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Patriarch Partners’ Lynn Tilton Talks Innovation

As an entrepreneur who has owned more than 240 companies over the last 14 years, she knows more than a little about adapting and innovating.

Entrepreneur Lynn Tilton knows more than a little about adapting and innovating.

This story first appeared in the May 30, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Tilton, chief executive officer of Patriarch Partners LLC, has owned more than 240 companies over the last 14 years. She currently owns 75 businesses including beauty brands Stila Cosmetics and Jane Cosmetics. “I could spend all my time as an innovator and a creator and a technologist and I’d be a happy soul,” she said.

“I have owned so many companies and I come from so many different industries,” Tilton continued. “And it all begins with product. Product drives every one of my companies throughout my platform. And every business works from the customer backward. There are only two things that the customer covets. They are design and disruption. Design being the desire to be enveloped in elegance and beauty, to smile in your heart. And disruption is the excitement that comes from innovation, science and technology. And so whether I’m in aviation, automotive, apparel or beauty, my customers’ desires are the same. They’re looking for streamlined elegance and new and unique technologies.”

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Beauty isn’t an exception to that rule, she added. “Like everything else, it’s all about how you can create that white space and innovate and disrupt,” she said. “And so at my beauty house as well as across all my companies, design and disruption, design and disruption, design disruption. It is our mantra and it is our morning prayer. One has to have the courage to out-innovate oneself. It’s always frightening to disrupt long-embedded stronghold beliefs, industries. But we no longer live in a world of survival of the fittest. It’s really survival of the adaptist. And if you hold on tight, you will die. And so we have no choice but to let go. To dream the dream, to close our eyes and build the vision that we see.”

Among those is a new look for one of her beauty brands. “In this world of technology, start-ups and electric companies can easily displace long-embedded brands,” said Tilton. “That gives us opportunity, but it also keeps us on our toes. So at Stila, even though I’m up over 30 percent in the first quarter, I’ve decided to sweep my shelves and created all new packaging. My desire was really to envelope my customer in elegance and to shower her in jewels. And so even my gondolas are being completely recreated. People say to me, ‘You’re taking back all that inventory?’ Yeah. Because if I don’t out-innovate myself, someone will come and take my place.”

Tilton also is committed to giving back through her beauty brands. With her Jane brand, every time a consumer buys a Jane product, Tilton donates one to a battered-women’s shelter. She’s also toured shelters nationwide with Jane and Stila makeup artists and celebrity hairstylist Ken Pavés. “It’s really my hope that I can teach young girls that compassion is contagious and that kindness is cool,” said Tilton. “But ladies, it’s up to us to make it a reality.”