For NEST Founder Laura Slatkin, Fragrance Is All About Pleasure

Here's how she transformed the concept of feeling good into a booming business.

Laura Slatkin
Laura Slatkin.

In the beauty world, we often use imagination and fantasy to bring new products to life. And seeing as the industry is largely focused on making people feel good, this concept makes a lot of sense. NEST New York's Founder, Laura Slatkin, knows fragrance has the ability to affect one's mood (for better or for worse), which is a big reason why she launched her line of back in the late 2000s.

"Home fragrance affects your mind, body, and spirit," she tells InStyle. "Choosing fragrances that energize me, calm me, comfort me, or lift my spirits is fun."

But to keep a business going for over a decade and counting — especially through a pandemic, recessions, and lord know what else — is no easy feat. However, Slatkin is a big believer that finding pleasure is something people will always believe in — and you can definitely get that through fragrance.

Here, we spoke with the Slatkin on NEST's roots, the importance of incorporating fragrance into daily life, and the future of the OG brand.

InStyle: You launched NEST in the late 2000s, but have worked with numerous luxury fragrance brands since the '90s. What was your initial introduction into scents? 

Laura Slatkin: My brother-in-law, Howard Slatkin, is an extraordinarily talented interior designer. Back in the day, whenever he completed a job for a very special client, he would create a home fragrance with the notion that the final touch on a beautifully decorated home is wonderful home fragrance. He would have candles hand poured for his clients featuring their favorite flower, fruit, or herb. This was in the late '80s — a time when home fragrance was not part of anyone’s lifestyle. Howard had an extraordinary interior design shop on East 70th Street [in New York City] where he sold these scented candles — each one named after his clients — and it was there that I encountered my first scented candle.

Why did you decide to focus on home fragrance in particular? 

Howard asked me and my husband Harry to leave our decade-long careers on Wall Street and join him in his company. Entrepreneurs at heart, we recognized home fragrance to be an opportunity for us to establish an entirely new sector of the fragrance industry, and it was then that we decided to launch Slatkin & Co., a home fragrance company. After the sale of Slatkin & Co. to Limited Brands in 2008, I launched my own brand, NEST New York.

How have you stayed inspired over the years? 

I am always inspired wherever I go and whatever I do, whether it’s walking through the flower market, reading a book on Cleopatra, thumbing through art books, or throughout my travels. Flowers inspire me, food inspires me, art inspires me, people inspire me. Staying inspired is dependent on being curious, wanting to explore, and asking questions. 

How do you incorporate fragrance into your daily life? 

Fine fragrance is a very important part of my daily life. I wear fragrance to please myself and everyone around me — I have a lot of fun every morning deciding which of my eau de parfums or perfume oils I am going to wear. It all depends on who I am seeing, how I feel, and how I want to feel. The same is true for home fragrance. Home fragrance affects your mind, body, and spirit. Choosing fragrances that energize me, calm me, comfort me, or lift my spirits is fun. NEST is enjoyed by so many because of its wide olfactive palette. There are so many fragrances with different moods to choose from. 

I know it's hard to pick favorites, but what's your favorite NEST fragrance of all time? 

I would have to say Bamboo. Even though it’s not my personal favorite, it’s been our number one fragrance for over 30 years. This fragrance makes a lot of people happy and that’s the business I am in! 

Which launch are you most proud of? 

Sugar Cookie, but it was discontinued because no one liked it. I am still proud of it though because I was inspired by my bourbon-infused sugar cookie recipe, and, let me tell you, the fragrance was extraordinary. But if at first you don’t succeed, you have to keep taking a swing at something if you believe in it. We just launched Sugar Cookie’s sister Crystallized Ginger and Vanilla Bean. It’s had a spectacular launch, and I have high hopes for this new fragrance.

Why do you think the home fragrance industry is booming right now?

Home fragrance’s presence has been steadily increasing since we launched our first brand in 1992, particularly in the last two decades because millennials grew up with home fragrance — baby boomers did not. Today, home fragrance is part of everyone’s lifestyle, and recently, during COVID, the trend accelerated. Consumers have really treasured finding peace, tranquility, and energy from different fragrances — and it’s addictively comforting. 

What do you envision for the future of NEST? 

NEST New York is a trusted, respected brand with a strong reputation for excellence. Our move into wellness was greeted with enormous success which includes a very exciting new collection of perfume oils. NEST is ready to expand its presence globally in the home fragrance and fine fragrance categories.

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