The Fragrance Foundation Awards Presented by Hearst Magazines: View from the Inside

Karlie Kloss, Marc Puig, Carolina Herrera, and Elizabeth Musmanno Photo: Griffin Lipson for BFA

It’s known as the “Oscars” of fragrance, and that comparison exists for good reason: Like the Academy Awards, the Fragrance Foundation Awards presented by Hearst Magazines is held at a legendary venue (last night, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center), and the industry’s VIPs show up in full force giving their best black tie. But in addition to the beauty world types, there’s also a ton of celebrity guests (last night they included Katie Holmes, 13 Reasons Why’s Tommy Dorfman, and Transparent’s Judith Light, among others), and of course, the celebrity/comedian host. His unspoken duty: To give the business being celebrated a gentle ribbing.

Joel McHale; Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Fragrance Foundation

Joe McHale of Talk Soup and Community did the honors last night, taking on the role of amused outsider, and making playful comments in between presenters. Immediately after the first award of the night—Packaging of the Year: Women’s Prestige—went to EuroItalia for Moschino Fresh Couture (designed to look like a bottle of glass cleaner), McHale returned to the audience looking perplexed.

“It’s Windex, guys,” he said, his brow furrowed. “They just gave an award to Windex…I can see how tonight’s going to go.

After Celine Roux, fragrance director for Jo Malone, picked up the award for Bath & Body Line of the Year for Basil & Neroli—the first of three(!) awards the brand would take home last night—McHale quipped, “A French person in the fragrance industry?”

McHale’s buddy, comedian Mario Cantone also presented, and clearly he was feeling punchy, too. While announcing the nominees for Interior Scent of the Year, the flowery script was a bit too much for his taste. “’Transform a house into a luxurious home…’ What—did Martha Stewart write this?!” he remarked. From there, he went full-on improv, reading the nominees in character as Martha Stewart. He even added his own additional nominee: “And Orange Kush, by Snoop Dogg” (a nod to her unlikely friendship with the rapper).

Joel McHale and Mario Cantone Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Fragrance Foundation

Joking aside, there were some moments of real sincerity.

After a gorgeous performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Tricia Yearwood, The Fragrance Foundation chairman Jerry Vittoria addressed the future of the organization, which he followed with a special thank you to group president, Elizabeth Musmanno, who, after five years, will be moving on to pursue her own projects with her company, The Musmanno Group.

Jerry Vittoria Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Fragrance Foundation

“[Her] contributions to the foundation go way beyond the awards,” he said, citing TFF’s masterclasses, talks, and business resources.

Musmanno came on stage to accept his thanks and a bouquet of flowers, and, to her surprise, a standing ovation.

Elizabeth Musmanno Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Fragrance Foundation

The two major awards of the evening went to Harry Frémont and Marc Puig.

Frémont, Master Perfumer for Firmenich, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, giving a lot of love to his family—his wife, and daughters Lauren, Joy, and Estée (yes, all named after fragrances).

“I believe that having four women at home can give you a lot of inspiration,” he said.

Harry Frémont Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Fragrance Foundation

Marc Puig was this year’s Hall of Fame Honoree, also making it about family. He shared the moment with his father, who gave him an opportunity in the fragrance business.

“One person who I think is missing from the Hall of Fame…my father,” he said, describing the risks his father took as a businessman. “He told me when I was a teenage boy I could accomplish whatever I aimed for. I owe it to him. You deserve to be here.”

Marc Puig and Pilar Cortada Photo: Griffin Lipson for BFA

View all of this year’s winners HERE.