Tag Archives: Canoe

Meet Harry Slatkin

Harry Slatkin presented The Living Legend Award by Allure Magazine Editor-in-Chief Linda Wells

Harry Slatkin presented Living Legend Award by Allure Magazine Editor-in-Chief Linda Wells (c) 2009 Photo Baude

Harry Slatkin is a name I’ve come to associate with affordable home fragrance options that make my home smell delightful. I know when I walk into Bath & Body Works, the money I hand over for the products with his name on it won’t let me down. Apparently I’m not alone in recognizing his special gift. The past Thursday, the American Society of Perfumers honored Mr. Slatkin with the coveted Living Legend Award. This prestigious award honors a person “who has distinguished him or herself over the years with their body of creative work, their contribution to the fragrance industry and also their contribution to society.” Past honorees include Oscar de la Renta, Gianni Versace, Oleg Cassini, Karyn Khoury and Estee Lauder.

That last part however, “their contribution to society” is another side of Mr. Slatkin I recently came to know as I was invited to join him, his wife Laura and his son and daughter as they rang the closing bell of the NASDAQ in honor of Autism month. Mr. Slatkin’s son, David, suffers from Autism.  Shortly after David was diagnosed, The Slatkin’s joined forces with Suzanne and Bob Wright as founding board members of Autism Speaks. Additionally, they have focused their efforts locally by founding the first public charter school dedicated to serving children with autism which opened in 2005, the New York Center for Autism (NYCA) Charter School. In the fall of 2008, NYCA opened the doors of the Autism Training Institute at Hunter College, a collaboration that aims to increase the number of qualified educators available to work in the New York City Public Schools.

That is quite a contribution to this growing epidemic that is diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls.

I was given another opportunity to get to know a more intimate side of Mr. Slatkin and am honored to share it here:

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?
It has to do with what my parents wore when I was a child. My mother used Joy and Norell – Joy for special evenings and Norell for every day. Those fragrances are so unique to that moment in time that every so often when I’m in crowded elevator and I get a whiff of them I want to ask who is wearing Joy or Norell but I fear they might think I am a pervert! My father used Canoe and eau Sauvage. He died when I was 13 and I continued wearing it until my dear perfumer friend Christophe Laudemiel created a scent for me. And like the way I am with my familiar parental scents, my 9-year-old daughter loves to go into my closet when I am traveling and smell my suits. It’s like a big hug!

Since you initially went the finance route, working for Bear Stearns, how did your love for fragrance play itself out up until you decided to make the switch? Did you collect cologne, candles, etc?
When I was very young I was in charge of setting up all the home fragrances for my mother. She used Rigaud candles and floris lamp rings – I remember the rings the most as I would put several drops of oils on the rings and the heat from the lamps would make the scent rise. We varied the scents and my mother let me decide what scents to use throughout the house. It’s funny that I now have a home fragrance oil business today because we are the #1 dominant player in that area. As the years passed I used home fragrance and tried many different scents from shopping and my travels – I tend to change my personal scent less than my home scents – I like decoration and to me scent is about decorating your home.

Do you remember what you were doing when you had the epiphany that you were going to make a career shift to the fragrance industry?
Well, it first started out with a friend on Wall Street asking me to meet his fiancé, Vera Wang. At the end of our dinner she said Wall Street is great for her fiancé, but for me, I had too much creativity. She was right. That led me to do some soul searching, as I was a director at Bear Stearns and I was leaving to start my own business from nothing – but the biggest rewards are the biggest chances you take. Home fragrance was an accident that my wife and I were dabbling in when Rose Marie Bravo came to see us and launched us in Saks not on the home floor but in a large shop in Couture. Then WWD wrote a big article on us and then Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart and Banana Republic all came to me to do their home fragrances and the rest is now home history!

Are there any scent families that are dearest to your heart?
I am asked this often and I have mood changes but I always seem to go back to the Orientals. I love that mood year round but I will always layer it depending on the season. This time of year I’ll mix it with fruits or something clean or fresh for summer, floral for fall and then holiday scents. I like to change often and I have about 14 different scents in my New York home mixing at all times.

Do you have a personal signature candle scent? If so, what is it?
I have two scents that I think have become iconic to Slatkin & Co – my bamboo and Jasmine and my holiday scents. No matter how many we make of either of these products, they sell out quickly and have for years. If they aren’t in stock, I get tough emails and letters demanding them!

Are there any plans for a Harry Slatkin personal fragrance collection?
Not yet, although, the success we’ve experienced on QVC has made people ask for other products. So it could happen in the future.

With all the success you’ve achieved, what does the Living Legend Award from the American Society of Perfumers mean?
As I was sitting and listening to my dear friend Linda Wells’s and all the kind words she had to say about me, it was her remarks about the difference I have made in the industry and that the name Slatkin will go down in history for home fragrance that made me very proud. I have made a mark and I did change the industry into a behemoth. People will never live without home scent and I am glad that I have made so many people happy who use my products. And thank God it’s a Living Legend award and not something in memoriam!

How would you finish this statement? “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
It’s funny but I have two distinct favorite memorable scents. Every time I kiss or hug my son and daughter I smell them. They have a unique scent that I would never share with anyone. That is my most precious olfactive enjoyment and wherever I am in the world I can smell them and it makes me smile. Some scents are not meant to share.

Thanks for sharing Mr. Slatkin. By the way, that Bamboo candle of yours is one of my favorite as well…

Share

Meet Stephen Greco

Love or hate Facebook, it can be addicting and it does possess the power of connecting individuals….and so begins this story.

I’ve known Stephen for a good few years and have always admired his intellect, his clarity of thought and endearing charm. To my surprise one day while surfing Facebook, his status message mentioned he was reading Chandler Burr’s Emperor of Scent. Could he be a fragrance enthusiast? Surely he must be if he’s reading this book. Well, I just had to inquire and what transpired was an enlightening exchange about scents, masculinity and memories of discovery.

Stephen, tell me a bit about your relationship with fragrances? What’s your earliest recollection?
My mother wore Chanel No.5 pretty religiously when I was a boy, and I can remember her being enveloped in a cloud of it when, on an evening she and my father were going out, she would come to my room rustling in a beautiful dress, her hair and makeup Hollywood-glorious, to tuck me in and kiss me good-night.

My father, at that time, was wearing Old Spice, which I found fully as exciting– though later my mother, sister and I bought him a bottle of Canoe, which we thought so much more sophisticated. This was in a small town in upstate New York, in the ’50s and ’60s. My father wasn’t the Canoe, type, though. Aqua Velva was his daytime alternative to Old Spice, and I used to love that, too– the equivalent of which, among the fragrances I use today, is Puig’s Agua Lavanda.

I was going to say that my first experience with fragrance for myself was a bottle of Guerlain’s Imperiale, which I begged my indulgent Aunt Fannie to buy for me after I’d seen an ad for it in the New York Times magazine. She did and I loved it, and then I went on to buy myself Guerlain’s Habit Rouge, a ridiculously adult fragrance for a small-town boy in Junior High. But come to think of it, I’d fallen in love years before that with the scent of Fitch hair tonic, which the barbers at Ed and Al’s used to apply to my fresh haircut, as a finishing touch. My father and I used to go to Ed and Al’s together on a Saturday morning, and I used to feel like man for the rest of the day, smelling of Fitch.

That said, how do you explain the period of time when you wore no fragrance at all?
I sort of came of age as a young gay man just at the time of what we used to call “liberation,” 1969, and for some reason– it’s complicated– it was felt politically important to move away from all vestiges of old-time faggotry, which include LOTS of fragrance, toward a new kind of gay masculinity that eventually flowered in The Clone. As I recall, Clones were not really allowed fragrance until official Clone scents came along–Halston’s Z (which I hated as too overwrought), then Drakkar Noir and the like. And even then certain bars and sex clubs were notorious for forbidding any fragrance, along with Lacoste shirts and designer jeans.

I have stories from those years about the powerful combination of body scents and fragrance, but those are perhaps for another blog.

What bought you back?
What can I say? Early on, I was taught to question all tyrannies, even those parading as politically or culturally correct. I started rocking fragrance whenever the hell I wanted to. And I was traveling a lot in the ’70s and ’80s, so I would often fall under the spell of various kinds of oils and attars that men of other cultures would anoint themselves with, and I adopted these, too.

Talk a bit about what Paco Robanne does to you?
Interesting! I was given a little silver metal canister of the “unisex” fragrance Paco at a party one night– this was in the ’90s, when I was at Interview magazine– and though intellectually I filed the scent under “CK1 knock-off,” emotionally I was transported. For me, Paco was pure, spray-on optimism! No other fragrance had ever reached me so deeply (except for the scent of fresh hyacinth flowers, which, unlike the scent of other flowers, affects me like a psychedelic drug).

This might be the spot to confess that if I have any “psychic” power at all, it would be to smell the future and past, not to see it. What that means, of course, I have no real idea. It’s not like American life is populated with mentors or guides in this area.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?
Besides Paco and Agua Lavanda, to which I still turn a lot, I also use Davidoff’s Cool Water and Geoffrey Beene’s Bowling Green. Also in the mix are Arden’s Sandalwood and all the Penhaligon men’s fragrances– especially Blenheim, my first bottle of which I purchased in Wellington Street, Covent Garden, one New Year’s Eve in the ’80s, before boarding the Orient Express for an overnight voyage to Venice. For me, the composition and behavior of Blenheim is like that voyage: beginning in the cold, foggy north and heading south, toward the sun and opulence…

But I am also VERY partial to Penhaligon’s Bluebell, a cheeky little charmer that’s supposed for women but works very well on a man.

Oh, and when I am not buzzing my hair and have enough to style, I eagerly grab my Confixor, by Aveda, which isn’t very complicated but does kinda radiate a rosemary cheeriness, along with (I think) lavender.

How often do you go out looking for something new? What specifically do you look for?
This blog, along with books I’ve recently encountered by Luca Turin and Chandler Burr, are inspiring me to go out and look for something new. Until now, I guess I’ve been a bit slack about that– which is odd, since even as a kid, if I liked a certain quartet or novel or ballet, I had to check out everything else immediately by that composer or author or choreographer.

I found a sample of Lalique for Men in a goody bag last year and liked the fragrance a lot, but for some reason never purchased a bottle. Then a friend of mine, a retired dancer, brought me to Aedes de Venustas one day, and I felt too intimidated to poke around, try things, ask questions.

No more! I’m suddenly really jazzed up about smelling and smelling like…

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
All my Penhaligons are repeat buys. So is the Paco, which in a fever one night recently, years after I’d used up that first canister, I replenished via Ebay. After reading Turin I was afraid of a reformulation, but either Paco’s the same stuff or my nose is not smart enough to tell the difference.

How would you finish this statement. “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
Powdered fallen leaves, on that first, oddly warm, Indian Summer day of
fall…