Hong Kong

The Estée Story

Mrs. Estée Lauder’s birthday is listed incorrectly in many places, including her NY Times obituary, and we would like to correct it to July 1, 1908.


“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” —Estée Lauder

Estée Lauder, the founder of the company that bears her name, was a visionary and a role model. She was a challenger who proved that anything was possible — if you dared to dream it and had the guts and gumption to go for it. Ahead of her time in every way, she created and ran one of the world’s most prestigious and innovative companies while serving as a wife, mother and a loyal friend to many. And she did it all with charm, humor and exquisite style. She loved beauty with a passion and believed wholeheartedly in its power.

Box of Estee Lauder lotions and products

Mrs. Estée Lauder started her business with four skin care products and a simple premise: that every woman can be beautiful. Armed with that philosophy, plus perseverance, creativity and passion, she changed the face of the cosmetics industry.

In the Beginning

Young Estèe Lauder

Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, Estée Lauder was raised in Queens, New York, by her Hungarian mother, Rose, and Czech father, Max. The name Estée was a variation of her nickname, Esty. Her interest in beauty was sparked in high school when her Hungarian uncle came to live with her family and created velvety skin creams, first in the kitchen, then in a laboratory in a stable out back. From her uncle, Estée not only learned how to concoct the wonderful creams but also how to apply them to women’s faces.

Young Estèe and Joseph

In the late 1920s, Estée met Joseph Lauter. They were married in 1930 and moved to Manhattan. Shortly thereafter, the couple adopted the surname Lauder, correcting a misspelling that dated back to when Joseph's father emigrated from Austria to the United States.

Estée got her start selling skin care and makeup in beauty salons, demonstrating her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers. In 1946 she and Joseph Lauder officially launched the company, and a year later they got their first major order: $800 worth of products from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Knowing What Women Want

Estée had innate instincts for what women wanted and was the consummate saleswoman and marketer. She believed that to make a sale, you had to touch the consumer, show her the results on her face and explain the products. That was the start of the company’s personal High-Touch service.

She took the "Gift with Purchase" idea to new heights, elevating it such that it became standard industry practice.

Never underestimate any woman’s desire for beauty.

Estée Lauder

Once the Estée Lauder brand began to advertise, Estée insisted that the print images be both aspirational and approachable and selected one model to represent the face of the brand at any given time. She picked the pale turquoise color for the brand’s jars, believing it conveyed a sense of luxury and matched all bathroom decors.

Estée attended the opening of virtually every new store and stayed for a week to instruct her beauty advisors on sales techniques and merchandise display. Always stylish and well dressed, she crossed the country to meet with store buyers and beauty editors and to talk to consumers. She was a one-person research department.

Estèe in Toronto

Decades before social media became mainstream, Estée ran word-of-mouth campaigns. Her oft-repeated mantra was “Telephone, Telegraph, Tell a Woman.” She believed that women who liked her products would spread the word.

Pushing the Boundaries of Beauty

Estée Lauder was a skin care pioneer, but she also had a wonderful fragrance “nose.” One of her earliest successes was Youth-Dew, a blend of rose, jasmine, vetiver and patchouli that would bring her olfactory fame.

No one ever became a success without taking chances… One must be able to recognize the moment and seize it without delay.

Estée Lauder

Early Youth Dew Ad

Until the 1950s, most women reserved fragrance for special occasions. A woman would wait for her husband to give her perfume on her birthday or anniversary. Estée wanted to find a way for women to buy their own perfume, so in 1953 she created Youth-Dew, a bath oil that doubled as a skin perfume. This innovation took the cosmetics industry by storm, changing the way fragrance was sold and transforming the fledgling start-up company into a multimillion-dollar business.

Estée was the quintessential entrepreneur who refused to listen to experts or settle for anything less than the very best. She constantly challenged the status quo and is described as someone you simply couldn’t say no to.

She oversaw the creation of five additional brands — Aramis, Clinique, Prescriptives, Lab Series and Origins — and always insisted that the Company’s products be made from the highest-quality ingredients.

An American Icon

Estée Lauder was an iconic American entrepreneur. She was always in the know about fashion trends, and founded her namesake brand at a time when Givenchy, Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga and other designers were shaping the latest fashions. She loved New York City and drew inspiration from its sophisticated, vibrant, stylish culture. In the middle of the 20th century, New York was the global center for art, architecture, innovation and entrepreneurship. Although Estée's heart was in New York, she had homes in the South of France, London and Palm Beach, among other locales. She traveled the world and loved to visit museums and art galleries, attend fashion shows and learn about her customers and their respective cultures.

People in Central Park

As a visionary businesswoman, Estée Lauder was honored with many awards during her career. Receiving the French Legion of Honor was one of the high points in her life. She supported numerous civic and cultural programs and other charitable causes, including the restoration of the Palace of Versailles and the building of several playgrounds in New York City’s Central Park.

Lauder family

The only thing more important to Estée than the Company was her family, and she was thrilled that her children and grandchildren joined the family business. Estée retired in 1995 and passed away in 2004.

Her Inspiration Today

The world has changed dramatically since Estée Lauder created her brand in 1946. But the core values she embodied are more relevant and more inspiring to women of all generations than ever before. Today the Company engages with women in more than 150 countries and territories and at dozens of touch points — both in stores and online. And each relationship consistently reflects Estée’s powerful and authentic convictions and unique point of view.

Tour of Mrs. Estée Lauder’s Office

The core values that Estée established — respect for the individual, integrity, generosity of spirit, entrepreneurship — remain at the heart of The Estée Lauder Companies, now the global leader in prestige beauty. Today more than 60,000 employees continue Estée's bold, breakthrough efforts, with a commitment to helping millions of consumers discover and express their own beauty.

Estée Lauder's Circle of Friends

Estée became friends with some of the most influential celebrities, royalty and artists of her time and was known for her impeccable style and warm, gracious entertaining.

Frank Sinatra; Nancy Reagan; Estèe

With Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan

Diana Vreeland and Estèe

With famed Editor Diana Vreeland at the 1973 Met Gala

Prince Charles and Estèe

With Prince Charles of Wales and Princess Diana of Wales at the Aramis Cup Tournament

Princess Grace and Estèe

Hosting a dinner party for Princess Grace of Monaco at Estée's townhouse, 1978

We use cookies to ensure our website works properly, and to collect statistics to provide you with the best experience. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to this. Find out more about how we use cookies and how to manage your settings.

AcceptDo not accept