A staggering one-third of Americans suffer from depression and anxiety. Despite such a large number, doctors have long struggled to diagnose depression because it manifests itself differently from person to person. The disease has also been associated with an unwarranted stigma that discourages help-seeking and early detection. Audrey Gruss watched her mother, Hope, endure years of misdiagnosis by doctors, ultimately losing her in the fight. In 2006, she founded Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF) to fund research on depression and to combat the negative perception that stifles prevention efforts.
In 2010, HDRF established its Depression Task Force, a group of leading neurologists—each an expert in their own field—who worked together with the understanding that they would be funded if they shared information on their findings. This collaborative structure was crucial in understanding depression’s impact on the brain. “We had a setup so that each doctor knew what every other doctor was working on, which was unprecedented in this field. We feel that this was instrumental to make progress happen faster,” explained Gruss.
Gruss then expanded this transparency beyond the doctors to the public at large. While the doctors conducted their research, Gruss believed that she had an obligation to make their findings public to raise awareness and encourage more discussion. And she realized she had an opportunity to further this goal with one of her mother’s great loves—perfume. Even on her mother’s darkest days, Gruss recalled that she would always wear her perfume and could often be found in their garden, where she would collect plants like Lily-of-the-Valley. “She’d spray them, mix them, put them in bottles, and wear them individually. They brought her joy,” said Gruss, who worked in the beauty industry herself early in her career. Gruss aspired to design a fragrance that her mother would love to raise funds for HDRF and to spread visibility about the disease more broadly.
To make this a reality, Gruss worked with Firmenich’s master perfumers, Honorine Blanc and Pierre Negrin, as well as Marc Rosen, who designed the beautiful bottles and crystal perfume packaging. The Hope Fragrance Collection now consists of three scents with the most recent launch being Hope Night Parfum, a romantic scent made of Plum, Amber, Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver, Gardenia and Lily-of-the-Valley. The uplifting fragrances are sold at Bergdorf Goodman, with 100% of profits going to HDRF. Mental health is especially important to pay attention to during the holiday seasons, when people tend to become most emotional. Gruss views the collection as a beautiful community story: “People can buy Hope for themselves, especially during the pandemic when self-care is crucial, or they can buy this gift for friends or family for the holidays. Either way, they’ll be doing good for others with 100% going back to charity. It’s truly something that everyone can appreciate and wear to celebrate the hope in all of us.”