The very idea that fashions in makeup change with the seasons is one that the beauty doyenne pioneered.

Since its launch in 1977, FASHION magazine has been giving Canadian readers in-depth reports on the industry’s most influential figures and expert takes on the worlds of fashion, beauty and style. In this series, we explore the depths of our archive to bring you some of the best fashion features we’ve ever published. This story, originally titled “Follow the Lauder” by the late David Livingstone, was originally published in FASHION’s Summer 1981 issue.

Creator of Youth Dew and other lasting scents; Clinique, the first allergy-tested line of skin treatment products; and Aramis products for men, she is enshrined on top of frilly boudoir tables and inside manly medicine chests around the world. For decades, she has been an influence in the ephemeral realms of fragrance and makeup, and for the millions who daily gaze into mirrors and wonder what, in this lifetime, can be done, she has answers.

A visit with Estée Lauder is a plunge through the looking glass, a lesson in enchantment that begins with a chauffeur greeting you at the airport and ends with gifts tied up with bountiful bows. Mrs. Lauder has four residences scattered on both sides of the Atlantic, but even calling on her business headquarters in New York’s General Motors Building, one is received as a guest. “Like looking at a face of perfect makeup” is how New Yorker writer Kennedy Fraser once described what it’s like to visit the three floors of sumptuous offices. Decorated in white and Lauder’s signature blue, the reception room on the 37th floor is, as Fraser declared, “a study in blue eyeshadow,” with windows that offer a spectacular view that makes the city look small and graspable. “The view is truly, I think, one of the most beautiful in New York,” observes publicity director Mrs. Barbara Sadtler, pointing out a penthouse believed to belong to Warren Beatty. And over there is Central Park wherein are located three children’s playgrounds, funded by a charitable foundation established by Mrs. Lauder and her husband, Mr. Joseph Lauder. An outstanding feature of the playgrounds, as Mrs. Sadtler fancifully relates, are “fabulous little treehouses—places to climb up, sit in and overlook your empire.”

In the Lauder offices, Fortuny fabric, French porcelain and period furniture abound. In fact, there is so much finery that one can imagine carrying around a recorded cassette. However, no machine could spread rapture the way Mrs. Sadtler does. Breathing enthusiasm, she takes me on a spree, disguised as a tour. While Mrs. Becky McGreevy, vice-president of public relations, is elsewhere making last minute preparations for my eventual meeting with Mrs. Lauder, we climb to the recently refurbished 39th floor where the hush of monastic corridors is disturbed only by the sound of our eager feet on the tile floor. Hallways intersect at pleasing angles, and everywhere you turn, the eye is entertained by a stunning array of contemporary paintings, sculpture and prints. We pass a receptionist, who says the art gives her food for thought, and descend to 38 as Mrs. Sadtler expounds one of Mrs. Lauder’s favorite theories: “If you are surrounded by beauty then you create beauty.” The point is illustrated again as we see more art arranged in gallery-like settings, and then move down to 37.

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