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Home Fragrance: Q&A with Harry Slatkin

Posted: February 5, 2008

Harry Slatkin, Founder and President, Slatkin & Co.; President, Home Design, Limited Brands

Harry Slatkin manages a half-billion dollar home fragrance business. He recently spoke with GCI magazine about his products, career and personal life...

What was the process involved in formulating your product line, from concept to the shelf?

Slatkin: I create and design product that I believe in, which helps me remain true to my vision. I feel lucky and honored that customers at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s share my sense of smell. Since selling my company to Limited Brands, I manage a half billion dollar home fragrance business. The process starts with an inspiration—which can come from anything such as art, nature or old movies—[from] a scent and a memory. Once I have a scent, I start to build a collection and design around that scent and consider what the collection is trying to accomplish. In every scent and product I make, I am completely involved in the process from start to finish. Every product is my favorite; I won’t make a candle unless I like the scent and fully believe in it.

How do your products fill a need in the industry?

Slatkin: When I started in the home fragrance [industry] around 15 years ago, I felt home fragrance was only used by a select group of people. Since I believed that scent is for everyone, I wanted to transform home fragrance to become a product for everyday use across all socio-economic levels. Today, scent is as essential to a house as toothpaste; everyone has it and most bathrooms and many rooms have fragrance. Scent can incite emotion, whether it be relaxation, excitement or nostalgia, and [it] can transform an ordinary day or moment to extraordinary. It is the staple of any entertaining moment and makes people happy, which is a huge reward for me.

How do you believe the industry is changing or has changed, and what news or trends do you think will be important for professionals to pay attention to this year?

Slatkin: The beauty industry has changed the past several years to become more luxury focused. This applies to every level of spending; people want to experience luxury no matter what their budget. I came to Limited Brands to bring a mark of luxury to home fragrance, in particular, to Bath & Body Works, and in the past years I have experienced double digit growth since I arrived. I believe it’s because everyone wants an elevated luxe experience.

What have been the milestones thus far in your career?