Byline: Pete Born / Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — So what does one say about the woman who invented many of the practices still being used to market cosmetics in department stores?
If you’re Leonard Lauder, you talk about her as your mother, the woman you’ve worked beside on the long, hardscabble road in turning a hand-to-mouth family business into a global power. In thanking the membership of the Cosmetic Executive Women for paying a special tribute to his mother, Estee Lauder, at a CEW dinner Wednesday, Lauder recalled a few anecdotes and added to the industry’s folklore.
“If a woman made the tactical error of pulling a non-Estee Lauder lipstick or compact out of her bag, the next morning a box would arrive containing a lifetime supply,” said the chairman of Estee Lauder Cos. He was standing in for his mother, the company’s founding chairwoman, who had retired from active participation in 1995, and was unable to attend the CEW’s achiever award night.
Leonard was joined at the podium in the Waldorf-Astoria by the rest of the Lauder clan, including brother Ronald.
He also remembered a moment when the company had only four products and someone asked Estee Lauder why she had no night cream. Her reply: “How does a cream know if it’s day or night?”
In another instance, she was asked why her fragrances were so strong when the French scents were so light. “If you can’t smell it, you can’t sell it,” she shot back.
Leonard’s appearance on the stage followed a special video tribute to the queen of cosmetics that was narrated by Carol Phillips, the founder of Clinique. Phillips, recipient of the CEW’s 1986 achievement award, was on the dais, along with two other CEW achievers from Lauder, Jeanette Wagner and Bobbi Brown.
In honor of the lifetime achievement award granted Estee Lauder in 1989, CEW announced the creation of a fund to help women establish their own cosmetics businesses.
The achiever award for this year was given to Martha Nelson, managing editor of InStyle magazine.
She was introduced by Gerald Levin, chairman and chief executive officer of Time Warner Inc., the magazine’s parent. “I know you’re not supposed to favor any of your children or properties,” he said, “but InStyle has been the most successful launch at Time Inc. over the past 10 years.
“I am a reader,” said Levin. “You may not think I’m the demographic for this magazine but I happen to be upscale, I’m older and I’m an ‘old media,’ guy. I carry two issues in my tote bag; aerobically, it’s terrific.”
Nelson graciously accepted her award, quoting Elizabeth Taylor who said, “Success is a great concealer that covers all past blemishes.”