From todays New York Times:
Estée Lauder, the last independent titan of the cosmetics industry who convinced generations of women that her beauty creams were "jars of hope" in their quest for the eternal look of youth, died Saturday at her home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Her family said she was 97.
The cause was cardiopulmonary arrest, said her son Leonard A. Lauder.
"The pursuit of beauty is honorable," Mrs. Lauder used to say. And she clearly believed that the business of beauty was just as honorable. No one but a believer could have given so much of herself in becoming an internationally respected strategist in the age-old struggle against the wrinkles, sags, bags and blemishes that women abhor and that men would apparently prefer not to see. Her weapons in that effort were creams, powders, ointments, potions and muds, many containing top-secret emollients. And if they didn't do the trick, she had an array of scents, equally secret in their constitution, that might befog man's vision of woman aging.
Her efforts resulted in the establishment of a privately held company estimated to be worth $5 billion when it went public in 1995 and she was given the title founding chairman. In 2003, it had 21,500 employees and an estimated worth of about $10 billion. Its products are sold in more than 130 countries across five continents.
Estée Lauder Companies was not formally established until 1946 but its roots go back to the 1920's with facial creams concocted over a gas stove in a modest kitchen by her uncle, John Schotz, then nurtured financially and technically years later by Arnold L. van Ameringen, a Dutch-born industrialist. The company grew exponentially in the 1950's with the introduction of a bath oil called "Youth Dew," the creation of which is variously attributed to Mrs. Lauder and Mr. van Ameringen.
In the years following the start of her almost messianic crusade to give women the perennial bloom of youth, Mrs. Lauder marketed a variety of other beauty aids, among them "Super-Rich All Purpose Creme," "Cleaning Oil," "Creme Pack," and a skin lotion (all of them the creations of Dr. Schotz). In all, she marketed some 2,000 individual shades and items, produced by five Lauder companies — Estée Lauder, Clinique, Origins, Prescriptives and (for men) Aramis. Among the fragrances she introduced were "Estée" (1968); "Azuree" (1969); "Aliage"(1972); "Private Collection" (1973); "Beautiful "(1985) and "Pleasures"(1995). In 1995 the company also entered into a licensing agreement with the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation to market Tommy, a line of fragrance, and with Make-Up Artists Cosmetics of Toronto to distribute its MAC products outside of North America.
"I love my product," Mrs. Lauder once said. "I love to touch the creams, smell them, look at them, carry them with me. A person has to love her harvest if she's to expect others to love it."
Mrs. Lauder also loved to touch her customers. During the period when she was building her business, she invariably showed up at stores where her products were being introduced and with no provocation at all, whip out a jar and rub its contents on the wrist or face of a prospective customer so that her skin would acquire "a gentle glow." She also understood the rewards that come from generosity and she was known in the industry for the free samples she gave through department stores and at social events and fashion shows and particularly for the conception of "gift with purchase." She introduced these creative marketing measures when her company was in its infancy and she was advised by an agency that the $50,000 she had available for advertising was too small to have any effect.
Although she was protective toward those who trusted her to create efficacious products, she was predisposed to stark candor when she described her competitors, all of them ferocious and all of whom she outlived by many years. She referred to Charles Revson as "my arch and implacable enemy" (no one ever dared seat them next to each other at parties), and she said that Elizabeth Arden was "not a nice woman, not a generous woman." She said that Sam Rubin of Faberge was "patronizing even for those prefeminist days" and that although Helena Rubenstein may have looked like a tsarina, "the skin on her neck was less than perfect."