Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden  (1878–1966) was known for founding and  operating a chain  of high-end beauty  spas, Maine  Chance, and  beauty salons, marked by her  trademark  red door. She is credited with establishing makeup as proper for a ladylike image during a period when  such  use associated the wearer with the lower classes and  unrespectable professions; this new image included the subtle application of cosmetics with  a lighter  touch, a more  refined  look  for the  high-class woman. During her  lifetime,  Arden’s  company was known for  its fine  line  of high-end cosmetics and  perfumes. Along  with her  chief rival, Helena Rubinstein, Arden helped establish early cosmetics marketing practices and a female presence in the male  corporate world  during the  first half of the  20th  century. Arden  also had a second career—she  owned   a  stable of thoroughbred race horses, Maine  Chance Farms,  which gained    prominence  in   the  1940s  and 1950s.

Early  Years

Born Florence Nightingale Graham  to   tenant  farmers in  Canada, Arden  never  finished   high   school  but   held a  series   of  low-paying jobs while living in Toronto. An early  attempt at  nursing exposed    her   to   various    skin salves   and   creams  used   to treat   skin   injuries  or  maladies.  While   living  at  home, she  often  experimented with various  ingredients in her private   laboratory, attempting  to  turn the   salves  into beauty  skincare products. In 1908,  at the  age of 30, Arden moved  to New York City with her brother, where  she was employed for a time as a bookkeeper by the  Squibb Pharmaceutical Company. By 1910,  she  had  found work in Eleanor Adair’s beauty  salons, and  there  she became a specialist  in facial treatments.

Early  Career And Beauty Philosophy

Arden  opened up  a shop  on  Fifth  Avenue  with  new  partner Elizabeth Hubbard,  where  she  developed a line  of Venetian beauty  preparations, an  identity choice  lending the  pricey  lotions and  powders prestige—this strategy  would become her  trademark. When the  partnership broke  up, Florence Graham became  Elizabeth Arden,  taking  her  former partner’s first name, and  legend  has it, the last name  of the title character in Alfred, Lord  Tennyson’s poem  “Enoch Arden.” This  is also when  the  door  to her  beauty  salon  became red, to distinguish  her entrance from the more  common doorways around her shop. Among the  products from  this  early period  around 1912  were Arden’s first rouges and tinted powders.

Arden  formulated her marketing and product philosophy very quickly through research and experimentation. In these  early years Arden  added  fragrances to her lotions and  powders, and  hired  a chemist to lighten the texture of the greasy and heavy creams commonly found at the  time.  Her  development of the  total beauty concept led her  to expand her  salon  by including the  services  of a hairdresser and  a milliner within  one  location, thus  providing easy access  to supplementary beauty  routines. This  idea  would  later  lead  to her  founding of beauty  spas.  She also trained her  workers to apply makeup, and  to teach  their  customers to apply it, with  a lighter  touch and  subtlety. Understated makeup became classier  and thereby more  respectable for  ladies  to  wear.  Arden  was  an  early  proponent  of the  beauty  routine and  the  shared meanings and  rituals  that  that  entailed within female culture.

In 1914,  Arden  traveled  to Paris,  studying Parisians’  more  sophisticated cosmetics  techniques, ingredients, and,  especially,  their  use of eye makeup. This  last was harder for Arden’s  American clientele to accept  than rouges and  face powders. It is believed that Arden’s eye products were the first to be introduced in the United States  and  that  they  were  a difficult  sell. In 1914,  she  opened a second salon  in Washington, D.C.,  which  proved  a success, and  her  creams and  line of cosmetics were sold  in department stores  all along  the  East  Coast. By 1916,  the Arden  Company ranked first in the nation in prestige skincare sales.

Middle Career And Company Expansion

At age 37, in 1918, Arden  married Thomas Lewis and became a U.S. citizen. Also in 1918,  she expanded her  salon  services  into  product sales; her  husband supervised production and  distribution while Arden  dealt  with the  more  public  image of the company by attending to the exclusive  salons. Arden  pink  became her signature color, though any allusions to pink femininity would  be wide off the mark, as Arden  gained  a reputation as a tough manager and was the sole stockholder in her company throughout her life.

In 1925, the Arden Company topped $2 million  in sales, and by 1929 that figure had  doubled. In a bold  move, Arden  expanded during the Great  Depression; she believed  that  women would  still be seeking  ways to lift their  spirits,  and  brought out  such  innovations as a lipstick  kit, which  contained several  different shades. This,  along with different perfumes for different times  of the day, enabled women to  change their  cosmetics along  with  their  dress;  this  may  have  led  to  today’s predilection for day makeup and  night  makeup. In 1934,  Arden  opened Maine Chance Beauty  Resort,  accessing the  beauty  ritual  culture she had  helped to establish. The  Maine  spa was a varied treatment facility where  women lost weight, immersed in Arden’s  new  bath  salts, and  slathered themselves with  her  bath  lotions,  all for  $500  a week.  During the  Depression she  also  marketed her  first fragrance, Blue  Grass  (1935).  By the  mid  1930s,  Arden  owned, manufactured, and  marketed around 108  different products. She  also owned  approximately 29 salons  around the world. Arden  extended her reach  by making the first cosmetics commercial shown in movie houses in 1939.

World  War II and Late Career

During World  War  II, Arden  expanded her  domestic market coast  to coast,  and her  lines  went  into  all of the  major  department stores  at that  time.  Arden  also directly  addressed the  needs  of a growing  female  workforce; new  cosmetics and beauty  routines emerged that  helped women to present a more  professional appearance. As women entered the  armed  services, Arden  created Montezuma Red lipstick  to match the  red  trim  on  women’s uniforms. The  company remained a pacesetter, even during the  height of the  war. In 1945, Arden  entered into  a new enterprise, couture clothing, and  thereafter continued to challenge her  competitors by adding  men’s  fragrances and opening a men’s  boutique in the 1950s.  Her men’s lines included designs  by Charles James, Antonio Castillo, Fernando Sarmi, and Oscar  de la Renta.

Thoroughbred Racing

While  Arden  had  no  children, she  owned  a thoroughbred racing  stable,  Maine Chance Farms.  During the  1940s  and  1950s  it was a big contender in the  racing world  and  in 1945,  Maine  Chance Farms  was the  top  money-winning stable in the  United States.  In 1954,  her  filly Fascinator won  the  Kentucky Oaks.  Her biggest  win, however, was with Jet Pilot, a colt, who  won  the  Kentucky Derby  in 1947,  ridden by Eric Guerin and  trained by Tom Smith. Legend relates  that  one of Arden’s  best  creams (Eight  Hour Cream)  resulted from  formulas concocted for her thoroughbreds; she noticed their  effect on the stable handlers’ hands, and modified the formula for human marketing.

Arden’s Company After Her  Death

Before  her  death in 1966,  the  Elizabeth Arden  Company grossed an average  of $60 million  per year. Her empire consisted of 17 corporations and over 40 salons worldwide, with an additional 100-plus smaller  establishments. It is thought that she  created and  manufactured upward of 300  cosmetics and  fragrances. Since her  death, the  Elizabeth Arden  Company has  passed  through several  hands. Eli Lilly &  Company acquired it  in  1970,  cut  costs  and  streamlined procedures. and  then sold  it in 1987.  After changing hands twice  more,  Unilever PLC  purchased Elizabeth Arden  in 1990.  In 1992,  Calvin  Klein  joined  Elizabeth Arden as part of Unilever’s  Prestige  Personal Products Group. Between  1987 and 1993, Joseph  Ronchetti, president and  CEO  of Arden, greatly  expanded advertising. Those years also brought about research and  development of new products, including skin  protection care products, which  were recognized and  given awards by  the  Skin  Cancer Foundation. In  1991,  Arden’s  product  Elizabeth Taylor’s White  Diamonds was the  nation’s number one  fragrance. Today, the  company has  addressed issues  of social  concern and  does  not  conduct animal testing. The  company also contributes large donations to child  welfare causes  and AIDS research.

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