Beauty is an attitude, there’s no secret. - Estée Lauder
Did you know that The Estée Lauder Company is one of the hugest beauty conglomerates in existence right now? Yep - it owns MAC, La Mer, and Bobbi Brown, just to name a few. However, this huge company had humble beginnings - starting with a Hungarian-Czech girl named Josephine Esther Mentzer.
New York Beginnings
Estée was born in 1906, in New York to a Hungarian mother and Czech father. Her fascination with beauty started with her mother, Rose. “The first beauty I ever recognised was my mother,” she says. In interviews, Estée frequently brings up watching her mother go through her beauty routines of creams and lotions for beautiful skin - this sparked her interest in beauty, setting the foundation for the empire to come.
Even though she was born ‘Josephine’, Estée was called ‘Esty’ for most of her life - a variation of her middle name, Esther. Her transformation into the entrepreneurial powerhouse that would be ‘Estée Lauder’ started in high school when she finally legally changed her name to Estée - a name that would soon become known around the world.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum | $105
An eye serum that contains the same iconic ingredients as the Advanced Night Repair Serum.
It was also around this time that her maternal uncle moved in with the family from Hungary. He worked as a chemist, and was trained to formulate cosmetic creams - from him, Estée learned not only how to create luxurious creams and skincare products. She learned application techniques to enhance the results of the skincare he produced, something that would play a crucial role in the development of her own brand.
Estée eventually went on to marry Joseph Lauder, her equally entrepreneurial husband. The couple decided to go into business together, creating and selling beauty creams under the company name of Estée Lauder. The four products at the brand’s launch were Super-Rich All Purpose Creme, Creme Pack, Cleansing Oil, and Skin Lotion.
Estée’s tenacity with these four products paid off. She started off by pitching her products to women at beauty salons, giving them free demonstrations with her products. After just a year of promoting her products from salon to salon, the department store Saks Fifth Avenue placed an order for $800 worth of products - and Estée Lauder’s success began to snowball.
Estée Lauder Youth Dew EDP | $85
A fragrance inspired by the original Youth Dew Oil by Estée Lauder.
Other department stores placed orders for her products and Estée’s team needed to grow - fast. Customer experience was just as important to the brand as the products, and Estée developed unique strategies to put her brand above the rest.
Emphasis on experience, like using the right massage and application techniques plus including gift with purchase for the customer was a completely new idea at the time - it was this cutting edge that allowed the brand to expand so rapidly.
Estée also created innovative products for her time - for example, she created the Youth Dew, a bath oil that doubled as perfume. Instead of needing to apply perfume after showering, women added a few drops of it to their baths. You can still get this iconic fragrance in eau de parfum form today, by the way!
Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick | $53
The next product Estée developed was red lipstick - you can't go without a classy red lip.
Innovation & Legacy
Estée Lauder has an enormous legacy - other than founding the Estée Lauder brand itself, Estée and other entrepreneurial family members saw opportunities for other skincare brands. For example, Evelyn Lauder went on to found the brand Clinique. Other brands directly created under the Estée Lauder umbrella include Origins, Prescriptives, Aramis and Lab Series.
The Lauder family is still in charge of the company, too - currently, Estée’s grandson is the head chairman of the Estée Lauder Company, with other family members taking roles elsewhere within the huge conglomerate.
Estée Lauder has been recognised as one of the most famous and successful female entrepreneurs of all time - and that recognition is well deserved. She herself knew she was destined for something great, and in her own words said that she “settled for her name on the side of a jar”.
The company still continues to make iconic products plus create new icons of it’s own, retaining the original entrepreneurial essence that got the brand started. Feeling inspired? Get your beauty affairs together today with a little bit of classic beauty from Estée Lauder.