Estée Lauder Inc. (Estée Lauder Companies Inc.), New York City, New York, USA.
Estée Launder founded her namesake company in 1946, beginning with just a handful of skincare creams. Across the decades it is has grown into a multi-billion publicly traded cosmetics empire, in the US it has around a fifth of the market (worth around $7 billion) and another $7 billion of the prestige market. Although Estée died in 2004, it is still run today by third generation members of the family.
Josephine Esther Mentzer was born on 7th January 1907 in Corona, Queens, New York City, New York, USA. Her mother, the beautiful Rose Schotz, was from Hungary and her father, Max Mentzer, was from Czechoslovakia. Max ran a hardware store and called his daughter “Esty” which, by the time she started school had become “Estée.” Taking great interest in her mother’s beauty regimen she began to understand about skincare and learnt how to make skincare creams with her uncle John Schotz, a chemist. This, along with designing and building window displays at her father’s store, would be the building blocks for an as yet unrealized future business. Instead she dabbled with a career as an actress and started to build a family too. In 1930 she married Joseph (Joe) Lauter, who later changed his name to Lauder (to correct a misspelling during the immigration process), and had a son, Leonard. In 1939 the couple divorced, but in 1943 when Leonard had an illness, they got back together and would never be apart again. In 1944 they remarried and had another son, Ronald.
An Entrepreneur Begins
One of the skincare creams made by the family Estée called the Super-Rich All Purpose Crème, because (in her words), “It was a preciously velvety cream, this potion, one that magically made you sweetly scented, made your face feel like spun silk, made any passing imperfections be gone by evening.” It was this cream that the owner of a beauty salon, called the House of Blondes, noticed during one of Estée’s regular visits. At her next visit, Estée returned with a collection of creams and so impressed the owner, she was granted a concession to sell the products via the salon. This clearly made Estée stop, think and begin to look at how she might grow this into a business.
The Company Starts
Armed with 4 products – The Cleansing Oil, The Crème Pack, The Super-Rich All Purpose Crème and The Skin Lotion – the family business of Estée Lauder was launched in 1946. Using what she described herself as a “telephone, telegraph, tell-a-woman” approach, she visited beauty salons, stores and hotels across New York City. Undertaking quick makeovers, she would even stop people in public places to show them the product, and let them try it. As sales grew, Estée needed to ensure the packaging reflected the elegance intended and chose blue colored containers because she felt they would be suitable for most bathrooms. Today, this color is a symbol of the company’s products and is known, not just in the cosmetics industry but beyond, as Estée Lauder Blue (Pantone color 655).
In 1948, within a relatively short time of launching but after much asking Robert Fisk, the Cosmetics Buyer at the prestigious retail store “Saks Fifth Avenue,” agreed to sell her products. So, Estée sent out elegant cards to selected customers informing them of a free cream-based powder with every purchase from Saks. The entire $800 dollars worth of product Saks agreed to take, equivalent to $8,000 dollars today, sold out in two days. Estée Lauder had arrived and unknowingly had started the “free gift with every purchase” marketing concept, still commonly employed within the industry today.
Making A Splash
In 1953 Estée discovered she was a “Nose,” when blending jasmine, rose, patchouli and vetiver to create bath oil, which could be used as a fragrance. Launched with an “artistically blurred” but risqué picture of a nude woman in the advertising, Youth-Dew became a best seller, especially as customers included famous actresses like: Dolores Del Rio, Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford. When launched in Paris, Youth-Dew was spilt on the floor where it was being sold. No one knows if this was by accident or on purpose, but the result was high sales, and when asked about this Estée famously replied: “I’ll never tell.”
Since this time an amazing collection of ladies scents have followed including: Aliage, Estée, Cinnabar, White Linen, Beautiful, Pleasures, Beyond Paradise, Sensuous and Modern Muse. Estée had her own personal fragrance called “Private Collection” and in 1973 made it available to dignitaries and royalty. To maintain the secrecy of the ingredients used in Estée Lauder products, fragrances are only made around 95% complete, before a member of the Lauder family comes to complete it with the remaining 5%. In 1994, The American Society of Perfumers presented Estée with their first ever “Living Legend” Award.
Making Expensive Faces
In 1956 Estée launched Re-Nutriv, and at $115 a jar it was her most expensive yet – equivalent to $1,000 dollars a jar today. Since this time Re-Nutriv has grown into an extended range but prices go from $100 and up to $1,200 a jar!
A New Face
In 1958 her son Leonard joined the company and, studying the business, identified the firm was 80% dependent on the Youth-Dew brand. He set about arranging other fragrances to be included in the portfolio in order to better spread any risk. In 1968, as part of this diversification he established a new brand range, Clinique, which has become a steadfast part of the company’s portfolio. Finally he became CEO in 1982 and served 17 years in this position before stepping down in 1999.
A Masculine Arm
In 1964 Estée Lauder simultaneously launched their male focused subsidiary company Aramis, and their first fragrance for men “Aramis” by Aramis. This has been followed by a huge collection across the years, including: Aramis 900 (1973), Aramis Devin (1978), JHL (1982), Tuscany (1985), New West (1988), Havana (1994), Happy for Men (1999) by Clinique, Aramis Life (2003), Aramis Cool (2005), Aramis Always (2006) and Aramis Adventurer (2014).
The company also produces “Tommy,” a licensed a fragrance for designer Tommy Hilfiger. Launched in 1995, Tommy has received many awards and this encouraged Aramis to include the ladies perfumes: Tommy-Girl (1996) and Freedom (1999).
In 2005, Estée Lauder partnered with the creative spirit of Tom Ford (also a family friend) to launch a range of fragrances under license. Today this has grown to over 50 fragrances including: Tom Ford for Men (2007), Tom Ford for Men Extreme (2007), Tuscan Leather (2007), Purple Patchouli (2007), Oud Wood (2007), Grey Vetiver (2009), Neroli Portofino (2011), Noir (2012), London (2013) and Noir Extreme (2015).
In 1995 Estée formally retired from Estée Lauder, leaving the company in the capable hands of her sons Leonard and Ronald. The company was publically traded on the New York Stock Exchange the same year, although the Lauders retained over 80% of the voting shares. In 2004 Estée the living legend, died at the age of 97, having lived a full and fruitful life.
In 2004 William Lauder, having worked for Estée Lauder since 1986, took over as CEO from his father’s right hand man Fred Langhammer – his father Leonard had stepped down as CEO back in 1999. William is supported by his cousins Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer and Jane Lauder - all three of them Estée’s grandchildren. Alongside the main brand lines of Estée Lauder, Clinique and Aramis (including Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger) there are also Origins (natural bath & body products), Aveda (hair care products), Beauty Bank (product ranges in Kohl’s department stores) and two makeup companies (MAC and Bobbi Brown) to name but a few in the total portfolio – the Lauder's have their work cut out for them!