Harry Slatkin Biography

Founder of Slatkin & Co.

Born c. 1961; married Laura; children: David, Ali (twins).

Addresses: Office —Slatkin & Co., 214 E. 52nd St., Flr. 4, New York, NY 10022-6207.


Worked on Wall Street until early 1990s; founded Slatkin & Co., 1992; sold company to Limited Brands, 2005.

Awards: Fifi Award, Fragrance Foundation, for Best Interior Scent Collection of the Year (Prestige), for Elton Rocks Crystal Potpourri, 2004.


Harry Slatkin's eponymous candle and home-fragrance line was acquired by Limited Brands in 2005 for a sum reported to be in the neighborhood of $13 million. The Slatkin & Co. products joined a handful of similar premium home scents sold at Bath & Body Works and other retail chains owned by Limited Brands.

Slatkin founded the firm in 1992 after a career on Wall Street, and his wife, Laura, played an integral role in the company during its first decade in business. Slatkin had been urged to launch the line by his friend, bridal couture designer Vera Wang, and was also encouraged by another early champion,

Rose Marie Bravo, an expert on upscale retailing who had just become president of Saks Fifth Avenue. He was inspired to venture into the candle market when he realized how moribund the competition was at the time. "Everything smelled the same," he recalled in an interview with Times of London writer Tina Gaudoin. "I wanted smells that were playful, that transported you to another place."

Slatkin & Co. candles caught on with discerning consumers thanks to their unusual ingredients, which included wisteria, fig, and black tea. They were sold at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, among other posh retailers, and even attracted a high-profile clientele that included Princess Diana, Elton John, and Oprah Winfrey. Slatkin began creating special commemorative candles for ultra-exclusive charity events, such as one given to attendees at an Elton John AIDS Foundation event in 1997; a year later, Slatkin also created a special scent in honor of the British pop star's friend Diana, with a cut of the proceeds given to the Princess of Wales memorial fund. Slatkin also created candle lines co-branded with prominent tastemakers, such as fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

Slatkin even put out a line of Kabbalah candles, which were tied to practices associated with the venerable form of mystic Judaism. A Kabbalah practitioner himself, he had first done a few special candles for fellow devotees Madonna and Demi Moore. His Kabbalah line was made up of red candles, the practice's signature color, and featured blends of centuries-old scents, such as frankincense, myrrh, and cinnamon. "In Latin, perfume means wall of smoke," he told WWD writer Jenny B. Fine. "Perfume was created in 4000 B.C. to keep the bad spirits away and bring the good spirits to you—so it was a natural for Kabbalah to do a line of candles."

After a decade in business, Slatkin launched a bath and body line, Slatkin Body Therapy, which debuted on Bergdorf Goodman shelves in time for the holiday 2003 season. Again, the line featured an intoxicating mix of scents, such as Black Fig and Absinthe, Bamboo and Jasmine, and Persian Lime and Mimosa. Like his candles, it quickly garnered a devoted following of nearly cult-like proportions. Black Fig and Absinthe was a particular favorite among Slatkin Body Therapy consumers, and one Texas woman even contacted him with an unusual offer so that it could become her signature scent alone. "She said she would buy everything in the inventory," Slatkin told Harper's Bazaar writer Kerry Diamond. "I told her I was enormously flattered but that I'd have to pass. She then asked if I could create some bottles without the name of the fragrance on them so her friends couldn't figure out what she was wearing!"

Slatkin and his wife are the parents of twins, David and Ali, born in 1999, and David was diagnosed as autistic less than two years later. In response, the Slatkins founded the New York Center for Autism, a nonprofit foundation that promotes research involving this brain disorder, which is tied to learning difficulties and diminished social skills. The Center also leads educational efforts and offers a wealth of information resources for parents. The Slatkins' foundation even played a key role in the creation of a special charter school in New York City area for autistic students. Laura Slatkin, who gave up her career at her husband's company to devote more of her energies to the Center for Autism, recalled that when David was diagnosed, they were counseled to get him into a special school as soon as possible. The Slatkins were dismayed to learn that the best ones for autistic children were in neighboring New Jersey. "My husband and I said, you know, this is not right. You should be able to educate your child in the community where you live," she told New York Times journalist Emma Daly. "There should be a great school in New York City."

Slatkin and his wife also have an unusual connection to late billionaire Edmond Safra, who died in a suspicious fire in his Monte Carlo apartment in 1999. Safra's private nurse, Ted Maher, was subsequently convicted in a Monaco court for arson. Maher owned his job to the Slatkins, who had met him when he was a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital. After they left their camera behind in the hospital room, Maher returned it. The Slatkins were friends with a woman named Adriana Elia, who was the daughter of Lily Safra, and recommended Maher when they learned that the Safras were interesting in hiring a caretaker for the billionaire.

Sales for Slatkin's company remained strong, despite an array of competing premium lines in the candle and home-fragrance sector, and were estimated at $15 million to $20 million for 2004. In May of 2005, his company was acquired by Limited Brands, the parent company of retail clothing stores Limited and Express, and which also owns the Bath & Body Works chain, Victoria's Secret, and Henri Bendel. The deal made his New York City-based Slatkin & Co. a subsidiary of Bath & Body Works, and he remained head of his brand; he also was given a new post as president of Home Design inside the Limited Brands group, and would create items for the Bath & Body Works stores as well as other home and personal fragrance lines for the company's various retail brands. "I can create anything I want," he explained to WWD 's Pete Born, and also said he hoped to become "the Oprah of home."


Global Cosmetic Industry, October 2004, p. 36.

Harper's Bazaar, November 2004, p. 108.

New York Times, May 4, 2005; May 13, 2005.

People, June 6, 2005, p. 116.

Times (London, England), July 3, 2004, p. 13.

Town & Country, November 2003, p. 170.

Vanity Fair, February 2003, p. 130.

WWD, September 15, 2000, p. 49S; July 1, 2003, p. 13; June 3, 2004, p. 3; June 11, 2004, p. 8; May 13, 2005, p. 7.

Carol Brennan

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