There was a love fest in the Onyx Room at the Park Hyatt New York Wednesday evening.
Fragrance executives exuded a palpable affection for Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president of fragrances at International Flavors and Fragrances, who was honored as the newest member of the Fragrance Foundation’s Circle of Champions.
Outside of his work accomplishments, Mirzayantz was lauded by friends and colleagues as a dreamer, a fun-loving adventurer and family man (he brought his wife, Princess Alexandra of Greece, and their two sons to the event).
“He was a dreamer,” recalled Ann Gottlieb. “Dreamers don’t usually go very far.”
Andreas Fibig, chief executive officer of IFF, noted Mirzayantz’s work as dean of IFF University and his work helping the business forge its sustainability vision and strategy. IFF master perfumer Carlos Benaim, who is celebrating 50 years with the business, recalled the time the company almost lost Mirzayantz to a job with National Geographic where he could have gone off to Venezuela to photograph horses.
The evening was hosted by John Demsey, executive group president at the Estée Lauder Cos. Demsey — after decades — has finally learned how to pronounce Mirzayantz, he told the crowd. “I have practiced for 25 years on how to pronounce your last name,” he said.
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Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos. — where Mirzayantz started his career as a salesperson years ago — noted that he was a bit overdressed for the event as the only one in black tie, sporting a Tom Ford tuxedo.
“I’m here because I love this man — I love Nicolas,” Lauder said. “He is the real thing, he’s creative, he’s funny, he’s everything. I love his family, I love his wife, his kids I don’t know too well, but hopefully I didn’t break your hand when I shook your hand,” Lauder said to one of Mirzayantz’s sons (Lauder gives notoriously firm handshakes).
“He’s a man that represents what all of us want, which is the ability to understand this business, to live it,” Lauder continued, addressing the fragrance market more broadly.
“If you continue to support fragrance, remember that it’s the most important thing in a human being’s life, even in the animal kingdom. Don’t let people lament what’s happened to this or happened to that. Hand-wringing is not a market strength,” Lauder said. “What do you do? You create…and you make sure that everything works and that you’re creating for the right market. Don’t think that the United States is one market. How many is it? Eight, 10 12, markets. Your customers are all over — you have to understand…the U.S. is the most multicultural nation in the world. Create for your customer, not for what your boss wants.”
“In many businesses we work in the shadows of our heroes, but in the beauty and fragrance industry we walk among them every single day,” Mirzayantz said, calling out Lauder specifically.