Powder Stories, a blog series about the history and startup of some of our leading cosmetic companies. Today, we’ll start with one of the big three as most department stores like to refer to them; Estee Lauder. The other two being Clinique and Lancome.
My guess as to why they call them the big three is because they are all “gift with purchase” companies, making them the biggest three in revenue as far as the department store is concerned.
So we’ll start with Estee Lauder.
Born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Queens, New York, she started her company at an early age and with a skin care cream invented by her chemist Uncle, Dr. John Schotz. His company was called New Way Laboratories where he created and sold beauty products. Estee became fascinated with her uncle’s business and decided to help him sell his skincare.
Estee married Joseph H. Lauter (later Lauder). They had two sons together and after a short separation, they stayed married until his death in 1982.
She landed her first big order from Saks Fifth Avenue. That first order totaled $800 in product. It is reported that it was sold out in two days. Lauder is known for creating the “free gift with purchase” that is so heavily coveted to this day.
Estée Lauder Cosmetics Inc.
After years of operating her cosmetics business, Lauder made it official in 1946 by forming the corporation that still bears her name today. She and her husband were the entire company at the time, and they offered only a handful of products.
A small company started by a woman back in the 1940s, it has grown into a corporation that owns more than a dozen other brand names cosmetics and fragrances. Family members still serve on the Board of Directors to this day.
Rumors swirl around the department store where I work about Mrs. Lauder “accidentally” dropping a bottle of her perfume called Youth-Dew while leaving another dejected meeting. When customers went crazy for the lingering fragrance, the executives picked it up for their inventory. I have found no such findings in my research.
At the age of 97, Estee Lauder died in April 2004. A New Yorker through and through, she was a tough and smart business woman. She (along with her husband) built a cosmetics empire.
“If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it and become another Estée 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.” ~ Estee Lauder
Ciao Mio Amore,