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Beauty Biz Legend Leonard Lauder: 'Dallas Women Are the Best'

Via Getty Images
Via Getty Images

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Tomorrow afternoon at Neiman Marcus NorthPark, Estée Lauder will launch its new in-store shop, as well as unveil (on view for a limited time) the Estée Lauder Compact Museum. Expect an Elizabeth Hurley sighting (she's a brand ambassador) as well as an appearance by the brand's chairman emeritus, Leonard Lauder. We recently caught up with the latter, a beauty-industry veteran who has a penchant for philanthropy and art, and a healthy appreciation for beautiful women.

What is the connection between Neiman Marcus and the Estee Lauder brand?
Neiman Marcus and Estée Lauder have been business partners for 64 years. In fact, Mrs. Estée Lauder personally opened the first Estée Lauder counter in the Dallas Main Street store on January 9, 1950. Over the years, one of the greatest legacies of the Estée Lauder-Neiman Marcus partnership has been the tradition of designing a select group of compacts exclusively for Neiman Marcus. That's why we are debuting the Compact Museum at NorthPark in connection with the opening of our new Estée Lauder shop there.

What is it about your brand's perfume/pressed powder compacts that you think has captivated consumers so?
Every year since 1963, Estée Lauder has introduced a collection of limited-edition solid perfume and powder compacts. From traditional cameos to art-deco designs to whimsical, rhinestone figurines—some with moveable parts—these delicate pieces enjoy a worldwide following among collectors. Nothing speaks to Estée Lauder's great legacy like these treasured collectibles.
Estée Lauder herself was very involved and passionate about designing the compacts, as was Evelyn Lauder. The idea behind the compacts was to surprise and delight customers, including dinner guests. The first solid perfume compacts were created in shades of blue, Estée's favorite color. This elegant accessory paved the way for the more than 1,600 Estée Lauder compact designs produced to date.

Have you spent much time in Dallas before? What are your favorite things to do here?
My first trip to Dallas was in 1960 with my wife, Evelyn. Since then, I've been to Dallas two or three times a year for the next 30 years. I was such a familiar face to the security guards at the employee entrance to Neiman Marcus and I would arrive before the store opened—they thought I was an employee! I can still draw a diagram of where everything is in the store.

You're known for your involvement in the arts; do you have a favorite museum/gallery in Dallas (or Texas)?
My favorite museum is the Nasher [Sculpture Center]. I knew Ray Nasher very well; I loved that man. He was the developer of NorthPark shopping mall...I got along so well with Ray and his family.
The Nasher has brilliant architecture, and it is a focused museum for one reason—to build the image of Dallas into a center for the arts for our nation and the world.

What's your take on the Dallas woman? How does she compare to the rest of the country in terms of what she buys from Estée Lauder or in general?
Dallas women, from my first visit until today, are the most fashion-right, style-conscious women in the U.S. They look great, really appreciate quality and know what they want. Dallas women are the best!