Lauder:Titan of beauty
Lauder believed that beauty was an attitude.
There were no unattractive women, she said, only ladies
who either didn't care about their appearance or who remained
stubbornly unconvinced of their own beauty.
That philosophy was good for business. Lauder, with the
help of her offspring, transformed a kitchen production
of creams and potions and a relentless belief in their beautifying
power into a global cosmetics business worth more than $5
whom history will judge as one of the world's great entrepreneurs,
died Saturday of cardiopulmonary arrest at her home in New
York. Her family said she was 97, although she has been
variously described as both 95 and 96. Who wouldn't forgive
a cosmetics queen for fudging about her age?
was among the first of the great beauty titans, men and
women such as Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Revlon's
Charles Revson, who trafficked in hope. Lauder began her
career in 1946 at a time when women spoke openly and earnestly
about appearance without fearing the wrath of feminists,
intellectuals and spoilsports who would accuse them of being
shallow and narcissistic. Great beauties were celebrated
without irony or dismissiveness back then. Lauder tapped
into the desires of the average woman to look her best and
to be pampered.
promised to share beauty "secrets" with her clients.
She accosted them on Fifth Avenue, dabbing creams on their
faces or rubbing lotion into their arms. One of her first
and greatest successes was the introduction of the scent
Youth-Dew in 1953. Positioned as an affordable luxury for
the average woman, Youth-Dew is considered one of the beauty
industry's great fragrances.
saleswoman, Lauder was an early advocate and adopter of
celebrity marketing. She envisioned her product in the hands
of the world's most prestigious women, and so Lauder was
profligate in sending samples of her products to prominent
women, such as the Duchess of Windsor. She wanted her goods
sold in the most expensive department stores of the day,
such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. And now, Estee
Lauder -- which includes Clinique, Prescriptives, MAC, Origins,
Bobbi Brown and other department store brands -- is considered
the world's largest producer of prestige cosmetics.
used signature models to personify the company and helped
to transform the beauty business from one that was simply
a blend of luxurious creams, science and hucksterism into
one that also incorporated romance, sex appeal and fantasies.
Josephine Esther Mentzer in Queens, she was the daughter
of Jewish Hungarian immigrants. She married Joseph Lauter
(later changed to Lauder) in 1930. As a young woman, Lauder
wanted desperately to shed her Old World ways and be perceived
as wholly American. And as a businesswoman, she was astute
at recognising the power inherent in any promise of transformation
-- even one as tenuous as a lotion's claim to reduce the
appearance of fine lines. The process of assimilation, after
all, is also about appearance, about looking as though one
company grew, her children and grandchildren became executives
in the corporation. Her grandson William Lauder will become
chief executive of Estee Lauder Cos. in July. The company
went public in 1995, although the family retains control.
the years, Estee Lauder saw the brand she created grow stodgy
and dusty; it became too closely associated with the gray-haired
swells whom she had once courted so aggressively. While
MAC, Bobbi Brown and Prescriptives addressed a more diverse
range of women, the corporation's flagship remained inextricably
linked to the past. With its pale sea-blue packaging that
recalled grandmother's dressing table and the brand's reliance
solely on white models such as Elizabeth Hurley and Carolyn
Murphy, Estee Lauder seemed old-fashioned and out of touch.
years ago, the brand began its own makeover in an attempt
to become more contemporary, more inviting to a broader
mix of women, less dominated by a colour palette of sweet
pink. In March 2003, the company added the Ethiopian model
Liya Kebede to its roster of signature faces -- the first
time a black model had been hired.
entire beauty business has changed significantly since Lauder
began concocting skin creams in her kitchen with the help
of an uncle who was a chemist. Indulging in beauty products
and attempting to stave off the signs of aging have become
flashpoints for social commentary. As a businesswoman, Lauder
proved what determination and savvy can build, but she also
helped to set the groundwork for a culture obsessed with
a narrow range of beauty -- often to the detriment of the
if history is to be fair to her, it will remember that Lauder
believed every woman could be beautiful. She left it to
everyone else to define thatů
article was Published by The Washington Post