LONDON — Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, died Monday after suffering a brain hemorrhage. She was 64.
Roddick, a long-standing campaigner for human rights and environmental causes, was with her husband and daughters, according to a statement from the family.
She "was admitted to St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester, close to her home, yesterday [Sunday] evening when she collapsed after complaining of a sudden headache," the statement said. "Mrs. Roddick was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit and her husband Gordon and two daughters Sam and Justine were with her when she died."
Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive officer of L'Oréal, which acquired The Body Shop last year, said: "All of us at L'Oréal are shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Anita Roddick's passing away. Anita was quite simply an extraordinary woman: inspired, visionary, very brave and extremely generous. L'Oréal had the great privilege, over the past year or so, of sharing in her passion. Anita was an inspiration to us all and a tremendous force for good."
Deep shock and sadness were also registered by Body Shop chairman Adrian Bellamy in a statement. "Anita was not only our founder, but she was also the heart and passion of The Body Shop and with her we achieved so much, whether on animal rights, human rights, community trade, or through the founding of organizations like Children on the Edge.
"It is no exaggeration to say that she changed the world of business with her campaigns for social and environmental responsibility," he continued in the statement.
With her flamboyant personality, very public stance against perceived corporate greed and outspoken opinions on traditional stereotypes of attractiveness, Roddick will long be remembered as a maverick in the world of beauty.
She was at the forefront of the naturals movement, offering products based on everyday and exotic ingredients; promoted environmental issues by encouraging recycling, and spearheaded beauty's ethical drive, with high-impact campaigns against animal testing and promoting fair trade — long before they became fashionable causes. Roddick also endorsed a holistic approach to beauty and promoted a more inclusive take on what is considered appealing.Born the daughter of an Italian immigrant couple in Littlehampton, England, in 1942, Roddick was among the most colorful and quotable executives in the cosmetics industry. Her frank personality was key to the success of The Body Shop, which she founded in 1976, with her husband Gordon. Awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1988 and named Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2003, Roddick's name is indelibly linked with the beauty chain.
When she announced her intention to sell her stake in the firm to L'Oréal in 2006, it caused consternation in some quarters as she was seen as befriending former foes. At a press conference, she contested that opinion.
"It's not selling out," she said at the conference, which she attended with L'Oréal's top brass, the company's then chairman and ceo Lindsay Owen-Jones and Agon. "And the assumption that I am sitting next to an enemy is one that is absolutely wrong."
At the press conference to announce The Body Shop buyout, Owen-Jones expressed his admiration for Roddick the businesswoman, adding, "Though sometimes she's said things to hurt me."
Indeed, Roddick had a no-holds-barred approach to business and regularly railed against her competitors' homogenous depiction of beauty. In her book, "Business as Unusual," she said of the industry, "It makes me angry — not just because it's an industry dominated by men trying to create needs that don't exist, but for what it does at its worst. At its most extreme, the beauty industry seems to have decided it needs to make women unhappy with what they look like. It plays on insecurities and self-doubt about image and ageing by projecting impossible ideals of youth and beauty. It blinds us with science without giving us the kind of practical information we could use. And it has rarely celebrated women outside Caucasian culture. But then I don't believe an industry, which so many women find so unsettling, could really claim to celebrate or cherish women of any culture."
Through The Body Shop, Roddick celebrated traditional beauty remedies inspired by indigenous populations from around the world. In addition, she had a profound effect on the contemporary cosmetics industry by bringing to the masses environmentally conscious products at accessible prices. By setting up her own stores and a network of franchised doors, she bypassed traditional distribution and generated a cult-like following among traditional and antiestablishment consumers alike, as well as teenagers taking their first tentative steps in the world of cosmetics.A pioneer of the freestanding beauty chain, The Body Shop was a leading entity in a movement that included Origins, Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret Beauty. The Body Shop, however, began as a humble single-unit store in Brighton, England.
Roddick trained as a teacher before a stint on a kibbutz in Israel led to a trip around the world. After returning to England, her mother introduced her to Gordon Roddick.
"Our bond was instant," she said on her Web site, anitaroddick.com. "Together we opened first a restaurant, and then a hotel in Littlehampton. We married in 1970, me with a baby on my back and another in my belly.
"I started The Body Shop in 1976 simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters, while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas," she continued. "I had no training or experience and my only business acumen was Gordon's advice to take sales of 300 pounds [about $600 at current exchange] a week." That store was followed within six months by a second. The Body Shop now counts more than 2,100 doors in 55 countries. When the chain was sold to L'Oréal last year, it was valued at 652 million pounds, or about $1,322 billion at current exchange.
Ethical sourcing, recycling and traditional beauty remedies, all of which have become synonymous with The Body Shop, were inspired by Roddick's life. "My early travels had given me a wealth of experience," she said on her Web site. "I had spent time in farming and fishing communities with pre-industrial peoples and been exposed to body rituals of women from all over the world. Also the frugality that my mother exercised during the war years made me question retail conventions. Why waste a container when you can refill it? The foundation of The Body Shop's environmental activism was born out of ideas like these."
Roddick added The Body Shop's signature green decor came about as it was "the only color that we could find to cover the damp, moldy walls of my first shop."
The company went public in 1984 and tackled the U.S. in 1988. That turned out to be a particularly tough market due to stiff competition and her determination to stick to the chain's ethos."Viewed from Europe, the United States is the graveyard of European retailers," she said in "Business as Unusual."
But Roddick was not one to be daunted by challenges. In her efforts to promote human rights at a grassroots level, she took on multinational conglomerates and governments. Roddick's involvement with humanitarian and environmental campaigns ran from working with Greenpeace to stop the dumping of toxic waste in the North Sea, to teaming with Refuge, the U.K. support service for women and children suffering from domestic violence. Her activism continued after her day-to-day association with The Body Shop ended following its acquisition. Roddick's most recent posting online, dated Sept. 6, referred to Amnesty International's highlighting of the case of two prisoners held in Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Despite her gregarious nature, she described herself on her Web site as a natural outsider, who was drawn to other outsiders and rebels.
"James Dean was my schoolgirl idol," she recounted. "I also had a strong sense of moral outrage, which was awakened when I found a book about the Holocaust at the age of 10."
Her sense of humor also was often evident. Following press reports that she intended to give away her money, she responded to pleading letters through her Web site.
"I will be giving my money away — that's a fact — but not at the moment. I've always said that I don't want to die rich — it's mentioned in my book 'Business as Unusual' — first published in 2000," she said, adding she planned to set up a charitable foundation. "Please give me a break — I'm not dead yet!"
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