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Elizabeth Arden – A Century of Beauty

Elizabeth Arden celebrates 100 years of its successful existence. What better way to celebrate than to remember the struggles of its founder Elizabeth Arden.

Elizabeth Arden portraitWhen a young Florence Nightingale Graham arrived in New York City from rural Woodbridge, Canada in 1908, she probably hadn’t thought that she will become the future of American cosmetics industry. Or maybe she had.

Having tried her hand at various careers, she settled into a job as a cashier at an upscale skin treatment parlour. She quickly learnt all the nuances of the business. Borrowing $6000 from her brother, she soon started her own salon in 1910, which she named, and herself, Elizabeth Arden. The name was inspired from a Tennyson poem, ‘Enoch Arden’.

Miss Arden painted the door of that first Salon, located on fashionable Fifth Avenue, a bold red hue. It stood apart from the already crowded street of retail shops. The door became a symbol of beauty, luxury and youth, and later, the logo of Elizabeth Arden. Behind that door was a three-room beauty salon where Miss Arden offered remarkable beauty treatments in a luxury environment.

From giving facial treatments to sweeping, Miss Arden did everything herself to ensure only the best services to her clients. Miss Arden firmly believed that beauty was an intelligent combination of nature and science. Unsatisfied with the greasy creams of those times, she employed a chemist to make a product with the light texture of whipped cream. The result was an effective beauty cream with the texture of meringue and an appealing scent. She called it Venetian Cream Amoretta.

Since the lotions of the day were harsh, Miss Arden went on to develop a soothing product called Elizabeth Arden Ardena Skin Tonic. It was the first time that a brand had incorporated the name of the founder and the company in the product name.

Old Elizabeth Arden advertisement historyA trip to Paris in 1914 further widened her ideas. She saw fashionable women attending social events with lacquered eyelashes and rouge tinted cheeks there. With her usual astuteness, she immediately saw an opportunity. After returning to New York, she formulated the first rouges and tinted powders as well as mascara and eye shadow for American women. Soon makeup, previously reserved for stage actresses, became the height of fashion among the grand dames of society.

The Victorian attitudes of that time discouraged women from applying makeup. Miss Arden again took no time in fighting for women’s rights. She participated in the suffrage movement, marching with women on Fifth Avenue for the right to vote. Noticing that the suffragettes wore red lipstick as a symbol of their movement, Miss Arden tapped into her entrepreneurial instincts and provided them with Elizabeth Arden lipstick.

Elizabeth Arden has a lot of firsts to its credit. In 1917, Miss Arden offered the first travel sizes. By 1918, she was the first in the cosmetics business to train and send out a team of travelling demonstrators and saleswomen. In less than 10 years, Elizabeth Arden had firmly established its place in the market as a top prestige beauty company. In 1929, Miss Arden was offered $15 million for the company, which she boldly refused. In 1930, she proclaimed that only three American names are known in every corner of the globe: Singer Sewing Machines, Coca-Cola and Elizabeth Arden.

In the 1930s, Miss Arden introduced one of her most revolutionary ideas: colour choices in mascara, rouge, lipstick and powder. She also created her legendary Eight Hour Cream in 1930. The combination of petrolatum, beta hydroxy acid, and vitamin E made the apricot-hued balm extremely effective. Even today the Eight Hour Cream maintains a cult status and remains a favourite of some of the most beautiful celebrities in the world including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Victoria Beckham, Cate Blanchett, Thandie Newton and Emma Thompson.

elizabeth arden store counter 1940Another first in their long list of accomplishments is the introduction of destination spas in 1934. Located near Mount Vernon, Maine, the luxurious Maine Chance spa offered well-to-do clients not only indulgent pampering, but guidance in diet, health and fitness. Having an exclusive capacity of 20 guests, Miss Arden billed it as a place where clients could be pampered selfishly and unapologetically. Maine Chance had amenities like tennis courts, bowling alleys, a stable of horses and even a speedboat. Miss Arden’s clients returned home glowing – both emotionally and physically.

She soon expanded her empire to include fragrances too. Born in the fragrant flower fields of Grasse, France and named for the rolling meadows of Kentucky’s Blue Grass country, Blue Grass is one of Miss Arden’s most personal fragrance creations. Her company executives argued that women wouldn’t buy a fragrance associated with a horse country. But Miss Arden’s foresight proved correct. Blue Grass became a best-selling fragrance.

Her innovative products were matched by brilliant marketing. The brand ran the first cosmetic commercials at movie houses. Miss Arden cultivated her reputation as a beauty authority with newsletters offering advice on beauty problems and information on the newest launches.

The outbreak of World War II did not manage to burn a hole in Miss Arden’s profits. She stocked up on raw materials early and offset the loss of income from overseas by expanding her business in the United States. Business at Elizabeth Arden was booming even at the height of the war.

elizabeth arden store interior in red todayAlong with her business, the list of famous addresses where Elizabeth Arden Red Door salons could be found also grew. Located in the majority of fashion capitals around the globe – from the gray stone on the rue de la Paix to the red brick on Old Bond Street, and from Calle Alcalá to Via Condotti – the Red Door salons offered luxurious services. Miss Arden realized that indulgent beauty was, as it is today, a universal language.

Not surprisingly, Miss Arden was lauded in a number of top publications, including Fortune, Time and The New York Times, for her business acumen and success. Fortune summed up her drive and dedication, stating, “No other woman of this generation has built a business like hers.” She graced the cover of Time magazine in 1946. The New York Times credited Miss Arden with popularising cosmetics by creating products at “fashionable addresses in which they could be professionally applied”.

Before her death in 1966, Miss Arden had created both an empire and a new billion-dollar industry. Her corporate successors remained true to her visionary wishes and took forward her legacy with inventive products entrenched in luxury.

Needless to say, that in the past 100 years, Elizabeth Arden and her corporate successors, have enforced and reinforced her words, that “to be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman”. Her dedication, good judgment, and sheer hard work have made Elizabeth Arden what it is today. Remembering Elizabeth Arden and her struggles is the best way to celebrate 100 years of the cosmetics and fragrance brand.