The Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing baccalaureate program at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) celebrated its 25th anniversary on February 11, 2014, at the New York Yacht Club. The event honored four distinguished graduates of the program—Tennille Kopiasz, senior VP-US marketing, Coty Prestige; Orrea Light, VP-product development, global cosmetic marketing, L’Oréal Paris; Bettina O’Neill, VP-divisional merchandising manager, cosmetics and fragrance, Barneys New York; and Shaunda Swackhamer, VP-global product innovation, Estée Lauder Companies. On hand to celebrate the honors were longtime faculty member and the program’s first coordinator, Peg Smith, and Annette Green, former president, The Fragrance Foundation. Both were instrumental in the founding, continuity, and success of the program, which continues to reflect the passion and inspiration that remain at its heart.
FIT’s history of educating students to enter the cosmetics and fragrance industry began in 1978, when the college established the Cosmetics, Fragrance and Toiletries associate degree program with a chair endowed by Revlon, Inc. The position was held originally by the late Hazel Bishop, a chemist and a pioneer of modern cosmetics. Bishop founded Hazel Bishop, Inc., a cosmetics company known for, among other innovations, the first kiss-proof, long-lasting lipstick.
Recognizing the beauty industry’s need for creative thinkers, impetus for the support of the program grew, and in 1988, in response to industry demand, FIT established the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing baccalaureate program. In 1993, FIT expanded its offerings further by opening the Annette Green Fragrance Foundation Studio, a fragrance development laboratory, named in recognition of Green’s work on behalf of the program. A master’s degree program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management was established in 2000. The program, considered to be a think tank of innovative leadership, supports the advancement of emerging executives in cosmetics, fragrances, and beauty-related areas who have been recommended by their employers because of their strong management potential.
Context for Success
Smith recalled the personal and professional relationship with Annette Green that formed the genesis of the program.
“The fact that this project came into being was largely due to Annette Green’s input. We met 26 years ago and shared our ideas for a baccalaureate program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing. Annette named the advisory board, the ‘Action Council,’ which is the way she saw its role,” said Smith.
Smith worked on the curriculum and began the program, and, she says, “Annette was the driving force, raising money for the program and ultimately enabling the program to include an annual student trip to France to visit lavender fields, perfumers, bottle manufacturers and more.”
She recalled how the trip enabled students to absorb history in the process, as they travelled from Avignon to Normandy.
“We showed the students Normandy Beach and this became a great opportunity to teach history,” said Smith, noting that the trips always started in London, always included a visit to Lauder, and continued on to France, over a period of three weeks.
Green recalled the first graduating class and how the program enabled the most gifted students to enter an industry that previously had no formal structure for entrance. Green, who is completing a book on the industry and how The Fragrance Foundation evolved and grew, has many memories to share. Smith credits her with the momentum of the program, saying, “If you don’t have a person behind a program, it won’t exist. I don’t think it would have existed without Annette. She had the ability to inspire people.”
Virginia Bonofiglio, chairperson, cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management program, FIT, welcomed all to the event and thanked the sponsors of the evening, the FIT alumni association, Barneys New York, Coty Prestige, Estée Lauder Companies, Firmenich, Gurwitch Products, L’Oreal Paris, and Mane, as well as the FIT staff. Jenny Fine, editor, Beauty Inc/WWD, provided context for the program’s beginnings, noting that in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, and three standout fragrances held sway: Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door, Samsara by Guerlain, and Knowing by Estée Lauder.
Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president, FIT, greeted guests, saying, “Welcome to this very happy occasion. People need to be reminded that beyond fashion and cosmetics, FIT offers dozens of degree programs. However, cosmetics and fragrance makes the listeners perk up. FIT is truly comprehensive in its approach and offers a model that blends the creative with business.”
She cited the growth of the cosmetics and fragrance marketing program from a two-year degree program to a four-year program and acknowledged the four honorees, as well as Annette Green and Peg Smith, as being instrumental in creating the program.
“It is our past and present that inspires our future. It brings together students, faculty, and industry experts,” she said, congratulating all the winners, as well as “the visionary Annette Green, the visionary Peg Smith, and Virginia Bonofiglio, for her ongoing leadership of the program. The history of the program was dependent on the vision of Peg Smith and Annette Green to create a life-changing experience.”
First honoree, Tennille Kopiasz, Coty extended her thanks, adding that the program “pushed students to think about things in different ways,” while Orrea Light, L’Oréal Paris, said that her “tailored education gave students the ability to create and nurture with strategies to explore educational platforms, gain knowledge of international markets, and create new product concepts.”
Green, in presenting honors to the next award winners, spoke of the challenges of getting talented people into the industry. “When I came to FIT in the 1980s, I felt the students didn’t have the needed direction to get into the industry.” Green, who was invited to teach a course on fragrance, helped get the word out. She organized a presentation to all trade press, spoke with Hazel Bishop, who she invited to become part of the program, and Peg Smith ultimately took over that position to help make the program what it is today. Green wanted students of like mind to gain entry into an industry that had until that time lacked a formal structure for entry, and FIT was instrumental in helping to achieve that.
The third honoree, Shaunda Swackhamer, Estée Lauder Companies, said, “This program sets you up for success, and I am so proud and pleased to be counted among its alumni.” Fourth honoree, Bettina O’Neill, Barneys New York, credited surrounding herself with powerful successful women, like Peg Smith and Annette Green, who “took her under their wing.”
After 14 years at Barneys, O’Neill said that she still surrounds herself with powerful women, and was happy that she was able to live her dream. FIT’s cosmetics and fragrance marketing program is the only baccalaureate program of its kind in the US, as is the college’s graduate program in cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management. Additional information about FIT’s programs in cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management, as well as FIT’s Annette Green Fragrance Foundation Studio, and other FIT programs, may be found at: www.fitnyc.edu.