Beauty Imagined

Beauty Imagined

A History of the Global Beauty Business

Oxford UP, 2010




  • Innovative


L’Oreal, Colgate, Oil of Olay, Clairol, Cover Girl and other popular beauty brands are so familiar that most consumers take them for granted. But this study of the origins and growth of the modern beauty industry is enthralling. Harvard Business School professor of history Geoffrey Jones traces the roots of the business, from the fragrances produced by French glove makers in the 18th century to today’s industry giants. He examines the various influences on the beauty market over the years and around the globe, including consumer preferences, economic and political upheavals, globalization, and varying beauty ideals. The book is comprehensive and well-illustrated, the product of Jones’s extensive research into historical archives and trade journals, and his interviews with company executives. getAbstract recommends this scholarly work as required reading for those in the industry and a top choice for all business history buffs.


From Humble Roots

The business of beauty began with perfumes. The use of scents and aromatics flourished in ancient times, particularly among the nobility. In the Middle Ages, perfumes and fragrances were used largely for healing purposes. Rather than wearing them on the skin, people often drank perfumes or sprinkled them on linens and clothing to ward off illnesses.

In 18th-century France, glove makers began making perfumes to mask the foul odor emanating from the tanned hides used in leather gloves. Many glove makers were centered in Grasse, a town in the Provence region of France, which conveniently also was an ideal spot to cultivate the flowers and plants used in perfume making. The “perfumed court” of Louis XV made fashionable the use of soaps, powders and hair dyes. Johann Maria Farina developed a light new scent he named “Eau de Cologne” after his adopted city; Napoleon was a huge fan of the fragrance. In 1828, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain started selling scented waters, soaps and lotions to the aristocracy in Paris. A short time later, Eugène Rimmel, a Frenchman living in London, developed and sold a perfume brand he associated with status and class. He...

About the Author

Geoffrey Jones, a professor of business history at Harvard Business School, also has taught at the London School of Economics. He is the author of several books on international business.

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