More important than clothes

This week I was lucky enough to attend the Fragrance Foundation Awards in New York. Heralded the ‘oscars’ of the Fragrance world. It was a star-studded affair, with celebs such as Tom Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Henry Golding & Bebe Rexa in attendance. Glitzy attire adorned beautiful people everywhere but more important to me were the scent-sational brands that were being celebrated and awarded; and the words of wisdom I heard from the main man – Tom Ford. Here are some of my ‘note’-worthy winners and moments from the event…

One of the first winners to grace the stage was Mr. Tom Ford himself. Accepting the Hall of Fame accolade he was introduced by Henry Golding, of ‘Crazy, Rich, Asians’ fame, and a video message from Hugh Jackman! Then a video played, transmitting to everyone in the audience just how critical this man is and has been in shaping his ‘f****** fabulous’ brand and rewiring the Fragrance market. Linda Levy, the Fragrance Foundation President, said it best when describing him:

“When a designer creates a brand and stays true to its DNA, it really shows”

The video captured just how he has brought back sensuality into brand discourse just as it was verging towards being deemed as something mature and dated for a Fragrance brand; and he modernized notions of decadence for a new generation.

Tom Ford has shifted the dialogue around what a designer fragrance brand could be, and raised the bar on what could be accomplished within the realm of luxury niche perfume. He passionately speaks about the power of scent and how it has inspired him to make such compelling brand impact:

“I think fragrance might be more important than clothes. Because, like music or food, scent is a very direct sensory stimulant. It provokes the senses, it brings up emotion and memory and feeling.”

How then has he taken the powerful potential of scent and built his brand so effectively? I believe he has expertly capitalized on key trends to maximize relevancy and appeal of everything he does…

Transparency and the desire for reassurance of the best quality ingredients, as well as unique ingredients that disrupt what is out there as people strive for individuality in self-expression.

In fact, he also won the award later in the evening for women’s luxury fragrance of the year with Lost Cherry. The first time I saw and smelled this I was in awe. It ticks all the boxes – on-brand, disruptive, championing an interesting ingredient – and it smells divine. He knows the power that a magic combination like this can have…

“The lure of exquisite ingredients and the storytelling behind each scent makes them compelling not just for connoisseurs but also inspires the fragrance-curious to explore.”

Gender fluidity. He articulates it perfectly himself:

“The private blend customer doesn’t necessarily care if it is labeled as masculine or feminine. They want something that is precious and unique.”

One of the most remarkable things I observed in how he describes his approach is that of precision. Every single aspect is so carefully selected, crafted and shaped to deliver a perfect blend of concept and product that yields an unparalleled brand experience. Even he was so precise, and poised as he took to the stage and spoke with a calm yet commanding resolve, with conviction and strength.

For me, seeing him, and hearing him speak was my highlight from this event. There were however a couple of other winners that I deem ‘note’-worthy to mention and surface how they have been making strides to build powerful fragrance brands.

Bleu de Chanel by Chanel won the awards for Men’s luxury scent and Men’s campaign of the year. I thoroughly admire how this brand has bridged the classic commercial characteristics that drive broad appeal relating to attraction and sensuality with a narrative that starts to push against the expected action you see in advertising for it. Not only did this film have a killer David Bowie soundtrack that adds to the storytelling vibe but also the essence of this is about a man in self-reflection mode. It portrays an alternative side of man. Not the all-powerful, in control, traditional view, but a man who is contemplative, thoughtful, dare I say… considerate. Bravo Chanel!

The other winner that caught my eye was Daisy Love by Marc Jacobs, winning social media campaign of the year for its Santa Monica Pier takeover activation. This is a fantastic scent, and when I smell it I feel uplifted, liberated, and free but also sense a sweetness and fluffiness that empowers and encourages you to live life and play. It is a masterful extension of the Daisy brand franchise, injecting a youthful quality that continues to breathe life in to this epic fragrance brand. It was actually pipped at the post for the gong for women’s prestige scent of the year by Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Davana, which personally I was scratching my head about.

But anyway, it did win for its social media campaign and activation, which I thought was great! The brand took all the qualities I mention above, linked it to the sunny, beach vibe in its primary campaign ad and created a pop-up experience that attracted influencers to flock to play and push out content that echoed the feeling and essence of the brand. Bravo Daisy!


It was a special night for me. I loved seeing all these glorious fragrance brands and the people behind them being applauded. It grounded for me just how brands are multi-sensory entities and just how powerful the sense of smell can be in building the brand impact, unlocking ideas for how you can engage visually, experientially. In the words of Mr. Tom Ford:

“Scent is one of the things that alters mood, and it’s incredibly important to alter your mood.”

I believe a powerful brand is one that impacts you, influences you, makes you feel something, just like scent itself has the power to do.

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