November 26, 2012

A life dedicated to an empire of beauty: Estée Lauder

Since it was founded, 72 years ago, Estée Lauder is known for its innovative, sophisticated and iconic beauty products. Armed with the philosophy that every woman can be beautiful, the company started the business in 1940. Her founder, Estée Lauder, born in NY, found she was interested in beauty when her Hungarian uncle came to live with her family. He was a chemist and created skin creams, first in their house, and after that, in a laboratory.


Although Estée didn’t go to college, she had a natural instinct for sales. She believed that in order to make a sale, you had to get in touch with the consumer, show him the products, and the results. She used to say, “It’s that rare touch, that person-to-person contact, that leaves the deepest impression”. That’s why she started selling her first four products for skin care in beauty salons, demonstrating her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers.


Driven with ambition and creativity, she officially launched the company in 1946, together with her husband. A year later, they would already have a major order of products from Saks Fifth Avenue. Estée Lauder is the first Company that inaugurated the Gift with Purchase promotion, giving samples of their products with each purchase.

One of the major successes was the Estoderme Youth-Dew Crème, a face cream made in 1951, created from an entire egg. Soon after that, the company was going to launch a product that would make a history: a bath oil that worked as a perfume.  Instead of using perfumes, women were using Youth Dew in their bath water. In the first year, Youth Dew sold fifty thousand, and by 1984 they were already selling around one hundred and fifty million bottles. In 1985, Lauder was a subject of a TV documentary, Estee Lauder: The Sweet Smell of Success.

The company is the first to develop an anti-aging product that repairs skin during the nighttime hours, Night Repair. Soon, their products sell well around the world, although their prices are not affordable for everyone. Their most expensive creams in those times, Re-Nutriv, valued $115, but Estée justified it like this: “Why do you spend so much for a Picasso? The linen costs $2.75, each jar of paint, $1.75. You’re paying for creativity and experience.”



Estée Lauder Companies is now a huge empire of beauty. They own 25 major brands, including Bobbi Brown, MAC, Clinique, Crème de la Mer, Prescriptives and Origins, and have the license for numerous fragrances, like Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karen, Missoni, Michael Kors, Coach and Tom Ford.


Because she was a pioneer in the beauty industry, Estée Lauder received many awards during her lifetime, but the most important is the French Legion of Honor. She believed that “In a perfect world, we’d all be judged on the sweetness of our souls. But in our less than perfect world, the woman who looks pretty has a distinct advantage and, usually, the last word”. That’s why she always had the ambition to teach women how to make themselves beautiful: “People are not often naturally perfect and that’s why God made stockings, shoes and cosmetics,” Estée used to say.

Mrs Lauder retired in 1995 and passed away in 2004, at the age of 97. The company is now in the hold of her son, Leonard, her grandson, William, and her two granddaughters.