Estee Lauder, pioneer of the beauty business, dies at 97

LONDON - Estee Lauder, the woman who gave her name to a cosmetics empire and is credited with inventing modern beauty marketing, has died at the age of 97.

Lauder, who passed away at the weekend in New York after a heart attack, had a long career in the beauty business and was once estimated to have a fortune worth more than £130m.

Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, she was raised in Corona, Queens, by her Hungarian mother Rose and Czech father Max. The name Estee is a variation on her family nickname, Esty.

She was always interested in beauty and with help from her uncle, a chemist, she began her business selling the skincare products he developed to beauty salons and hotels. Her talent for sales led to a counter at New York City's Saks Fifth Avenue in 1948 where she developed techniques for selling cosmetics such as giving away free samples to wealthy customers and trying the products out on women in the store.

Lauder's success lead to agreements with other stores such as Neiman Marcus, which began selling Estee Lauder products in 1950, and she expanded overseas in 1960 when she began selling at Harrods.

As well as her sales techniques, Lauder began the practice of using a single model to represent the brand in its advertising campaigns, with beauties such as Paulina Porizkova and Elizabeth Hurley becoming the face of the brand.

Estee Lauder developed new brands, such as Aramis, Clinique, Prescriptives and Origins and, after a series of acquisitions in the 1990s, the empire now includes brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Aveda, La Mer and Stila. The company went public in 1995.

Lauder retired the same year but continued to visit department stores until ill health forced her to stop. Many members of her family still work in the company.

As a vastly successful businesswoman, she would frequently advise her sales force: "I didn't get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it."

She had an equally pragmatic approach to the role of beauty in women's lives, writing in her autobiography: "In a perfect world, we'd all be judged on the sweetness of our souls, but in our less than perfect world, the woman who looks pretty has a distinct advantage and, usually, the last word."

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