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FIFI AWARDS

LVMH, COTY SWEEP BEAUTY'S OSCAR NIGHT<P>Byline: Julie Naughton / Laura Klepacki / with contributions from Matthew W. Evans / Jenny B. Fine / Cassandra Chiacchio / Kristin Finn<P>NEW YORK -- After a year of turmoil in the fragrance world, the...

LVMH, COTY SWEEP BEAUTY’S OSCAR NIGHT

Byline: Julie Naughton / Laura Klepacki / with contributions from Matthew W. Evans / Jenny B. Fine / Cassandra Chiacchio / Kristin Finn

NEW YORK — After a year of turmoil in the fragrance world, the industry’s major players gathered here at Avery Fisher Hall Tuesday night not to survey the wreckage, but to celebrate the successes in a pothole-strewn year.

Dubbed “The Sounds of Scents,” the 30th annual Fragrance Foundation Awards also could have been called an evening with Camille [McDonald] and Eric [Thoreux], who carted off nine FiFi statuettes between them. But what undoubtedly will be the most remembered moment was when Foundation president Annette Green stepped to the microphone and did what many in the industry never thought she would do: retire.

Joined by Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, chairman of the Fragrance Foundation and a group president of the Estee Lauder Cos., on stage, Green received a standing ovation from the audience. “I will be stepping down at the end of the year,” an emotional Green told the crowd. “But whatever the future brings, know I’m your most devoted cheerleader.” (See related story, page 14.)

Clocking in at around 2 1/2 hours, the awards were attended by about 1,200 people.

Like last year, Green packed the stage with a host of musicians and entertainers, including Lil’ Kim, Tommy Tune, Elaine Stritch, Gene Simmons and a couple of Deborahs — Harry and Gibson. All idly mingled beforehand in the green room backstage. Last year, the closed-circuit feed of the show couldn’t be heard in the secluded backstage area. This year, it could be heard — but not seen. No matter, there were other things to do. As they whiled away time, presenters were treated to touch-ups by Matrix hairstylists and Lancome makeup artists. Kathleen Travers of Matrix noted that because of Tuesday’s humid weather, hair-smoothing products were in high demand.

Front of house, those onstage were both serious and funny — sometimes unintentionally, as when Tune, after delivering an amusing fragrance-related riff on “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” slipped and called the evening the “Feces Awards.”

Everyone turned serious, however, when Bousquet-Chavanne took the mike. “This was a year of unprecedented challenges for the fragrance industry,” he told the crowd. “However, we stayed the course with renewed vigor and activity.” He noted that the industry will renew its focus on innovation and creativity. “We must engage our creative energies…in order to ensure growth,” he said. “Overall, we should be proud of this industry.”

Indeed, the lineup of fall launches has been likened to a biblical flood (See related story on page 9).

Fred Langhammer, president and chief executive officer of the Estee Lauder Cos., paid tribute to recently retired Lauder vice chairwoman Jeanette Wagner, who was inducted into the Fragrance Hall of Fame. Despite officially retiring, Wagner continues to be active both in business — she remains on Lauder’s board of directors — and in her personal life, as she has just signed up at Columbia University to study Mandarin. “Jeanette came to us with a global view that was unprecedented at that time,” he said. “She brought a standard second to none to this industry, and made us live it.”

Langhammer couldn’t resist teasing Wagner a bit as he honored her, however. “I remember, during my days in Japan, having dinner with Jeanette and a top Asian retailer,” he said with a chuckle. “Jeanette was explaining to him how he could rearrange his departments, his working hours and his retailing. After a while, he leaned over to me and said in Japanese, `You have powerful, smart and strong women in America. Please keep them there.”‘

Fashion designers — last year’s FiFi favorites — proved that they still have what it takes to bring home those Pochet crystal statuettes. Bulgari Blu Pour Homme took home the award for Best Packaging for a Men’s Scent in Department/Specialty Store/Private Label category (the scent also carted off three FiFi’s in Europe). As well, Michael for Men by Michael Kors scored wins for Men’s Fragrance Introduction of the Year in fragrances sold in under 500 specialty/department stores and Best National Advertising Campaign for a Men’s 2001 Fragrance Introduction, and Marc Jacobs walked away with the honors for best National Advertising Campaign for a Women’s 2001 Fragrance Introduction.

In fact, one executive didn’t have to do the Stairmaster at her gym Wednesday morning: McDonald, president of Parfums Givenchy, American Designer Fragrances and Guerlain, who made five trips to the stage, gathering honors for Michael for Men, Marc Jacobs Perfume and Flower by Kenzo. “Oh my God, Mom’s rosary kicked in,” she quipped, adding, “Our boys [Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors] are going to be so sorry they weren’t here tonight.” She said that she was going to call and wake up the Paris-based Patrick Choel, president of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, to share the news of the company’s victories.

“I know what to do for next year: 002 Coty!” said an excited Eric Thoreux, president of Coty Beauty Americas, who picked up two awards for 001 Coty, a limited-edition scent sold only on the Internet.

Some presenters made it clear that they’re visualizing for the future. The audience got a mild shock when FUBU’s Daymond John, who was presenting an award for Best Packaging, announced that FUBU Plush had garnered the award for Best Men’s Fragrance Packaging in Chain and Non-Store Venues. The only problem: Not only was the scent not nominated, it hasn’t even launched yet. Sort of brings you back to last year, when rap mogul and entrepreneur Russell Simmons managed to deliver a launch monolog for his new scent from the stage.

He wasn’t the only celebrity who lacked shyness. As Kiss frontman Simmons revealed, he’s looking to mint a Kiss fragrance — a concept several FiFi attendees raised eyebrows over. Said Allen Burke of QVC: “It would be a channel stopper, that’s for sure.”

Simmons, the rocker and marketer, already has put his imprint on a magazine — Tongue — which makes its debut this week, and on condoms, which he whipped out in a backstage demonstration. He also is thinking about a clothing line.

Model/actress Carol Alt, who is a partner in QVC’s Le Mirador skin care collection, also has her feelers out. “I have been approached,” she said, smiling. However, Alt, known for delving into the details, said she won’t do anything unless “it is absolutely fabulous or there is something different about it.” For now, she continues to wear Calvin Klein’s Obsession. Rather than on skin, she prefers to spray it on her hair — “guys love to put their nose in your hair.”

Meanwhile, Lil’ Kim, already one of the faces of MAC, said she, too, would contemplate launching a scent and mused that a fragrance by her could be called “Queen Bee,” adding, “I can smell it now.” Tuesday, though, she was wearing a perfume she swears by — Amber — available only on the West Coast. Nearby, Blondie lead singer Harry slipped in that she is devoted to Jo Malone’s Nutmeg and Ginger scent.

“If somebody asked me [to do a scent] I would,” “Sex and the City” and “Four Blondes” author Candace Bushnell said backstage. “Maybe it would be called something tacky, like `Candy.’ “

Bushnell, who is working on a new book due out next April called “Trading Up” (Hyperion), presented FiFi’s for Best Package of the Year for both Women’s Department Store/Specialty Store/Private Label and Women’s Chain and Non-Store Venues. Bushnell said the event was “fun, great — because New York is fashion, perfume and all that.” If truth be told, however, she didn’t happen to be wearing a scent Tuesday. “I had to run out of the house so quickly I had no time to put any fragrance on!”

Bushnell was flanked both backstage and front-of-house by co-presenter Mario Cantone, who plays the role of an interior designer on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” “I love it, I’m having a great time,” he said after a loud and highly spirited presentation with Bushnell. “It’s good to go up with Candace and go crazy; she’s not afraid of going off,” Cantone said, confessing that when he first heard about the FiFi awards, he “thought it was an awards show for poodles.”

It was also a night of comebacks, as evidenced by the appearance of Diane Von Furstenberg, who last week signed a global licensing deal with Inter Parfums. “I was here seven or 10 years ago with my daughter Tatiana,” the designer said backstage, before presenting the FiFi for Most Original Fragrance Feature by a Magazine. Von Furstenberg said she also remembered the night in 1977 when her Tatiana fragrance was on the market and she won the Year’s Outstanding Person FiFi.

Tova Borgnine, the doyenne of QVC fragrance, is starting work on her fourth women’s scent. Borgnine said her latest fragrance, Nirvana, was inspired by a trip to India.

Springsteen drummer and “Late Show” band leader Max Weinberg doesn’t have any immediate plans to drum up fragrance notes, but certainly appreciates the industry. “I think fragrance is very important. It’s one of those things in everyday life that can strike an emotional chord with you. Catch a whiff of Skin Bracer, and it will take you back 40 years.” His favorite scent? Geoffrey Beene. “I have been wearing it for years.”

And could singer Deborah Gibson be looking to reenter the market? In the Eighties, her pop hit “Electric Youth” inspired a Revlon fragrance.

Funny lady Joan Rivers was already getting to work at the post-ceremony dinner. In a partnership with her friends at Demeter, she quipped, “We are going to create a scent called `Loser.’ It will be for all those who lose with grace and charm.” (Both Rivers and Demeter were passed over for honors this year.) “We are going to send samples to all the losers the day after the Academy Awards.”

And maybe it was the pre-show jitters, but when someone accidentally bumped into Stritch in the green room, the Broadway icon muttered in her signature growl, “Bastard.”

Fragrance consultant Ann Gottlieb summed it all up by noting, “The FiFi’s tonight were bittersweet. Annette Green has left such a mark on the FiFi’s, and it will be interesting to see how the evening will change. It is wonderful to see everyone upbeat when the climate is not.”