11 of the World's Oldest and Most Loved Luxury Beauty Brands
Welcome to August, Town&Country's Beauty Month.
In the beauty world, people seek the fountain of youth. But when it comes to the business of beauty, the number of years a brand has been around gives it a longer heritage, and also an advantage in terms of gaining a following and perfecting its products.
Let's review the history of some of the world's best-loved beauty brands.
Elizabeth Arden did not take its name from its founder. Not in the beginning, at least. In 1910, Florence Nightingale Graham moved from Canada to New York, where she managed her own salon called Red Door on Fifth Avenue. She then conducted business under the name of Elizabeth Arden.
Arden's beauty brand played a revolutionary role in the suffrage movement in
New York-born Estée Lauder plunged into the skincare industry in 1946, when she and her husband, Joseph Lauder, sold a line that consisted of four skincare products: cleansing oil, lotion, all-purpose crème, and a crème pack. The line did so well the products made the shelves of Saks Fifth Avenue in a span of two years. Her products sold out in two days.
One of the brand’s breakthrough products was the Youth-Dew, a blend of jasmine, rose, patchouli, and vetiver. Estée Lauder bequeathed the beauty industry with a notable company practice: the introduction of the “Gift With Purchase” promo, a practice adopted by many of the brand’s rivals.
Today, mother company Estée Lauder Companies is made up of the pioneering Estée Lauder brand, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Jo Malone London, La Mer, Tom Ford Beauty, M.A.C, and more. The brand is now 72 years old.
La Mer’s origin was of a happy accident. It started when physicist
Coco Chanel made the history books when her namesake fashion house became the first-ever brand to release its own perfume in 1921. The fashion icon commissioned Russian perfumer to the tsars, Ernest Beaux to create the scent. It was the fifth scent presented to her, which eventually became the best-selling fragrance in the world. That was the Chanel No.5. Three years later, Chanel released its first makeup collection. The brand had later founded its beauty arm, the “Société des Parfums Chanel.”
Guerlain started in 1828—making it 190 years old today—when perfumer named Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain opened his first shop at rue de Rivoli. Members of Parisian high society flocked to the boutique and the perfumer soon saw loyal patrons in Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander III, and Queen Isabella of Spain.
When the year 1870 rolled in, the perfumer introduced his first collection of cosmetics, beginning with the production of Sapoceti soaps. His son, Aimé, took over when he retired from the business. The business was at the helm of five generations of Guerlains before it was sold to the LVMH in 1994. Some of its most well-known products include the Rouge G lipsticks and the Terracotta collection.
Unlike the other beauty brands on this list, La Prairie began with a more scientific approach in search of agelessness. The beauty label’s story begins at a remote location in Switzerland’s Lake Leman.
After her daughter Camille was born, her life took another turn. She and her friend Micheline decided to get into the beauty business by selling Swiss face creams. They repackaged the products and gave them a new scent and the very first Annick Goutal store opened in December 1980. Annick Goutal’s first perfume was named after the furniture shop she once owned—Folavril—and got its scent from the tomato leaf. One year later, the beauty house launched Eau d’Hadrien, one of its most iconic fragrances. The business was later passed on to Camille and her friend Isabelle Doyen.
The 146-year-old Penhaligon’s began in London, under the direction of barber William Penhaligon. The barber would attend to the Shah of Persia’s beard, and he would always dab an eau de toilette on his client. To launch his namesake line of fragrances, Penhaligon was inspired by the scent of steam and aromas coming from the nearby Turkish baths in Piccadilly, and this unusual fragrance was what brought Hammam Bouquet to life in 1872.
William Penhaligon also had a special place in the royal court as official barber and perfumer after Queen Victoria’s reign. It was noted in the first warrant that the distinction was granted as a “devotee of natural products only which was Penhaligon’s trademark.”
Today, the brand still holds two royal warrants—one from the Duke of Edinburgh and another from the Prince of Wales.
Shu Uemura forged his way in the beauty industry as a makeup artist in Hollywood. The discovery of his talent, however, was purely coincidental. He was working on the set of the film My Geisha in
A few years later, Uemura moved back to Japan, where he solidified his place in the beauty industry by founding his own company, initially called Japan Makeup Inc. His skincare line was a hit worldwide, and in 1983, the company underwent a rebranding and took its founder’s name. It was launched worldwide, where it was graciously received as a cult beauty brand around the world. It was later acquired by L’Oréal.
One of the oldest beauty brands still present today, 167-year-old Kiehl’s originated as an apothecary in New York’s East Village in 1851. Apprentice John Kiehl purchased it and renamed it as Kiehl Pharmacy, and later, Kiehl’s apprentice, Irving Morse purchased the pharmacy from his mentor. Kiehl’s signature scent Original Musk was formulated by the Russian Prince Karl, who created the first blend and named it “Love Oil.” It later introduced other cult
Similar to the history of Kiehl’s, Shiseido also began as a pharmacy in the Ginza district in 1872, making it 146 years old today. In 1915, it fully embraced a transition into a cosmetics company under the company’s president Shinzo Fukuhara. It was only in 1934 that Shiseido opened its first salon along the trendy Ginza strip, where it altered the Japanese beauty industry by providing hair services as well as makeup and kimono dressing besides the retail of its cosmetics.