Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Industry

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The global beauty business permeates our lives, influencing how we perceive ourselves and what it is to be beautiful. The brands and firms which have shaped this industry, such as Avon, Coty, Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, and Shiseido, have imagined beauty for us.

This book provides the first authoritative history of the global beauty industry from its emergence in the nineteenth century to the present day, exploring how today's global giants grew. It shows how successive generations of entrepreneurs built brands which shaped perceptions of beauty, and the business organizations needed to market them. They democratized access to beauty products, once the privilege of elites, but they also defined the gender and ethnic borders of beauty, and its association with a handful of cities, notably Paris and later New York. The result was a homogenization of beauty ideals throughout the world.

Today globalization is changing the beauty industry again; its impact can be seen in a range of competing strategies. Global brands have swept into China, Russia, and India, but at the same time, these brands are having to respond to a far greater diversity of cultures and lifestyles as new markets are opened up worldwide.

In the twenty first century, beauty is again being re-imagined anew.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There are plenty of lessons for entrepreneurs and industry executives"—Womens Wear Daily

"Geoffrey Jones intimates in the title of his detailed economic history of the beauty business, Beauty Imagined, that [beauty] is created by the collective will of a consumer society. Assessing beauty as a social construct, Jones takes the late 19th century as his starting point, when an increase in mass visual dissemination, particularly the spread of commercial photography, saw ideals of beauty shift from the personal and private to the communal."—Financial Times

"Nothing slips away in Jones's book. All the great cosmetic monsters rampage through the book."—The Guardian

"A must read for the beauty junkie."—Julia DiNardo,

"If you have a passion for beauty then you need to read this book. True stories about the people behind the most famous brands make the cosmetic industry come alive as you learn how it has become such a significant part of our global culture."—Leslie Blodgett, Executive Chairman of Bare Escentuals and founder of bareMinerals

"Both men and women have dressed their hair, painted their faces, and sought ways to enhance their sexual allure in every time and place, yet the ways they have done so are infinitely various.... Given the degree to which beauty is interwoven with cultural concepts, it might seem impossible to talk of global beauty, but it is the achievement of this book to show how what was once culture bound has expanded into a multinational business."—Business History Review

"One of the more fascinating stories in modern business history.... The book is thoroughly researched with documentation based on five years of interviews with companies and selected executives from prominent brands. Primary sources from corporate as well as government archives and private collections are the background for a well-supported analysis of two centuries of the beauty industry.... Of special interest are the statistics and figures never published before, revealing the scale of the industry today and its dramatic and consistent growth over the decades.... Jones offers valuable new knowledge for the critical eye of a professional business historian. At the same time the book is a must-read for anyone working in the beauty or fashion business."—

"A deft, comprehensive history that charts [the beauty industry's] path from the ancient craft of perfumery to the vast commercial cornerstone it now is... Fans of figures and appendices will find a neat summary of how the beauty business has developed, including its many mergers, acquisitions, and divestments. Those who simply love fragrance might be interested to know how Lauder transformed department store beauty halls, and her own fortunes, with Youth Dew, a fragrance whose name encapsulates the big promise in a seductively natural and simple way. The business behind it is anything but."—The Oldie

"Geoffrey Jones has written a formidable history of the Beauty Industry that reads like a novel. Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty poised to become a classic of the genre. It should be read by anyone involved in the beauty business."—Arab News

"The book is to be admired and its author congratulated for the deft (and pioneering) fashion in which order is imposed upon such a recalcitrant subject. For anyone interested in the lineaments, scope and statistics of the beauty industries this is essential reading. It teaches us a great deal about the size and comparative structure of firms and conglomerates as they devour smaller ventures and then get gobbled up themselves."—English Historical Review

"Jones sets a new standard in skillfully chronicling the emergence and evolution of this global industry. Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"This illuminating account of the history of the beauty business, as well as its current challenges in the face of globalization, offers unique insights on the drivers of success and failure in an industry in which branding and marketing are at the heart of competitive success."—John A. Quelch, Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

"Geoffrey Jones has distilled a massive amount of evidence from around the world to produce the intriguing essence of the global beauty business. This book's incisive analysis of how the industry grew, and its current challenges and dynamics, makes it essential reading for people working in beauty today, as well as millions who delight in using our brands each day."—Bernd Beetz, Chief Executive, Coty

"Beauty is a sprawling global business, yet Geoffrey Jones has produced a book broad enough and deep enough to encompass it compactly and with insight. Beauty Imagined skillfully marshals a vast array of disparate sources-not just from the usual suspects, but from high and low, from east and west, from north and south, and from the present and the past—into a well-honed and compelling account of the business that one way or another quite literally touches us all. This book will no doubt be read avidly by business historians, among whom Jones is preeminent. But it will also be read far beyond for what it tells us about society, about business, and about ourselves."—Paul Duguid, Adjunct Professor, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley

"The beauty industry has done well by making people look good, and making them feel good about themselves. Like other corporate sectors, it has shaped human needs as much as it has responded to them. This study of enterprise and global reach also sheds light on the inner self and its interaction with others. It is a great achievement."—Avner Offer, Chichele Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford, author of The Challenge of Affluence (OUP, 2006)

"Jones provides thick description of the people, products, and marketing processes that make us believe—or at least test—the promise that we can be made more attractive and, as we age, be kept looking young...[useful] for researchers requiring a handy, well-written source book."—Administrative Science Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199556496
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/26/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 444
  • Sales rank: 1,143,099
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Jones is Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, Harvard Business School. He previously taught at the universities of Cambridge and Reading, and at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in Great Britain. He is the author and editor of many prize-winning books and articles on the history of international business, including British Multinational Banking 1830-1990 (OUP, 1993), Merchants to Multinationals (OUP, 2000), Multinationals and Global Capitalism (OUP, 2005), Renewing Unilever (OUP, 2005), and The Oxford Handbook of Business History (OUP, 2008). He is a former President of both the European Business History Association and the Business History Conference of the United States, is co-editor of the journal Business History Review.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Business of Beauty
Part I: Beauty Imagined
1. Scent and Paris
2. How do I Look?
3. Cleanliness and Civilization
Part II: Beauty Diffused
4. Beauty Amid War and Depression
5. The Television Age
6. Global Ambitions Meet Local Markets
7. The Uncertain Identity of Beauty
Part III: Beauty Re-Imagined
8. Challenges from New Quarters
9. Globalization and Tribalization
Conclusion: The Dream Machine

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Detailed, captivating history of the beauty industry

    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.

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  • Posted June 27, 2010

    The new standard reference for the history of the beauty industry.

    Excellent comprehensive study of the beauty industry written by a leading Harvard business historian. Insightful analysis of the competitive dynamics of the industry sprinkled wtih delicious anecdotes about the personalities behind today's iconic beauty brands make this an educational and truly enjoyable read. It has become my gift of choice this year for beauty enthusiasts, brand makers and business historians alike.

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