Estee Lauder Josephine Esther Mentzer

B. 1908

Birthplace: Queens, New York

Awards: Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, 1962, 1992

Outstanding Woman in Business, U.S. Business and Financial Editors, 1967

Spirit of Achievement Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1968 Cosmetic Executive Women's President's Award, 1989 Living Legend Award, American Society of Perfumers, 1994 Fifi Award for Perennial Success, Fragrance Foundation, 1994 Fifi Awards, Fragrance Star of the Year and Best Women's Fragrance Package, Fragrance Foundation, 1995

Hers is a true American success story—the daughter of immigrants, born in Queens, New York, whose uncle, a chemist by some accounts, a dermatologist by others, helped her mix up a batch of skin creams which she started selling in beauty shops and beach clubs. And sell she did. "Ambition," her son Leonard has often said, is the one word that best describes the force behind his mother's success.

Estee Lauder virtually transformed the beauty business, creating a company which became one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of beauty products. Her career began in 1946, when she and her husband, Joseph Lauder, founded the company, offering just four products: Cleansing Oil, Creme Pack, Skin Lotion, and All Purpose Creme. In 1948 she convinced Saks Fifth Avenue to give her some counter space, and once there, she used the personal sales approach for which she became famous. In fact, after forty years in business, she would still turn up at Saks on a Saturday morning to show the sales staff how to work with customers. One of her most brilliant sales-building techniques was to give out free gifts, such as small product samples, a promotional tool now used by every notable company.

Estee Lauder was not one who followed trends; rather, she was a believer in the power of feminine beauty, and this has always been reflected in her products, her packaging, and her advertising. She was, however, an innovator, and she devised new concepts, like the introduction of the first men's skin care line by a woman's cosmetics company, Clinique's Skin Supplies for Men. In addition, she felt no woman should be denied the opportunity to feel and look as beautiful as possible. She often told the story of a customer, who was ignored by the sales staff at a certain store, because she was deemed unlikely to make a purchase. Estee Lauder approached the woman, offering the special kind of attention for which she was known. The next day, her new customer returned, not only for more products, but with a large group of friends, all of whom wanted to buy whatever Lauder suggested.

By the end of the twentieth century, Estee Lauder Companies, Inc., was selling products in more than 120 countries. The brand was first introduced internationally in London's famous department store Harrod's, in 1960, and made available in Hong Kong in 1961. The company made world headlines when its products were first offered in the Soviet Union in 1981 and again when its very first freestanding boutique opened in Budapest. Today Estee Lauder products are available throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, along with its impressive family of prestige brands, which include Aramis, Clinique, Prescriptives, Origins, La Mer, M.A.C., Bobbi Brown Essentials, Stila, Aveda, Jo Malone, and Bumble and Bumble.

The company is also the licensee for the beauty products and fragrances of Donna Karan, Timmy Hilfiger, and Kate Spade. Estee Lauder went public in 1995, with Lauder family members maintaining their places in the business, including son Leonard, chief executive officer since 1982, and granddaughter, Aerin, head of creative product development. Today it is estimated that the Estee Lauder Companies control approximately 50 percent of the cosmetics industry in U.S. department stores. See also: Donna Karan; Tommy Hilfiger.


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