President Bill Clinton currently goes sans cologne. Or so he told an audience of fashion and beauty insiders on Wednesday afternoon in New York.
Speaking at the Fragrance Foundation’s first Foundation Talks, a series of lectures à la Ted Talks that aims to act as a catalyst for innovative thinking by showcasing prominent speakers from a wide array of industries, President Clinton spoke about the biggest problems facing the world and, of course, his own personal grooming habits.
In front of an audience that included the Council of Fashion Designers of America president Steven Kolb, W magazine beauty director Jane Larkworthy and casting director Natalie Joos, Clinton spoke about the mission of the Clinton Global Initiative and the world’s three biggest problems: inequality, instability, and climate change. The President reminded the audience that despite China’s thriving economy, there are still 125 million people there who survive on less than 50 cents a day. He also discussed the unstable political climate of post-Mubarak Egypt and the high numbers of pollution-related deaths caused by stoves that burn charcoal or wood.
“For a better world, you need shared prosperity, shared responsibility, and a shared sense of community,” said Clinton.
Clinton praised the fragrance industry for stimulating the Haitian economy by making a commitment to cultivate the farming of vetiver, a grass that produces a woodsy, herbaceous, and provocative scent, which provides work for over 30,000 small-scale farmers in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
After his talk, Fragrance Foundation president Elizabeth Musmanno sat down with the President for a question and answer session, asking him how he achieved success. He encouraged the audience to pursue their dreams.
“Get caught trying,” said Clinton. “Don’t be afraid to do what you believe in; even if you’re rebuffed, even if you fail, you’ll be in a better place.”
Musmanno ended the interview by asking Clinton what scent he wears (it was, after all, a Fragrance Foundation event). The president took a diplomatic route in his response.
“At my age you’re probably the only person in the world who is interested in that,” said the 67-year-old Clinton, who went on to say that while he wore cologne when he was younger, he doesn’t put anything on these days. “I don’t stink,” he joked. “I just try to be hygienic.”
But as the audience gave him a standing ovation, he went on to reveal, “Actually I do use it, but the ingredients are secret, and I’d have to shoot you if I tell you.”
In addition to Clinton, Caryl Stern, the president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for (UNICEF), spoke about her mission to eradicate hunger, disease, and poverty among the world’s children; graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister gave a presentation on design and happiness; and author and education advisor Sir Ken Robinson discussed how education should be changed in order to lead a culture of innovation.