Estee Lauder queen of America's prestige cosmetics industry who pioneered concepts including the now ubiquitous "gift with purchase," has died.
A self-propelled dynamo, Lauder raised cosmetics merchandising to an art form through incessant work, a passion for quality and creative sales techniques. From the start of her career, while still a teenager, she ignored conventional wisdom and forged new paths, unabashedly marketing cosmetics as "jars of hope."
Although the mythmaking that is so much of the magic of the beauty industry led many women to believe that Estee Lauder was born in Europe to an aristocratic family, she was a New Yorker and not an aristocrat at all. Josephine Esther Mentzer was born at home in Corona, Queens, on July 1, 1908, according to voter registration records, although her family and officials from her company say it was two years earlier.
She was the daughter of Max Mentzer, a hardware man who was the proprietor of a hay and seed store, and Rose Schotz Rosenthal Mentzer, a woman who was much interested in beauty regimens.
Fifty years later, when she had begun delegating authority to her sons Leonard and Ronald, she had become one of the world's richest women, according to Forbes magazine. By the late 1980s, her personal assets were listed in excess of $233 million. Her company's labels - Estee Lauder, Clinique, Origins, Prescriptives and Aramis - became best sellers around the globe. In 2003, net sales of all products sold in 130 countries by the Estee Lauder companies (which went public in 1995) was $5.12 billion, report indystar.com
According to smh.com.au Lauder 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 earnestly about appearance without fearing the wrath of feminists, intellectuals and spoilsports who would accuse them of being shallow and narcissistic.
Lauder tapped into the desires of the average woman to look her best and to be pampered. She 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. Her wares were "jars of hope". One of her first and greatest successes was the introduction of the scent Youth-Dew in 1953. Aimed at the pocketbook of a typical homemaker who could afford an occasional luxury, Youth-Dew is considered one of the great fragrances and is still available.
In 1930, she married Joseph Lauter, who was six years her senior and had studied accounting in a trade school on the Lower East Side. (He changed his name to Lauder). The two went into business. "During every possible spare moment, [I] cooked up little pots of cream for faces," Lauder said. "I always felt most alive when I was dabbling in the practice cream."
The couple divorced in 1939, but remarried in 1942. In 1946, Estee Lauder, the corporation, was born. It had no employees, four skin-care products and three makeup items - a far cry from today, with 2,000 products and 21,500 employees. The company's big break came in 1948 when Estee got a small order from Saks Fifth Avenue.
The days of home cooking products were over by now. The couple took over a vacant eatery on the Upper East Side, where they cooked up their creams and bottled them in attractive jars. "On the restaurant's gas burners we cooked our creams, mixed them, sterilized our pretty jars with boiling water, poured and filled and planned and packaged," Lauder wrote. "Every bit of work was done by hand - four hands, Joe's and mine," inform newsday.com
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