The Fragrance Foundation’s (TFF) signature DEI initiative, #FragranceForwardTFF, officially launched with a free webinar, Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, on October 20th, to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the multibillion-dollar fragrance industry.
In his opening remarks to the virtual audience, Jerry Vittoria, Chairman of the Fragrance Foundation Board of Directors shares, “We all want to see change … The work of The Fragrance Foundation will no doubt enable a deeper discussion across our membership that I am certain will accelerate change. The definition of diversity goes beyond gender to include all contexts in which people may identify themselves as part of a minority group.”
He adds, “Our broad based understanding of diversity is about embracing the power of inclusion of minority groups, securing the engagement of all our members and empowering the best of their creativity and innovation.”
TFF recruited a heavyweight selection of panelists, including luxury perfumer Chris Collins, World of Chris Collins; Givaudan Senior Perfumer, Linda Song; Rob Smith, founder, The Phluid Project; and, Corey Smith, Head of North America DEI, LVMH.
The virtual event brought together more than 1,000 attendees, ranging from brands and media, to beauty and fragrance executives and enthusiasts, students and consumers from across the country. The engaging and lively discussion, moderated by Helen Shelton, Global Chief Diversity Officer and luxury brand marketing communications expert at Finn Partners, offered actionable and measurable next steps and best practices for industry leaders and those interested in entering the field, as well as insights on the career and professional development journeys of pioneering voices in the industry.
Collins, who is one of the only Black perfumers to have a presence in luxury US retailers, with perfume curation historically being passed down from father to son in France, specifically in the southeastern city of Grasse, where Collins studied perfumery.
“The one thing that I wanted to make sure when I have conversations with buyers and the people that worked for the retailers is ‘I want you to take my brand because it’s worthy of being in your store. Don’t take my brand because I’m Black.’,” says Collins.
“I have always stressed in this industry opportunity. Give me the opportunity to show you that my brand can stand next to any other brand you have on the shelves. I applaud those retailers who have given me the opportunity but we still have a long way to go.Being the trailblazer isn’t always easy. Going through the forest with a machete and trying to cut down the trees is a tough role. But it is our responsibility for the people behind us. I take that very seriously. When it’s all said and done, I hope I am remembered for opening the doors for others.”
How advocacy, allyship and activism play a role in advancing diversity
Smith offers his perspective, “Visibility matters. Representation matters. When I look at many fragrances and scents, I look at how it is presented and it’s very limited when you look at who’s the model on the campaign. I think the fragrance industry has a lot of work to do. I think it reinforces social constructs around gender. What does it mean to be male? What does it mean to be female? What beauty is considered. How archaic and dated it is. One of the things that we did when we created the faces of Phluid is used radical inclusion, when it comes to gender identity, body size, ability and race, our models reflect what I see as beauty wishes, beauty authenticity. We cast trans models, body positive models … we continue to lean into visibility and representation because it matters when people see themselves in campaigns.”
A major element of #FragranceForwardTFF is the creation of an industry-wide, Fragrance Foundation DEI Signatory Pledge TFF’s 100+ members – that include both independent and corporate entities – will commit not only to furthering their respective DEI goals, but also pledging to assist TFF in building and shaping #FragranceForwardTFF in the months and years ahead. This will be achieved by sharing resources and creating opportunities for mentorship, educational advancement and more aggressive recruiting.
And, here is the full TFF DEI Pledge:
- I commit to being fragrance forward by holding myself and my company accountable at all levels to drive diversity, equity and inclusion.
- I commit to breaking barriers for people of all backgrounds in launching, growing and sustaining careers in the fragrance industry.
- I commit to actionable steps to broadening my perspective, changing my workplace and changing the industry.
The Fragrance Foundation is also embarking on a series of virtual listening sessions and tours of institutions of higher learning to engage with students and to discuss ways in which they might enter the field. A TFF Career Paths series premiered earlier this month with students, faculty and alumni during Homecoming at Spelman College, an Historically Black institution in Atlanta. The session was led by Linda Levy, President of The Fragrance Foundation and Spelman alumna Sharné Jackson, TFF’s Senior Director of Events, Education & Give Back.