very exciting to see who won Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year and the FiFi Award went to IFF for Bond No. 9 New York Oud.  Master Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec, the visionary behind the scent of Bond No. 9 New York Oud graciously accepted the award with Laurice Rahme.

Laurice thanked her “beloved New York - a place where impossible, magical paradoxes come true” for this award winning fragrance. Another very well deserved win of the night .
I really enjoyed looking at all of the “Top Fives” in every category.  It just makes me want to go smell these now.  For a full roster of the winners, view here.

As soon as the show was over, the audience flooded out into the lobby where perfect waiters, holding perfect hors d'oeuvres and offering fabulous champagne were waiting to serve us.

Soul Queen Chaka Khan said to me that she loved my perfume and told people around her to smell what I was wearing. (What did I wear to the FIFIS? View here)
I promised to send her a sample.  The excited and privileged crowd partied as if the night was still young.  All of it was perfect. 

As I slowly walked back to my room at the Hotel Empire at Lincoln Center, I realized that the world will always want to smell good.  It connects us in some strange way.
What does all this mean to me? 

We cannot deny the power of the fragrance industry.

It was a beautiful thing to behold that night.  Scent envelops us all and it is everywhere in our world.  Personally, it means that I cannot wait to go smell some of the nominee’s fragrances.  That is the power of The FiFi Awards. 

At the end of this fairy-tale like evening, I walked away with an utmost positive image of the FiFi Awards, knowing that they work very hard to support all types of fragrances; commercial, luxury, niche and every category in between.  I will always remember this magical and special evening.

-Raphaella Barkley

Laurice Rahmé and Laurent Le Guernec accepting "Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year"
photo credit: beautypress
The most emotional moment of the night came during the tribute to industry icon Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder, who passed away last year, by her husband, Leonard Lauder, who was visibly moved while speaking in honor of his wife.  You could hear a pin drop in the packed auditorium as he fought to hold back his tears.  It made him even more human and the crowd gave him a standing ovation for his heart-wrenching speech.  We adored him and felt his pain.  It was the ever graceful presence of the great Lauder executive Karen Khoury that stood by him and read his words while he took a moment before he could continue.  He accepted the Award with great style after making a special come-back.  He told the hushed audience before leaving the stage, “You have no idea how much this means to us.  Evelyn wanted to make women feel beautiful and be beautiful.” The crowd roared its approval and love.

It is very hard for me to “critique” each winner versus other nominees, as many may do. My opinion is just my opinion so there is no need for me to compare and make personal comments.  The whole experience taught me to be open minded, even for fragrances to which I would usually pay little attention.  But the world pays attention when one of them wins. I truly opened my heart and mind to the event and walked away wiser in this quest for fragrance knowledge.  

Leonard Lauder and Caroline Geerlings Global President of Tom Ford
Karen Khoury and Leonard Lauder
The Bond No. 9 mobile circling around the block waiting for Laurice Rahmé
photo credit: Raphaella Barkley
Raphaella and Chaka Khan
photo by Chaka Khan using my cell phone
Fragrance Foundation

Mean while, here are the winners of the UK FiFi Awards listed on Basenotes, thank you Grant!

Special Thanks to Bayly Ledes for  Beauty Press images

Coming soon, a report from the UK FiFi Awards by Grant Osborn and our Paris Correspondent Sarah Colton reports from the prestigious French FiFi Awards!


Raphaella Barkley is the Editor-in-Chief of The Perfume The Perfume Magazine recently had the honor of also placing Top-Five at the2012 FiFi Awardss’ for Editorial Excellence in Fragrance Coverage for Blog/E-Zine. 

She can be reached at

Managing Editor Mark David and Jane Lynch at the FiFi's
Program with my ticket and The Perfume Magazine listed in the 40th Anniversary FiFi Awards!
Jane Lynch "From Lincoln Center-Goodnight Everyone"
Stephen Lovekin Getty Images
VIP Party at the FiFi Awards
Josh Groban arriving at the FiFis
Chair of The Fragrance Foundation Jill Belasco (L) and Philippe Cousteau