On this day: Estee Lauder is born

July 1 1906: Beauty and business


Her name is one that lives on, in the make-up bags and cosmetic stands of the world. When she died at 97 in 2004, she had been retired from the company that bore her name for a decade.

But she enjoyed more than 50 years as one of the most influential individuals in the cosmetics industry, during which time she developed a reputation as a savvy and hardworking businesswoman

She was among the first to utilise the now-common idea of offering a "gift with purchase" as a marketing tool and was a leader in the idea of changing make up colours with the seasons.

Born in Queens as Josephine Esther Mentzer, she was the youngest of six and grew up working in her Hungarian immigrant father's hardware shop. She developed an interest in skin care from her uncle John, a chemist who sold homemade beauty treatments door to door.

At 24, she married Joseph Lauder, who was already making money in the fashion world. But she didn't abandon her dreams and continued to create face creams and other cosmetics, going on to run a high-end beauty salon.

In 1946, she and her husband officially launched what would become a globally successful cosmetics company, with labels like Clinique household names and celebrities rushing to represent the products.

Lauder went from a backroom laboratory to the Fortune 500 list, and all because, as she 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."

What the JC said: Perhaps her greatest gift was an ability to understand that women bough more with their cosmetics than merely something blush a cheek. She understood life-style advertising, realising that the product should promise a world of beauty and fine living, and she let her customers buy into all that for the price of a lipstick or a skin-cream. It was a little technical skill, a lot of ambition and oodles of schmooze and chutzpah.

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Last updated: 8:57am, July 1 2011