PARIS – Count Hubert d’Ornano, a trailblazing beauty executive who built Sisley into a worldwide powerhouse after founding the Orlane brand, died Friday. He was 89.
D’Ornano’s death was revealed in the Saturday edition of Le Figaro newspaper, which said a private family funeral will take place in Bouges-le-Château, in the Indre department of France.
This story first appeared in the September 28, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A mass for him is to be held in the Cathédrale Saint-Louis des Invalides, in Paris’ seventh arrondissement, on Thursday at 10 a.m.
“Hubert d’Ornano was one of the great pioneers of the cosmetics world,” said one of his old friends, Leonard A. Lauder, chairman emeritus of the The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “He started Orlane and built it into a force in Europe and then the U.S. After the sale, he came back [into the business] with Sisley. Both companies reflected the taste and the passion of this man, who loved the cosmetics business.”
D’Ornano was born on March 31, 1926, in Melgiew, Poland, and moved to France at the age of eight. He grew up familiar with the beauty industry, as his father, Guillaume d’Ornano, was a cofounder of Lancôme in the Thirties.
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In 1946, Hubert d’Ornano and his brother Michel, with the financial backing of their father, created a perfume company called Jean d’Albret. About three years later, Guillaume d’Ornano sold his stake in Lancôme and joined his sons at the firm, which produced scents such as Écusson, Rafale and Lavande.
The financial success of Écusson allowed for the d’Ornanos to launch the prestige skin-care brand Orlane in the early Fifties. The label used cutting-edge technologies of the time to cull new natural active ingredients. In 1953, when the label’s products were being sold as far afield as the U.S., it launched what was billed to be the first antiage cream with a formulation based on royal jelly. A makeup line was added to Orlane’s portfolio, as well.
The company debuted a treatment center on Paris’ Avenue George V in 1963, and three years later its first Institut Orlane, also in the city. The successful skin-care cream B21, filled with active ingredients, was introduced in 1968.
Jean d’Albret-Orlane was sold that year after Michel d’Ornano entered French politics. Meanwhile, Hubert d’Ornano remained the company’s chairman and chief executive officer — and headed the Jean-Louis Scherrer subsidiary, which opened a number of boutiques — until 1975.
In 1976, d’Ornano acquired Sisley, a then four-year-old beauty company specializing in “phytocosmetology,” or cosmetics based on botanical extracts, which he began developing with his wife, Countess Isabelle d’Ornano.
WWD wrote around that time that Sisley had become the fastest-growing treatment line in Neiman Marcus, where, alongside Bergdorf Goodman, it was sold exclusively in the U.S.
The stylish d’Ornanos were often seen on the social circuit and entertained in their homes, including their majestic Paris apartment in a town house overlooking the River Seine, where Sisley press launches are often held even to this day.
Over the past four decades, Sisley has been developed into a worldwide cosmetics behemoth, including skin and body care, fragrance and color cosmetics. In 2014, Sisley’s beauty sales reached 638 million euros, or $848 million at average exchange in the year, up 4.8 percent versus 2013. The privately held company placed 38th in the most recent edition of the WWD Beauty Inc Top 100 ranking.
Sisley remains family-run. D’Ornano’s son, Philippe, became chairman of the firm in 2013, while his sisters Christine d’Ornano and Élisabeth Botin also work in the company. Its bestsellers include Émulsion Écologique, Crème Réparatrice, Sisleÿa and Eau du Soir.
The Sisley Foundation backs numerous organizations, including The Father Gilbert Association, Kids Company, Sumba Foundation and INSEAD business school.
D’Ornano last year published an autobiography, called “Boundless Beauty,” with Félix Torres Éditeur. In it, the executive is quoted as saying: “Sisley is a quest, an approach, a business, it’s also a style….”
D’Ornano is survived by his wife, three children and grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Laetitia d’Ornano, and a son, Marc d’Ornano.