Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Estée Lauder (1908-2004)

Born in Queens, N.Y., Estée Lauder got her start in beauty at an early age by helping her uncle, a chemist, mix creams and fragrances for his skincare business in their kitchen. In 1946, Lauder and her husband Joseph founded the Estée Lauder Co. with just four products. To make up for a small advertising budget, Lauder sold persistently, regularly giving free demonstrations at beauty salons and stopping women on Fifth Avenue to try her products. She also launched the "gift with purchase" deal that is now commonplace at cosmetics counters. In 1953, the company debuted Youth Dew, a bath oil and perfume that became so popular, women used it by the bottle in their bathwater. Even after 40 years in the industry — which saw the company expand to include sister lines Prescriptives, Clinique, Origins and Aramis — Lauder insisted on attending every new counter or store launch. The cosmetics giant died in 2004; her grandson William serves as CEO of the company, which has expanded into a beauty empire based on science and to this day carries on Lauder's legacy as a philanthropist and innovator and the first female magnate of beauty.