FiFi Does the Downtown Scene

With a guest list that included Sean "Diddy" Combs, Paula Abdul, Jane Seymour and singer John Legend, the FiFi Awards embodied the phrase "starry, starry night."

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With a guest list that included Sean “Diddy” Combs, Paula Abdul, Jane Seymour and singer John Legend, the FiFi Awards embodied the phrase “starry, starry night.”

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 35th annual awards ceremony on May 31, held for the first time at the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan, brought out those inspired by the overwhelming successes of recent celebrity fragrances from Combs, Sarah Jessica Parker and others. Several admitted that they were looking for fragrance deals, including Abdul and Zac Posen.

“At the right time, [fragrance] is definitely part of my dream and my plan,” said Posen. But the chief purpose of his appearance, he said, was to support Combs.

“American Idol” judge Abdul, who was a presenter at the awards, said she had been developing a perfume for the last seven months, and while the name is under wraps, she invited reporters to get close to her neck to smell the finished version. “I’m wearing my own scent. It’s fun, flirty and chic, with some amber, rose and leather notes with a hint of vanilla,” said Abdul, who added the scent was aimed at a “sophisticated type of woman.” Abdul has been working exclusively with fragrance oil house Firmenich on her upcoming projects, including a fragrance for the teen and tween markets.

Théo Spilka, vice president of fine fragrance sales and new business development at Firmenich, was mum on who might market Abdul’s fragrance — which he called an “ambery-luscious” blend. But he said Firmenich had “narrowed it down to a short list [of marketers].”

Donna Karan, who was the evening’s Hall of Fame inductee, admitted that she and her late husband, artist Stephan Weiss, had ulterior motives for getting into beauty. “It was his idea to do this beauty company, not mine. He wanted something sustainable. He figured if we made it in the beauty business, then I wouldn’t have to sit and be designing collection after collection,” she said with a laugh.

Turning more serious, Karan added, “He told me that you need something as sexy as our own relationship. We liked to smell each other. The dream started in our own bedroom. I feel I’m here on behalf of my husband, not for me.”

Leonard Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., who gave Karan her award and applauded her accomplishments in beauty and fashion, said, “Donna knows what women want. Any woman who knows what other women want — she’s got it.”

Earlier on the red carpet, Lauder admitted he had dashed out of the house without fragrance that evening. “It’s better this way. The [Estée Lauder Cos. fragrance] brands won’t get jealous,” he quipped. “It’s like the Jewish mother who buys her son two ties. If he shows up to dinner wearing one, she says, ‘What, you didn’t like the other tie?’

Seymour, who wore a David Meister gown, Givenchy’s Amarige fragrance and a $1 million Chopard diamond necklace, reminisced about fragrances she did some years back with Max Factor, adding, “I’m ready for a new one.”

Refreshingly, few stars hid their ambitions for their scents. “I was about to start a riot in here if I didn’t tie [with Hermès; they shared the Fragrance of the Year/Men’s Luxe award],” said Combs, taking the stage after a pause between the reading of Hermès’ scent and the name of his own. Adding that mixology has always been part of his raison d’être, Combs added, “Back as a child, I liked mixing Kool-Aids like strawberry and raspberry to get the perfect flavor. I thought of Berry Blast before the Kool-Aid people did!”

“It was such a proud moment,” added Combs, who held an after party at The Box. “You don’t expect to win. This is truly a gift, to be respected and honored by this community. I’m very proud of the people that worked so hard and believed in me. I came in [to the fragrance industry] with a lot of respect and energy. I put out a product people respected and people liked. I owe a lot to the industry. They welcomed me with open arms.”

And he won’t stop anytime soon. “I have so many ideas for new fragrances,” Combs said. “I wish they could produce it quicker! I’m already on my fourth fragrance, but we’re only on production with our second one.”

John Demsey, group president at the Estée Lauder Cos., said of Combs, “Sean’s the real deal. His fragrance was number one across the board — among men’s and women’s scents. It’s very rare that a men’s fragrance would do more than a women’s fragrance. It’s the convergence of style, celebrity and pop culture.” Demsey revealed some news of his own: He’ll be married at a private ceremony for family on July 27. A rockin’ party for his friends is planned for Oct. 6. “It’s a double-header,” he joked of his impending nuptials.

Daisy Fuentes — whose fragrance, Dianoche, was nominated, but didn’t win — summed up the feelings of most also-rans with her succinct comment from the stage. “This sucks,” she said with a mock pout. “I really wanted to win!”

There’s always next year for Fuentes, who will release her second women’s fragrance in September. “It smells luxurious, expensive and feminine,” she said. Fuentes is also working on a show called Eco-Zone Project, which involves helping make celeb homes “green.” “I’m learning so much in the process,” she said.

Debbie Murtha, senior vice president of cosmetics of the Macy’s Merchandising Group, picked up the store’s Retailer of the Year award; Macy’s shared the honor with Sephora. Murtha called the award “a vote of confidence in a tough overall year.”

Liz Claiborne’s Juicy Couture women’s fragrance had a big night, picking up three FiFi’s. L’Oréal collected four awards, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton took three and the Estée Lauder Cos. and Inter Parfums each took home two. Clarins, Hermès, Puig, Avon Products, Yves Rocher and Crescent House each received a FiFi, as well.

Forgoing the host of fragrances introduced last year, a number of starlets on hand had mixed their own scents for the occasion. In addition to a Calvin Klein gown, model and cooking show host Padma Lakshmi was wearing a neroli, jasmine and geranium fragrance she “mixed” herself the morning of the event. She noted a new season of “Top Chef” was premiering on the Bravo network this Wednesday and that she was finishing a new book, “Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet” that will include her memoirs as well as recipes.

Model Carol Alt, who happily hammed it up for the cameras as she gracefully sauntered down the red carpet in a slinky black number by Anna Molinari for Blumarine, said when it came to fragrance, she was keen on mixing her own by adding essential oils to sweet almond oil and then applying it to her skin for a healthy sheen. Alt, who just finished filming “The Man Who Came Back,” has a busy summer planned. The raw-food diet devotee is a partner with Arizona food company Apex to develop a line of supplements and snacks called Ra Nutrition, slated to be launched this fall. Eventually, she’d like to expand the effort to include chemical-free body and hair care products.

Nautica Fragrances front man Carter Oosterhouse recently wrapped up a photo shoot in Long Beach, Calif., for a new ad for the fragrance brand, which is licensed to Coty Inc. He’s also shooting a new show for the HGTV network that’s tentatively called “Carter Can.”

Becki Newton, who plays Amanda on “Ugly Betty,” playfully explained why she was invited to present several awards that evening, declaring, “I smell really good at all times.” Aside from the Michael Kors scent she was wearing that night, she credits good genes for her sweet natural scent, saying jokingly, “I think I was just born smelling good and remained that way throughout my life. You can’t bottle it.”

“I appreciate anything feminine and involved with the senses,” said Newton, who sported a black Escada number. The actress, who is between seasons one and two of “Ugly Betty,” said her summer plans included sitting on a beach in Greece “as much as humanly possible.”

Legend, who performed that evening, admitted he also appreciates femininity, commenting, “When a woman smells good, it’s an aphrodisiac.” — With contributions from Matthew W. Evans and Michelle Edgar

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