NEW YORK — Carol Phillips, who founded Clinique skin care and helped build it into the best-selling U.S. department store cosmetics brand, died Wednesday at her home in North Haven, N.Y., after a brief illness. She was 84.
Phillips joined the Estée Lauder Cos., Clinique’s parent firm, a year before the skin care brand’s creation in 1968. Estée Lauder had become friends with her while Phillips was managing editor of Vogue magazine. Lauder asked Phillips to create a cosmetics line after reading an article co-authored by Phillips and Norman Orentreich, a dermatologist, called “Can Great Skin Be Created?”
The answer to that question, “Yes. Great skin can be created,” is used in Clinique advertising today.
“She was the creative genius who formed [Clinique],” said Jeanette Wagner, vice chairman emerita of the Estée Lauder Cos.
Phillips, born in St. Paul, Minn., was the daughter of Kathleen Clark Phillips, a writer, and Hubert Phillips, a paper company president. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before arriving in New York to make a career as a magazine editor.
“Carol Phillips was the epitome of sophistication, elegance and style,” Leonard A. Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos., said in a statement. “Her attention to detail was legendary — she even wrote her interoffice notes in Clinique-green ink. She brought a fresh perspective and savvy creative sense to the cosmetics industry. It is because of Carol and her vision that Clinique has become the global success it is today.”
Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of Clinique Laboratories Inc., said in a statement, “I experienced her enthusiasm, humor and brilliance, along with her understanding of what women wanted in cosmetics, firsthand. She had a clear and unique mind.”
Wagner developed a professional relationship with Phillips when they worked in magazines — Wagner was at the Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan. They became friends when Wagner joined Lauder as vice president of international marketing for the company’s namesake brand.
Wagner said Phillips, who became Clinique’s chairman, created a concept and culture that was “very different” from the Lauder brand and Aramis. “She never wavered.”
The Lauder corporation credits Phillips with pioneering concepts such as a “beauty brand to be based upon the beliefs and findings of a guiding dermatologist, the first consumer-oriented, allergy-tested and fragrance-free line ever marketed,” and “the most complete collection of skin care and makeup products ever introduced at one time.
“Under Ms. Phillips’ direction, Clinique became the first major cosmetic brand to promote daily exfoliation, sun protection to prevent premature aging, soap as an excellent facial cleanser and dermatologist-developed, allergy-tested skin care,” the company said in the statement. “With her friend, the photographer Irving Penn, Ms. Phillips decided to forgo the use of models in favor of simple product visuals and helped create a unique advertising campaign.”
Phillips retired from Clinique in 1992.
She is survived by a sister, Lucia Haile, of Sag Harbor; a daughter, Deirdre Beirne Brown, of Croton Falls, N.Y.; a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters. The burial will be private.