Estée Lauder was the slightly conservative grande dame of the department-store beauty hall until the former Gucci designer Tom Ford broke new ground for the brand in 2005, when he turned his attentions away from fashion to eye shadow. His aim was to “be the first true luxury brand of the 21st century”, signalling that he was acutely aware of his star power and would be aiming for the upper price brackets.
The tactic appears to be paying off. Ford, whose seemingly post-coital ad campaigns for Gucci and own matinée idol looks had made him a celebrity, signed up for four make-up ranges. His own free-standing brand launched in December. It seems unlikely that without his appeal, Estée Lauder would have dared to market limited-edition golden “minaudières” (rigid handbags) containing just a lipstick and a powder puff – for £400.
Ford repeated the trick when he launched a perfume called Black Orchid. Sold only in Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, the fragrance is a bestseller.