Estee Lauder - Beauty with brains

America's beauty queen, Estee Lauder of the eponymous and prestigious cosmetics company, who pioneered several new marketing concepts including the now ubiquitous "gift with purchase," died on April 24, 2004 of cardiopulmonary failure, at the age of 97.

Though, she forced many to think that she was from an aristocrat background, because of her flawless style, Lauder was actually the ninth child of Jewish immigrants. Little is known of her early life except that she was enchanted by her chemist uncle's potions. She would watch him in fascination as he turned chemical formulas into sweet-smelling lotions. She soon became involved in the preparations and would sell them to friends. She once said, "I was forever experimenting on myself and on anyone else who came within range. I cooked up little pots of cream for faces. I always felt most alive when I was dabbling in the practice cream."


Lauder married Joseph H. Lauter (he changed his name later, replacing the T with a D), a garment district businessman in 1930 and they had two sons. They divorced in 1939 and remarried three years later after which he became her partner in business.

"Beauty is an attitude. There's no secret. Why are all brides beautiful? Because on their wedding day they care about how they look. There are no ugly women - only women who don't care or who don't believe they're attractive."


Lauder tapped into the desires of the average woman to look her best and to be pampered. Highly ambitious and one who would settle for nothingshort of the best, Lauder began selling the products in up market beauty salons in New York. So, persuasive was she in her salesmanship that she was soon given a small beauty counter by Florence Morris. She had a natural flair for customer relationship, which always guaranteed repeat customers and soon had an enviable list of elite customers. She guaranteed this by giving potential sale a free demonstration and a gift pack. She had a passion for quality and her creative sales techniques were leading her slowly but surely towards success. At the start of her business, though she had only a few basic products, she would package her products in attractive jars and containers, in colors that would complement any bathroom. This was a greenish-blue, which later came to be known as 'Lauder blue.'


"If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it and become another Estee Lauder, you've got to work hard, you've got to stick to it and you've got to believe in what you're doing."


She would accost women on Fifth Avenue, and dab creams on their faces or rub them on their arms; lobbying on Saks Fifth Avenue, she soon got a sizable order in 1948. The items were sold out within two days flat, launching Lauder into a big time career. Five years later, she launched one of her most successful fragrances, Youth-Dew; a bath oil with a lingering quality fragrance versatile enough to double as a perfume!


There was no looking back after that; by 1960s Estee Lauder was an international corporation selling products in the famous Harrod's Department Store in London and within a few short years, she opened outlets in Central America, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium New Zealand and Switzerland.

In 1964, she launched another revolutionary product, a male fragrance lines - Aramis for Men, she later complemented them with products such as Clinique Skin Supplies for Men, and Lab Series for Men.


Her years were now spent on traveling and opening new stores and courting and playing host to the rich and the famous; she was by then already known as a women of impeccable style and taste. She was soon recognized as the country's 10 Outstanding Women in Business, and she was the only woman to make it to the TIME's list of the 20 most influential names in business in the 20th century. Her company was placed No. 349 in the 2003 ranking in the Fortune 500 list of the nation's largest companies, with revenue at $4.744 billion.

In explaining her success, the cosmetics queen once said: "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard." She published her autobiography Estee: A Success Story in 1985.


In 1973, Lauder stepped down as president of Estée Lauder Inc. and became board chairman, this gave her more time to pursue her philanthropic interests, which included contributions to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York and the University of Pennsylvania, the site of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies.