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Innovation Through Diversity

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | June 4, 2012

Fashion Institute of Technology grads celebrate the cultures, ethnicity and age groups that enrich the world of beauty and beyond.

Recognizing that diversity is a critical leadership imperative in the 21st century, “Innovation Through Diversity” was this year’s Capstone theme at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Graduates of the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management Program’s Master of Professional Studies presented their Capstone projects, this year sponsored by L’Oréal USA, at a festive commencement held in the Katie Murphy Theatre on the FIT campus last month. It was a fitting celebration on the 10th anniversary of L’Oréal’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, which provided the inspiration for the Capstone theme.

Capstone celebrated of the diverse cultures, ethnicities, and age groups that enrich the world of beauty and beyond, with a particular emphasis on beauty, with “Innovation Through Diversity in the Beauty Industry,” taking center stage throughout the presentations. The evening began with the award program and reception, overseen by Stephan Kanlian, professor, who introduced David Greenberg, president, Maybelline/Garnier/L’Oréal USA, and chair of the advisory board of FIT. Kanlian cited the 12-year relationship that L’Oréal has had working with FIT, and emphasized the importance of bringing grants and support for the diversity programs at FIT. Greenberg acknowledged the unique strengths of the program, and welcomed FIT President Dr. Joyce Brown, who noted that FIT’s Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing and Management Masters Program, is still the only one in the country after 12 years.

“This program demonstrates so well what can happen when industry and academia collaborate. To create a campus that is purposefully diverse is a key goal of our plan at FIT and we want the faculty and student body to represent the pluralistic city in which we live,” said Brown, who acknowledged L’Oréal, Angela Guy, Sr. VP-diversity & inclusion, staff, faculty, and corporate sponsors who have contributed to the program. The Graduation Awards followed, with Assistant Professor Dr. Brooke Carlson presenting the Scholarship Award to Alexandra Fritsch-Gil; and Deborah Krulewitch, Sr. VP-corporate administration, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., presenting the Estée Lauder Companies Faculty Leadership Award to Karen Young, president of The Young Group. Mark Knitowski, VP-product innovation, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, presented the Victoria’s Secret Beauty Recognition for Outstanding Leadership Award, for visionary leadership and maturity of judgment, to Alexandra Fritsch-Gil; who also received the Department Medal Award, for scholarship, service, professional leadership, and building team cohesiveness, which was presented by Stephan Kanlian, FIT and David Greenberg, Maybelline.

Driving Business with Diversity

Angela Guy, senior VP-diversity & inclusion, L’Oréal USA, delivered the keynote remarks, opening with a call to embrace the talent that provides fresh perspective. “Diversity is our competitive advantage. We believe that diversity fosters creativity; what we do as a global company will be dramatically influenced by the diverse makeup of the company. At L’Oréal, beauty is our strength. As Dr. Brown said, ‘diversity is a fact of life, a powerful source of enrichment, a vital tool in a competitive marketplace, and a cause for celebration,’” said Guy, who asked attendees to think about the diverse populations in this country, think about what it means if the classified minority becomes the majority. She asked attendees to think about cultural norms, race, income, social and physical disabilities, age, and urged perspective on what she termed, “all kinds of minorities.”

Further, Guy said it was important to understand the unique beauty needs of women and women of color, citing the changes that have evolved from the “silent generation,” through the Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, or the “new millenials.” Guy asked, “How do we manage the gaps?” Referring to the 28-year Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook, who has changed the face of entrepreneurship today, Guy said, “As leaders, we need to think about this going forward. The number of Internet users around the world has surpassed 5 billion;” a number that will continue to increase, as more users access the web by cellphone. She noted that the diversity of how we live and work and shop will be key, and we must capitalize on it.

“Think about moroccan oil, argan oil, shea butter. These ingredients are sourced from around the world. We’re looking to decode the diversity of cultures to drive our businesses, and we have a global society rife with innovation. To fuel creativity we must embrace and employ these business models, listen and be inspired by the students, and act on their insights. The time is now,” said Guy.

Professor Kanlian echoed her sentiments, saying, “We have welcomed the multicultural age. Twenty-first century leadership requires empathy and citizen leadership, and we welcome an age of complete transparency.” He cited L’Oréal CEO, Jean-Paul Agon, who, speaking at WWD’s CEO Summit, had said, “The borders of business are becoming less defined.” Kanlian concurred, noting that there is now more global influence and more focused on global citizenship. “Clearly, this cues to how diversity can impact the future. We need to recognize this and find ways as an industry to move the needle,” he said.

The Graduate Presentations

Diversity and Global Product Development looked at ways to harness an understanding of diverse cultures and shifting demographics to create more inspiring product concepts, and how to better align with the values of an increasingly global and diverse consumer. Students looked at the influences of their own families, drawing on their heritage and a range of beauty influences that shaped their lives. Families from Hungary, Argentina, Italy, Trinidad, and Montenegro all brought beauty remedies and rituals with them.

From honey, lemon and water, to yoghurt, beauty rituals were at the root of universal beauty truths. Whether ingredients were mixed in a kitchen or bought in a jar, traditions were carried on through rituals and sustained by memory. With large populations and a rapidly expanding middle class moving into cities every day, and rapid growth influencing the economy, students discerned that the future is about fusion. Moving beyond the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries to encompass the newly emerging MIST countries of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey, 70% of of the world’s estimated 9.1 billion people will be living in cities by 2050.

Students concluded that fusion will take various forms, from food and fashion fusion, to music; with diverse beauty rituals, unique ingredients, and sensorial experiences at the core. Whether black soap, pearl powder or Huito body paint from the rainforests of South America, the fusion of cultures will create a more dynamic process, and more inspired product innovation.

Diversity and global marketing explored how the principles of diversity and inclusion might be applied to create more innovative and successful global brands and global messaging to consumers, and how a more diverse corporate culture can contribute to more meaningful communication and consumer engagement. Beauty marketers must look through a lens of inclusion, said the presenters, who, citing Kline statistics, noted that Brazilians have doubled their consumption of beauty products in the past five years, and that the beauty market in China had reached $8 billion. Consumers are more diverse, connected, and demanding now, they said, and while diverse and global, they share common emotions, as well as the lifelong beauty journey.

Brands can develop a cultural IQ by tapping into the consumer conversation, where consumers and the brand stay in touch, to consider, evaluate, buy, and further, consumers can then re-evaluate, decide their loyalties, and exert a bond of influence. Clearly, said the students, the consumers’ digital imprint will impact the brand. Utilizing a bonding helix, students demonstrated how consumers and the brand can stay in touch, to target individual preference, increase cultural IQ, and provide ongoing consumer insights.

The third and final presentation, titled, Diversity and Global Leadership, explored the impact of an increasingly diverse workforce and consumer population on leadership in global corporations, as well as creating effective talent development and retention in global firms. Taking into consideration the 1.4 billion higher wage earners, and the 3 billion living on less than $10,000 per year, students looked at the informational, organizational and leadership disconnect that is created with these consumers. They emphasized the importance of reinventing how business currently develops leaders and how communication to unite leadership with a common goal must be created.

Students created a conceptual bridge to reach consumers, based on the connectivity of leadership, a network of communicants who foster dialogue with all stakeholders, and a supportive workforce. Mutual value creation was at the heart of the bridge, and would, said the students, ultimately help to create a way of being with one another that honors a shared humanity and creates a “Humanifesto,” for global beauty.

Graduating students at this year’s commencement were Ilana Allegro, Creative Brand Development; Joseph Aphinyanaphongs, brand management, L’Oréal USA; Maira Arnaudo, R&D, Cosmetech Laboratories, Inc.; Jeanine Bernstock, fragrance development, International Flavors & Fragrances; Jason Boland, sales, Mane USA; Maria Estrella Bowman, integrated marketing communications, Matrix, L’Oréal USA; Mariaellena Ferri, global marketing, Elizabeth Arden; Alexandra Fritsch-Gil, brand management, Neutrogena Cosmetics, Johnson & Johnson; Lauren Hoffman, global product development, Kiehl’s Since 1851, L’Oréal USA; Natalie Ivezaj, package development, MAST Global Beauty & Home, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, Limited Brands; Kelle Jacob, global product innovation, Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.; Ilkido Juhasz, qualitative analysis and project management, ScentAnalysis USA/independent Makeup Artist; Manami Kuwamura, marketing & product development, Nars Cosmetics, Shiseido; Breanna Martin, global marketing, Marc Jacobs, Coty Prestige; and Margaret Martin, marketing, Kérastase Paris, L’Oréal USA.

Additional information about FIT’s programs and degrees may be found at:

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