The Fragrance Foundation Honors Virginia Bonofiglio and Stephan Kanlian

Stephan Kanlian and Virginia Bonofiglio
Stephan Kanlian and Virginia Bonofiglio with their awards at The Fragrance Foundation’s Circle of Champions Dinner.

On Thursday evening, November 4, The Fragrance Foundation (TFF) celebrated Virginia Bonofiglio, assistant professor and head of FIT’s undergraduate program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing (CFM), and Stephan Kanlian, professor and head of the college’s graduate program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM), for their outstanding work in education and in the beauty industry. They were inducted into the Fragrance Foundation Circle of Champions, which honors individuals within the fragrance industry who have made an exceptional impact over a significant period of time. This year marks the first time that educators have been recognized with this prestigious honor.

“We are absolutely delighted to recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of FIT’s Virginia Bonofiglio and Stephan Kanlian, whose dedication to training and instructing future leaders in the fragrance industry through academic purpose and innovation is truly unparalleled,” said Linda G. Levy, president of TFF.

The in-person dinner was carefully planned to bring approximately 180 people from the beauty and fragrance industries together safely, after two years of being remote with no in-person events.

Attendees included Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT; Robin Burns-McNeill, chair, FIT Board of Trustees, and co-founder of Battalure Beauty; Dr. Brooke Carlson, interim dean, School of Graduate Studies, FIT; Shannon Maher, interim dean, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, FIT; Francisco Costa, Fashion Design ‘90, fashion designer and founder of Costa Brazil skin care; Tennille Kopiasz, CFMM ’04, CFM ’98, chief marketing officer, Fresh/LVMH; Crystal Sai, CFMM ’17, executive director and chief of staff, global online, Estée Lauder Companies; Linda Wells, founding editor-in-chief, Allure; and Laura Slatkin, executive chairwoman and founder, NEST Fragrances. Students from both programs were also on hand to celebrate professors Bonofiglio and Kanlian.

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FIT’s CFM and CFMM programs are the first of their kind. CFM was started in 1988 in response to industry demand. 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. Today, CFM has graduated many students who have gone on to lead successful careers in the beauty industry, both at global companies and as entrepreneurs who have launched their own businesses. 

Dr. Brown’s remarks echoed Levy’s sentiment and gratitude for the evening’s honorees. “There is so much about these two beauty programs that exemplifies FIT and its history. Like the college itself, each one was founded by visionary industry leaders—leaders like yourselves who understood the value of education and the need for new and innovative thinking. FIT attracts what we like to call ‘unconventional thinkers’—the kinds of students who love to problem-solve, experiment, and explore. When you marry that kind of spirit with rigorous, forward-looking curricula and faculty leaders like Virginia and Stephan, industry is the ultimate beneficiary,” she said. 

Tennille Kopiasz, an alum of both programs, spoke about her experiences. “Moving to NYC to live my dreams, I discovered the beauty industry that was far better than I ever could imagine,” she said. “You pushed me to not just work in an office internship, but to work behind a counter and touch the consumer. That is where I saw first-hand the transformational power and the confidence beauty gave women.”

“This jewel of a program was handed to me and I have been honored to grow the program and nurture its students for the last 11 years,” Bonofiglio said. “Our alumni are our greatest advertisement and a testament to all that an education at FIT has to offer. It is now, has been, and will always be about the students. If we are the educators, they will be the innovators, the disruptors, and the game changers who will propel this industry into the future. I want to thank them in advance for all they are going to do.”

CFMM was created in collaboration with industry as an innovative two-year leadership development program for outstanding emerging executives. Upon its inception in 2000, CFMM quickly became recognized as the beauty industry’s think tank, comprised of executives helping shape the future through high-level global research. To date, over 350 graduates of the program have gone on to positions as general managers, chief marketing officers, executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and vice presidents.

Alumna Crystal Sai, executive director and chief of staff for global online at Estée Lauder, shared how much Kanlian encouraged her and made a difference in her education at FIT and her career. “Professor Kanlian was always my biggest cheerleader and support system,” Sai said. “And not just to me—he was that for all of the students in our graduating class. I’ve always admired and have been fascinated by his commitment to the success of this program and to the success of each and every one of us in our careers.”

In his own comments, Kanlian used a quote from President John F. Kennedy to explain the foundation of the CFMM program: “‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.’ I had this in mind as the blueprint for an industry think tank at FIT in my first meeting with President Brown 22 years ago. We spoke about an opportunity to train the next generation of leadership for a dynamic, creative industry. With her enduring support, and the partnership of industry, beauty has become an integral part of the Fashion Institute’s DNA.”

The surprise of the evening came when Levy announced The Fragrance Foundation FIT Diversity Scholarship, a $100,000 academic award that will benefit FIT’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing programs on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Scholarships for both programs will be awarded based on their application criteria. This gift demonstrates TFF’s commitment to diversity and education.

Guests of the event left with beautiful bags designed by FIT alumna, fashion designer, and artist Rebecca Moses, whose original drawings are being donated to FIT by The Fragrance Foundation.

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