Lightyears Collection
Helena Rubinstein
(1870-1965)


Picture of Helena Rubinstein
Helena Rubinstein, Paris 1932

Helena Rubinstein was born in Cracow, Poland in 1870, 1871 or 1872. In 1884, at the age of 24, 23, or 22, she arrived in Australia to begin a new life. She was considered stylish but not too fluent in English. Her rise from obscurity involved the sale of beauty creams said to have come from an Hungarian chemist, a friend of her family.

Rubinstein purchased (and later manufactured) her beauty cream in bulk then transferred it to retail bottles to which she affixed her own labels. A bottle of cream cost her about nine cents to make. It sold for sixty cents. In the years between 1902 and 1904 she took in profits of around $24,000. The day wage for a worker at this time was about eighty cents. Rubinstein was on her way to becoming a wealthy woman.

Gifted with a keen appetite for business, her capital grew. In 1905 she left Australia to return to the continent. In 1908 she arrived in London with, it is said, about $200,000 to invest.

Tales are told of how she carried both her lunch and large amounts of cash in her purse, of how she bargained (successfully) in stores where the merchandise had a fixed price, how she mingled with artists and dumped valuable jewelry into bureau drawers carelessly, and how she outfoxed seasoned Wall Street investors when she sold her American business and then bought it back at a fraction of what she had been paid.

As to perfume, her personal assistant and biographer, Patrick O'Higgens reports he saying, "Our perfumes are cheap! That's the secret of our success." But cheap was not the same as junk. Her perfumes, generally quite light, were adored by millions. As she sold them to buyers who had already come to her for creams and beauty treatments, she avoided the huge expenses involved today in promoting a new fragrance.

A great many of her fragrances have sunk to obscurity but, as launch dollars were minimal, they had little impact on her business. But, while her big hits were few in number, they paid off magnificently.

As a footnote, in 1955 Helena Rubinstein employed perfumer Jean Kerléo who remained with the company for twelve years before he went over to Jean Patou and then, in 1999, to the Osmothéque.


Perfumes By Helena Rubinstein

FragrancePerfumerNotes
Mahatma (1928)  
Enchante (1934)  
Water Lily (1934)  
Country (1936)  
Town (1936)  
715 (1937) The number represents Helena Rubinstein's company address on Fifth Avenue.
Flower Shop Bouquet (1938)  
Slumber Song (1938)  
Orchid (1939)  
Apple Blossom (193?) One version of Apple Blossom seems to have appeared in the 1930's, to great success. The 1948 date (below) appears to have been a re launch.
Gala Performance (1940)  
Bonne Chance (1940)  
Green Jade (1941)  
Ring Me (1941)  
Heaven Sent (1941) To launch Heaven Sent, samples were attached to balloons and floated down New York's Fifth Avenue.
O, Promise Me (1941)  
White Flame (1942)  
Baroque (1943)  
Something Blue (1943)  
One Dozen Roses (1943)  
Love in Bloom (1947)  
Rambling Rose (1947)  
Rebel Rose (1947)  
Secret Garden (1947)  
Command Performance (1948)  
Green Velvet (1948)  
Garden Party (1948)  
Distinction (1948)  
Apple Blossom (1948) Originally a perfume from the 1930's.
Rose Magnolia (1949)  
Best Seller (1952)  
White Magnolia (1952)  
Flower Julep (1953)  
Noa-Noa (1953)  
Fourth Dimension (1953)  
Cologne Foam (1954)  
Wood Fern (1960)  
Princess Helena (1961)  
Vis-A-Vis (1962)  
Herbessence (1963)  
Emotion (1960) Originally conceived of as L'Affair.
Men's Club (1966)  
Courant (1972)  
Barynia (1985)  
Blazer (19??)  

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