Making Bath Time Cool

WITH A BOOK AND A BIG IDEA, NEIL FISKE TOOK OVER A FLAILING BEAUTY RETAILER, HERE'S HOW HE IS TRADING UP A COMPANY

The cafeteria at New York City's Hudson Hotel, where an old standard like macaroni and cheese is made with white-truffle oil and sells for $19 a plate, is an appropriate place to chat. Neil Fiske did, after all, write the book on America's newfound obsession with affordable luxury--literally. He co-wrote Trading Up and coined that term to explain why you now pay $4 for a cup of Starbucks or $4,000 for a Viking range even though you are (your tax returns show) solidly middle class. "There's a pretty significant shift in the social paradigm," says Fiske, an unassuming man in frameless...

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