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Live From New York: State of the Fragrance Industry

Nancy Jeffries

The Fragrance Foundation cosponsored a presentation on the current retail environment, consumer attitudes and financial perspectives impacting the fragrance industry. A panel discussion, held at New York’s Yale Club, was moderated by Darby Dunn, CNBC, and introduced by Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation, who noted that 60% of fragrance sales were generated during the holiday season, underlining the season’s importance to the fragrance industry. The panel featured Christopher Ferrara, senior director, Merrill Lynch; Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center, The Conference Board; and Gilbert Harrison, chairman and CEO, Financo.

“A volatile stock market and climbing gas prices could cause a slowdown at holiday time, but there are some bright signs on the horizon,” said Dunn, who also noted that 42% of consumers surveyed in a recent study said they would spend money on fragrance.

“News is somewhat mixed for the holiday, and the impact of climbing gasoline prices will make a difference,” said Franco, who noted that this will be reflected in reduced consumer spending at many discount retailers. However, because new fragrances will drive purchasing, remain key gift items and are poised for long-term growth, the impact of decreased holiday spending should have less of an impact on fragrance sales, especially with many retailers offering special sales.

Harrison said unique product offerings and the importance of impulse purchasing were absolutely critical, and noted the continuing success of celebrity fragrances—23% of fragrances today are celebrity endorsed. He noted, however, the question of longevity with these fragrances.

Event sponsors included Cosmopolitan magazine, Clarins Fragrance Group and Symrise, Inc.

Fashion Group Presents Runway Trends
In November, the Fashion Group Foundation presented its Spring/Summer 2008 Trend Report, direct from the runways of Paris, New York, London and Milan. Attendees were welcomed to the event, held at the Time & Life Building in New York City, by Fashion Group International creative director Marylou Luther.

Color was prominent, with bright lips and intensely colored eyes apparent on the runways, complementing the turn from the sobriety of fall to the flowing, colorful chiffons and organzas featured for spring; makeup followed suit. In a special New York Makeup Trend recap provided by M-A-C, red lips, layered lip products, mixing lipsticks, lip gloss and pigments were featured in fashion shows globally. Shaded cheeks and razor-cut contours were evident in London. “Color was humongous,” noted Luther, whether it appeared in appropriated styles of decades past or mimicking nature—with greens for sustainability, blues for the sea, and sunny oranges and yellows.

Prada utilized dark, heavily shadowed makeup by Pat McGrath, with loosely braided manes. Statement brows and scarlet lips were popular with Chanel, while berry-stained lips were prominent from Dolce & Gabbana. Colored fleck eye shadows from Valentino and colored eye shadows from Lagerfeld also appeared on the runways. For hair there was caramelized color, hair ornaments, colored extensions, loose chignons and even a tie-dyed ponytail.

Bridget Foley, executive editor, W, moderated the panel discussion that followed. The panel featured Julie Gilhart, senior vice president, fashion director, Barneys; Meggan Crum, senior accessories director, InStyle; Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president, GMM women’s RTW & children’s, Saks Fifth Avenue; and Sarah Brown, beauty director, Vogue.

Among the “takeaways” from the featured collections, Brown cited the “artistic, pop art references, fearless use of eye shadows, and a sense of playful individualism.” Gilhart noted the emphasis on transparency and the numerous choices available for consumers. All agreed that “going green has gone from niche to mainstream,” and while beauty has pioneered the movement with sustainable packaging, naturals and biodegradability, there is significant movement for all luxury brands to embrace that consciousness.

Pangea Organics Holds Benefit
Beyond The Pink Ribbon, a benefit for breast cancer research and environmental awareness held at ABC Carpet in New York City, was held to support Pangea Organics Ecocentric Skincare in its efforts to bring awareness and education for these issues to the industry and the community at large.

Joshua Onysko, founder and CEO of Pangea, described his journey from small-scale organic soap maker in Boulder, Colorado to an organic entrepreneur and creator of a completely nonsynthetic body care line. “What we need now more than ever is education,” he said.

Anita Nager—representing Climb Against the Odds, an initiative that raises awareness as part of The Breast Cancer Fund through climbs of Mt. Shasta and other daunting peaks—noted the environmental impact of toxins and the links to cancer. She discussed the goals of the Beldon Fund, for which she is program director, and its emphasis on battling cancer through human and ecological health. Mitch Gaynor, MD, founder and president of Gaynor Integrative Oncology, said, “It’s never too late to begin eating organically and changing habits. Your immune system is your front line of defense against cancer.”

Onysko concluded by saying, “With a little knowledge, you can make a huge difference for you and your family,” adding the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

In support of Beyond The Pink Ribbon, Pangea Organics donated 10% of all October sales at ABC, the first retailer to carry the organic line, to Climb Against The Odds.

Sniffapalooza Fall Ball
During the weekend of Oct. 20–21, scent lovers from around the globe gathered in New York City to sample and savor a variety of fragrances—from new and niche to classic and customized. The event began with uptown activities organized by Sniffapalooza founder Karen Dubin and executive operations manager Karen Adams on Saturday, and zeroed in on the downtown fragrance scene on Sunday. The 165 participants attended a breakfast at Bergdorf Goodman, a lunch featuring Sephora founder Isabel Masson Mandonnaud and guest speaker Chandler Burr of The New York Times, followed by afternoon samplings at Henri Bendel and Takashimaya.

Bond No. 9 founder Laurice Rahmé hosted Sunday brunch at her retail location, where she presented her latest scent, Andy Warhol Silver Factory. Rahme, who created numerous fragrances based on the diverse neighborhoods of New York City, was invited by The Andy Warhol Foundation to develop a fragrance collection using the artist’s body of work as inspiration. The first fragrance in the collection was inspired by Warhol’s New York studio, and features a blend of incense, wood resin and amber, with a heart of jasmine, iris and hint of cedar. Created by Aurelien Guichard, it is a 28% perfume concentration, presented in a Campbell’s soup-inspired package, apropos of the ubiquitous Warhol design.

Le Labo, where unique, custom creations are blended and personalized for each customer, was the next stop, followed by Lafco New York (Luxury Articles and Fragrance Company)—founded by Jon Bresler 14 years ago and home of Santa Maria Novella fragrances and body care. Segen Laird Scott, Lafco New York’s director of sales, presented an array of fragranced products, from thick and fragrant chunks of Claus Porto soap from Portugal to Lorenzo Villoresi’s fine perfumes of vetiver, patchouli and yerbamate. Home fragrances—including European soy candles—Lafco New York’s men’s collection and Santa Maria Novella’s historical potpourri were also featured.

Adding to the downtown excitement, L’Artisan Parfumeur president Francois Duquesne was available for a chat, and Aedes de Venustas, a perfume shop in the West Village, provided samples. The event closed with a celebratory dinner. “We’re sharing a passion and it’s very contagious,” said Dubin at the dinner. “We want to make more fragrance lovers.”

In addition to fragrance master classes and events, Sniffapalooza creates children’s events and European fragrance journeys.

Givaudan Collaboration
On Oct. 23, Givaudan held a multi-sensorial event, Spirit of Place, at its Creative Center in New York City to announce its partnership with Paris-based horticultural magazine Bloom. Li Edelkoort—creator of the biannual publication dedicated to trends in flowers, plants and garden design and how they impact art, fashion and beauty—focuses on ideas and inspiration for enthusiasts and professionals alike within the magazine’s pages.

To celebrate the nature-based focus of the collaboration, Givaudan perfumers Shyamala Maisondieu, Antoine Maisondieu and Nathalie Gracia-Cetto created fragrances inspired by the native herbs, scents and spirit of four men from different corners of the world featured in portraits by Joanna von Mulder. Asana: The Indian features notes of curry leaf, fennel and coriander; Odin: The Nordic features green anise, juniper berry and birch leaf; Baraka: The Moroccan features olive leaf, cumin and oak moss; and Ngoma: The African offers notes of geranium leaf, vanilla and cacao.

“Collaborating with Bloom is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment to being leaders in sensory innovation, and for our perfumers, working with Bloom has been an exciting adventure,” said Kate Greene, vice president of marketing, Givaudan.
Emmanuelle Linard of Bloom said that “foliage” was the focus of the issue containing the first collaboration, noting that the issue explored themes representing the authentic folklore of the world, which are integral to the collaboration. “Innovation and creativity are the way to survive in today’s world,” said Linard.

Clearly, the message was green—both inspired by nature and tuned in to the earth’s process.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto noted the issue contained scent samplings of each of the bouquets, adding, “It was a pleasure to create without any constraints.”

“It’s all about being curious and keeping an open mind. It’s so important to be open to what the possibilities are,” concluded Greene.

CEW Welcomes Brand Innovators
Innovations in Brand Building, the topic of discussion at Cosmetic Executive Women’s Beauty Series presentation at New York’s Harmonie Club, on Oct. 24, provided insights into the evolution of two strong beauty brands. Featured speakers included Kathy O’Brien, marketing director, Dove Skin & Masterbrand, U.S., Unilever; and Leela Petrakis, general manager, Neutrogena Cosmetics, U.S.

Sabine Feldmann, vice president and publisher of Shape (a sponsor of the event, along with WWD/Beauty Biz, Givaudan and 24/7), set the stage for the presentation saying, “Looking good and feeling healthy go hand in hand.”

O’Brien discussed the evolution of Dove, which first launched in 1957 as a beauty bar with moisturizing cream that stood for superior care. “Dove has always stayed true to the fact that it delivers functional beauty,” she said. She also discussed the Dove Natural Beauty Campaign, which seeks to debunk beauty stereotypes and support a woman’s natural beauty and genuine belief in herself. “This mission has guided our product development,” she noted. “Women are looking for higher order benefit.”

The brand spends a lot of time talking to women to create beauty products for every stage of life. A brand must be innovative and respond to what consumers want. “It’s about delivering much more than clean,” she said.

Petrakis added, “Neutrogena is a product that does what is says it does. [It] is a simple and very well-edited brand.” She stressed education, the power of the print media and delivering the healthy skin care message. “Johnson & Johnson has been very successful with beauty, for example Neutrogena and Aveeno. The brand’s dedication to finding medical solutions definitely translates to beauty products,” said Petrakis, adding that a clear understanding of the beauty business and being close to trends help guide the brand’s business.

Virtual Scents at Hearst Tower
On Oct. 30, The Fragrance Foundation’s Leadership and Innovation Board welcomed guests and panelists to a Virtual Scents presentation at New York City’s Hearst Tower. The program focused on ways the Internet and nontraditional online media can be used to promote and sell fragrances. Terry Molnar, executive director, Sense of Smell Institute, acknowledged the event’s sponsors—Arcade Marketing, CosmoGirl magazine and Custom Essence—and introduced Mary Manning, president, Manning Associates, who assembled the panel of experts for the discussion.

Kristine Welker, vice president and publisher, CosmoGirl magazine, set the stage for the evening’s discussion, citing the innovation, inspiration and imagination that were key to the publication’s founding eight years ago and integral to the evening’s theme. Panelists included Amy Gibby, president, The eCrush Network, an online social networking site for teens; Debra Butler, vice president, Creative Marketing Studio, Firmenich North America; Drew Stein, CEO, Involve, formerly Infinite Vision Media, who introduced “Second Life” as a virtual reality concept with fragrance application potential; and Steve Roberts, CEO, ShopText, a new concept in cell phone text messaging that allows consumers to text in their purchase choices.

Butler led the audience through the virtual scent world created by Firmenich.

“Os.Moz, the Perfume Island,” said Butler, “is the first Perfume Island in Second Life that enables you to fulfill your fragrance fantasies.” In a demonstration of the site, she showed how the virtual island is a place where fragrance conversations may be hosted within a virtual community where fragrance lovers can escape through the garden, experience the fragrance bar and receive detailed olfactive information in a global community. The site, which operates in both English and French, seeks to facilitate interaction among participants. “For Firmenich, it’s about hosting the passionate conversation of fragrance and utilizing options for raising awareness through a variety of online alternative approaches,” said Butler. “Panelists agreed there is new potential for participatory activity via alternative media that may ultimately strengthen brands, enhance knowledge and increase communication.”

Fragrance New Market Findings
Mary Manning, president, Manning Associates, and Barbara Preyssas, global vice president, Analysis Scent International, presented findings on the contemporary fragrance consumer and changes in consumer buying patterns and usage in a presentation called “The Forgotten Fragrance Consumer.” The study focused on women age 25–40 whose fragrance choices were impacted by such factors as career and family responsibilities, and the current fragrance environment.

The Analysis Group created specialized tools designed to capture the impact of the sense of smell on human emotion. Findings in the study revealed that despite some 800 fragrance launches last year, the fragrance market was considered flat. Rochelle Bloom, president, The Fragrance Foundation, which commissioned the study, welcomed attendees to New York’s Hearst Tower to share the findings via statistics and video clips of actual fragrance consumers. Clips revealed that while women are becoming more discerning and blasé in the study demographic, many of those interviewed, both heavy users and lapsed users, felt that fragrance centered on feeling and that is where it has its strongest impact. “It’s like I put it on and I blossom,” said one subject; another heavy user added, “It personalizes me.”

Findings showed that body lotions and sprays are gaining popularity, and while women still use and purchase fine fragrance, they purchase less due to a variety of factors, ranging from not identifying with the celebrity trend to less than positive retail experiences. Some women in the study said they didn’t see themselves in current ads, and wanted more descriptions of the fragrances so they could understand them. Preyssas noted a desire for more personalized service and less hard sell at the counters, adding that a welcoming store experience and a consideration of fragrance sampling, size and portability combined with focused advertising campaigns in the types of magazines this segment is reading would all help to bolster sales and scent experience.

Patricia Haegele, senior vice president and publisher, Good Housekeeping magazine, presented supportive findings from the Good Housekeeping reader panel, noting that while 89% of women fragrance wearers studied used fragrance to please themselves and 57% wear fragrance all the time, there is a clear shift in the industry. “The industry is creating buyer challenges for fragrance consumers,” she said. “Among boomer women, according to the study, it’s easy to see why scented body lotions are on the rise. Women can smell it and try it right off the shelf.” The consensus was that a notable segment of women use less fragrance because their scent needs are met through body care products. Concurrently, a segment is moving from mainstream to niche fragrances. Regardless, said Preyssas, “we need to span those poles, both ends of the spectrum, to make the middle more appealing and innovate for success.”

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