Born in July 1906, Josephine Esther Mentzer, or Estée Lauder as you will know her, undoubtedly shaped the cosmetics industry like no other. She started her career working in her family’s DIY shop, then moving on to help her uncle at his cosmetics company. It was here, Estée had her first taste of the cosmetics industry and she became the entrepreneur she was born to be and would go onto to launch her incredible line of cosmetics and range of Estée Lauder perfume.
Read on to find out how she went from cosmetics store assistant to be the only women on Time Magazine’s list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century!
Estée Lauder’s Early Years
Estée Lauder’s childhood dream was to become an actress with her ‘name in lights, flowers and have her share of handsome men’ but it was her uncle, Dr John Schotz, we have to thank for giving Estée her first taste of the cosmetics industry. She worked for him at his chemist, New Way Laboratories, where he sold creams, lotions and fragrance. He was the one that taught Estée how to wash her face and the technique of facial massages.
After naming one of her uncle’s creams the ‘Super Rich All-Purpose’ cream, she sold it to her friends, beach clubs and even some businesses. One day whilst getting her hair done, the owner asked about her perfect complexion and returned to the salon to demonstrate how to use the product. The owner was so impressed that she went on to stock it at her new salon.
The Estée Lauder Company
Estée started the ‘Estée Lauder Company’ in 1946 after she and her husband, Joseph Lauter, later known as Lauder, started creating cosmetics in New York. They only had four products to begin with - a Cleansing Oil, Skin Lotion, that Super Rich All Purpose Crème and Crème Pack. In 1948, they had their first counter with Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1968, Estée expanded and created Clinique, her first dermatologist-led, fragrance-free cosmetic brand.
Today, within the Estée Lauder Company, there are 15 brands in cosmetics, 15 in fragrance and two in hair care.
Estée Lauder Perfume
Women traditionally waited for their husband to gift them a fragrance for a birthday or anniversary, so Estée was set on not calling her first fragrance ‘a perfume’ but Youth-Dew. It launched in 1953 as a bath oil that doubled up as a perfume. Rather than just putting a drop of French perfume behind the ear, women would use it by the bottle in the bath and within the first year, it sold 50,000 units. 31 years later, this figure grew to 150 million! Estée Lauder was once called the ‘true nose in all America’ as she was involved with every one of her scent creations, but often relied on friends for their honest opinion as they would smile with their eyes - which was a true indication on how they felt about a fragrance. Today, the Estée Lauder perfume house has released over 100 fragrances!
Lauder’s Later Life & Present Day
Estee went into become one of the most affluent and influential women in the beauty world due to sheer hard work and ambition. In 1973, Lauder reduced her role in her company’s day-to-day operations, handing over the reigns to her eldest son, who took over the running of the business. However, she did stay on as chairman of the board. After the death of her beloved husband in in 1983, Lauder devoted a lot of her time to charitable efforts. Estee passed away, leaving behind her an unmatchable legacy and her multi-billion-dollar brand, Estee Lauder Companies, to her family.
Smell Some of Estée’s Most Iconic Fragrances
Are you intriuged by Estée Lauder?
Explore the collection at The Perfume Shop