By  on July 10, 2009

Laura Slatkin, whose Candela Group recently won a FiFi award, has broken new ground by signing licensing deals for home fragrance projects with Godiva Chocolatier and Vera Wang.

During the last four years, Slatkin has assembled a large stable of private label home fragrance brands, ranging from Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren to Neiman Marcus and Space NK. It culminated last fall in the launch of her own home fragrance label, appropriately called Nest.

“Home fragrance is doing so well in this economy,” said Slatkin. “People are staying home more.” That comment won a hearty endorsement from Karen Katz, president and chief executive officer of Neiman’s. Describing the candles as “an affordable luxury,” Katz said, “this is the kind of gift that people love to bring when going to someone’s home for dinner.”

In a reference to the market mood, the Neiman’s chief said, “the Nest business came along at the right time.” She called the Slatkins “incredibly creative people” with a strong sense of the needs of the business. Looking ahead, Katz said Nest and the rest of the Slatkin stable “has been a terrific business and it will resonate even more this fall season.”

Slatkin has been building the Candela business since 2005, when Limited Brands Inc. bought Slatkin & Co. and husband Harry joined the Columbus, Ohio-based firm. The private label operation, which then amounted to four or five brands, was not taken in the deal. Laura Slatkin then built up that business, encompassing about 50 brands. Nest was the firm’s first brand to be marketed under its own name. That launch set the stage for the two new licensing deals.

While the company declined to cite figures, industry sources estimate volume for 2009 will be up by 35 to 40 percent to around $28 million at wholesale, including sales of Nest. It is expected total sales could hit $60 million at the end of three years.

The Godiva candle collection will be introduced in the fall, in Candela’s normal specialty and department store distribution. The Godiva candle will come in four scents: milk chocolate truffle, black almond truffle, white chocolate magnolia and raspberry ganache. There also will be a limited edition item, peppermint bark, for the holidays. The full 7.5-oz. size candle will retail for a suggested $25. A special travel tin size will be priced $12.50 and a gift set of four votive candles will bear a $45 price tag.

June Archer, senior vice president of global business development and licensing at Godiva, said there’s a connection between chocolate and fragrance that’s sensorial. “The style of chocolate making at Godiva balances exquisite aromas with textures and flavors,” she said. “I see Godiva developing as a lifestyle brand” not only involving personal taste but sharing with others and gift giving. She added the positioning provides “a sense of taste and style associated with the brand.”

Archer acknowledged the efforts made by Slatkin. “We appreciate that she’s bringing a lot to the table to leverage our brand into the category,” the Godiva executive said, adding the fragrance deal has opened a world of possibilities. “We would be very interested in having the Godiva brand in the bath and body arena,” she said. Godiva is owned by Yildiz Holding, a Turkish firm based in Istanbul. Archer added that Candela will be looking into new scents for next season.

While next spring’s Vera Wang collection has not been designed yet, Slatkin and Wang have roughed out the project’s outlines, which are in different stages or spheres of use, since Wang is in different businesses. Her empire is built on bridal, but there also is fashion, stationery, home and lifestyle. Laura Lee Miller, president of licensing at Vera Wang, imagined a bridal assortment designed for use at a reception and the fashion driven by the latest in unique design, both in packaging and fragrance development.

She also sees possibilities in cross-marketing among licensees. As an example, Miller speculated that Wedge Wood could participate by pouring a candle into a crystal container. She also envisions applications to the stationery business. “In this economy, all licensees are looking to cross-promote,’ she said. Slatkin noted she is thinking in the area of a modern floral scent for the bridal section.

Candle marketing is a special genre. Unlike personal scents, which are denoted by complex esoteric formulas, it’s best to keep things direct with candles. “Good home fragrances have a smaller number of ingredients,” Slatkin said. “A great home fragrance smells like what it says it smells like,” she added, pointing to wasabi pear. “A lot of people name candle with esoteric concepts like Wintertime. That’s when they lose the customer.” Slatkin creates candles for a gamut of clients ranging from Lauren, Dior, Neiman’s and Space NK to D. Porthault, Laura Mercier, Jonathan Adler, Restoration Hardware, Belle Fleur, Altru, Tori Burch, Urban Outfitters and Nars, among others.

In the process, she has developed a fragrance category called “flitrus,” or floral citrus with a musk base note. These combinations often involve a recipe such as one with freesia and kiwi on top with base notes of amber and musk. Other scents involve steamed rice and honey. A Jonathan Alder candle has a hashish scent and another model, called Monumental Muse, has five wicks rising from a large pot sculpted with faces. It retails for $295.

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