Beginning as  a  producer of  unique nail  enamels, Charles Revson   (1906–75) founded a mass  production cosmetics firm  that  he  built  into  an  international corporation. Revson  was known for his creativity  and  perfectionism. The  Revlon Company modernized cosmetics advertising techniques, and  was an early practitioner of the color  story.

Early Career

Born  in  Boston, Revson  was the  middle  son  of working-class parents living in tenement housing. Brought up  in Manchester, New  Hampshire, Revson  moved to New York City as a young  man  and worked  for a dress company before  joining a cosmetics company that  sold  nail  polish. Along  with  his  brother Joseph  and chemist Charles Lachman, Revson  founded the  Revlon  Cosmetics Company in 1932.  Using  pigments instead of dyes, their  unique nail enamel was first sold  to beauty  salons  and later department stores.

Marketing Philosophy

Revson  and  the Revlon  Company are well known as the proponents of the modern  beauty  ad,  letting  the  picture tell  the  story,  and  like  other beauty  mavens Elizabeth Arden  and  Helena Rubinstein, following  the  philosophy of beauty products as a necessary luxury.  Their first consumer advertisement came  out  in 1935 and, by 1939, Revlon had introduced a matching nail polish  and lipstick line. The  Revlon  Company had  grown  to multimillion dollar  status by the  beginning of World  War II. Revlon  was one  of the  early leaders  in the  color  story  advertising technique by 1944, and after 1945 the company began  its growth as a general cosmetics firm. This  expansion has  included developing different product lines for varying  age, race, and  gender groups. By 1970,  the  Revlon  Company was the second largest  cosmetics corporation in the  world  (behind Avon).  In 1973,  Revson  helped launch the  supermodel phenomenon when  he hired  Lauren Hutton as the face of Revlon. Further mass media successes were the Charlie  Perfume ads of the early 1970s.


Revson’s  personal life often  gained  attention, as he married three  times  and  was known to be a harsh employer. Revson  remained the  president of Revlon  until 1962,  and  served  as chairman until  his death in 1975.  After his death, the  company continued to flourish. The  Revlon Company surpassed one billion  dollars  in sales in 1977. MacAndrews and Forbes  Holdings bought the company in 1985.

In 1956,  Revson  established the  Charles H. Revson  Foundation, which  concentrates philanthropic efforts  in New  York  City among the  Jewish community, health, and  educational institutions. The  Charles H. Revson  Fellowship program selects 10 fellows each year for a year of enrichment study at Columbia University. Foundation grant  disbursements as of 2008 total more  than $127 million  with an endowment of over $200 million.

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