A few days before the celebration of March 8, Women’s Day, it is a good time to review history and learn about the beginnings of the cosmetics business. Is about a sector designed by and for women since they were themselves the pioneers of an industry that today generates millions of profits around the world.
If we look back we will realize that the first cosmetic brands were born from the mind and work of a group of visionaries and female entrepreneurs who championed the empowerment of women. If today women have difficulties in obtaining equal treatment in the world of work, imagine how it had to be for these figures who had to live during the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th.
They were not only pioneering entrepreneurs, but they changed the mentality of a society. The woman began to think about taking care of herself, putting on makeup and combing her hair to feel comfortable with herself and not just to please her partners. It also meant a whole change in the reputation of a series of products that until the arrival of those first brands were frowned upon and related to “bad living” women.
Today in Vozpópuli we are going to give a history class because the beginnings of cosmetics are also worthy of being told and vindicated. You can also discover the interesting stories behind the big firms that today are known worldwide, that you can find in any cosmetic store and that, possibly, you have on your dressing table.
From daughter of slaves to being America’s first millionaire
Recently, Netflix has launched back to stardom to Madame C.J. Walker thanks to A self-made woman. It is a miniseries starring Octavia Spencer who gives life to her heroine, a stranger to the Spanish market but a mainstay in America’s beauty world. At the height of the movement Black Lives Matter, who claims the importance and equality of the black community in America, his figure takes on new importance as a source of inspiration.
A true visionary of the world of cosmetics, Madame CJ Walker had to struggle with many barriers: woman, of color, defender of free love and champion of the integration of women into the world of work. We are going to talk about a new story in which a problem becomes a business opportunity and it is through her alopecia that this woman discovered a cosmetic that made her the first millionaire woman in the United States.
But let’s start the story at the beginning. The daughter of slave parents, Sarah Breedlove, who is her real name, was orphaned at the age of seven and married at just 14. Far from having a quiet family life, six years later she was abandoned by her husband after a relationship. loaded with mistreatment. Faced with this stressful situation, alone and with a two-year-old daughter, began to lose an alarming amount of hair.
Breedlove decided to start a new life in Saint Louis where he began to work hand washing the clothes of wealthy families. In this new city he met Annie Turnbo Malone, a manufacturer of curly hair products for whom he started working. in exchange for receiving an ointment with which he discovered how his hair was strengthened again.
Taking herself as a guinea pig, Madame CJ Walker began researching how to refine the results of her boss’s products. working with natural products and ingredients in your own kitchen. In this home-made and personal way, “Wonderful Hair Gromer” was born, the first cosmetic designed specifically for black women.
His product became what today we would call ‘top sales’ and allowed him to create an empire that had more than 25,000 employees throughout the country. Empathetic and generous, and turned into a millionaire, CJ Walker dedicated her last years of life to social causes and to defend the role of women of color in the labor market since she was aware that freedom for women would only come after her incorporation to work. This impressive life, full of ups and downs, took its toll at the age of 51 when he died of a heart attack, leaving for posterity a story of tenacity, struggle and improvement.
Elizabeth Arden: the power of red lips
At the beginning of the 20th century, Elizabeth Arden came to the world of cosmetics to completely change the rules that until then existed regarding makeup, since she he owes the fact that women wear makeup because they want it, not to please their partners.
This absolute change in reputation is the result of strong marketing campaigns in which Elizabeth Arden defined the makeup that a lady should wear. It was a matter of time before women began to crowd their beauty salons in order to show off the new trendy aesthetic. For the first time, the fact of lip painting was not something frowned upon and associated with prostitutes, but lipstick could live freely in a woman’s purse and use it on the dressing table of any upscale restaurant.
Again, Arden’s business success is accompanied by a social sentiment. We are talking about the time of the suffragettes, women who demonstrated demanding their right to vote. In support of her gender, the businesswoman decided to give all those who gathered to claim their rights on Fifth Avenue in New York a red lipstick. In no time, this cosmetic became a symbol of feminine power.
Estée Lauder: Any Woman Can Be Beautiful
Daughter of a Hungarian mother and a Czechoslovakian father, Estee Lauder was born in 1906 in the New York borough of Queens and became another visionary from the world of beauty who managed to create and run together with her husband one of the most innovative and prestigious companies in the sector.
“No one has ever been successful without taking risks … You have to be able to recognize the moment and take advantage of it without delay,” was one of his mottos. Seeking that success he soon realized that a change in his last name to make it more commercial transforming in the 30s the original ‘Lauter’ by the now mythical ‘Lauder’.
You should never underestimate a woman for being beautiful
His passion for beauty, and his faith in the power that could accompany him, led him to create four skin care products that were true to his business philosophy that he summarized with phrases such as “any woman can be beautiful” or “You should never underestimate a woman for being beautiful”.
The beginning of his empire began in the beauty salons where convinced future clients by demonstrating of their products while they were caught under the dryers. It also pioneered a basic marketing tool that is still used today, which consists of giving away free cosmetic samples so that women can be convinced of the results of their products before they buy them.
“I never dreamed of success. I worked to reach it,” said Estée Lauder, who in 1946 finally decided to create her own brand, which she named after her, consisting of a line of beauty products. The great revolution came only four years later when it launched the ‘Youth Dew’ perfume, a bath oil that could also be used as a fragrance. Nevertheless, its most famous product is the night serum, an innovation that is still in top form today and one unit is sold every 8 seconds throughout the world.
Among his goals is also to be the first American woman to be awarded the Legion of Honor in 1978 and be the only woman on the list of “The 20 Most Influential Business Geniuses of the 20th Century” that Time magazine published in 1998.
After getting her company public, Estée Lauder decided to retire in 1995 and died in 2004 at the age of 97… a figure that is the best advertisement for a beauty care firm.
Helena Rubinstein: a product for every type of woman
Chaja Rubinstein, known worldwide as Helena, founded a cosmetics company that turned her into one of the richest women in the world which allowed him to dedicate himself to philanthropic work and his passion as an art collector.
Its beginnings take us back to a family of humble origins. She was born in 1872 in the Jewish quarter of Krakow and was the eldest of eight siblings. Interested in studying medicine, her parents decide to send her to live with relatives in Australia at the end of the century. In the luggage, his mother did not hesitate to include him twelve jars of face cream created following the family recipe… I did not know that I was changing the course of the history of cosmetics.
Upon arriving in Melbourne, Chaja discovered how her white, radiant and flawless skin was the envy of all her neighbors. The secret was the cream that came with him from Europe and that he decided to start selling to his acquaintances. In this curious way his first cream was born, which he called Valaze. Local success convinced him to take the step of advertising in newspapers to make it known throughout the country and in just two years it had already generated a profit of $ 24,000.
His next step was the opening of his first beauty center in Melbourne in 1905 but he soon felt the need to train in the sector and decided to leave the salon in the hands of his sister to travel around Europe. Back on his native continent, learned about the different skin types from dermatologists and opened a new center in Paris but the outbreak of the First World War made her move to the United States where she finally created her great company.
During the 30s, Helena Rubinstein could already boast of being one of the richest women in America and in the 50s his empire consisted of 40,000 workers and 14 factories of cosmetics. Jealousy did not take long to arrive and his great rivalry with Elizabeth Arden, of which we have already spoken, is known, with a history full of attacks, worker signings and theft of formulas of its products.
There are no ugly women, only lazy women
Among her innovations you have to know that she was the creator of the brush that incorporates mascara and eyelashes. the inventor of the waterproof mask‘which she created for the national synchronized swimming team in 1939. “There are no ugly women, only lazy women!” is one of the famous slogans of this famous cosmetics pioneer.
I hope you are in health and well.
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