For women everywhere, it's about attitudeAs group president of the Estee Lauder Co., Daniel Brestle is responsible for the women's brands known worldwide, including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, La Mer, Jane, Kate Spade and Stila. Mr. Brestle launched Prescriptives, the first makeup brand whose foundation and powders were mixed at the counter to match a customer's skin color. Later, he became president of Clinique Laboratories, Inc.
Mr. Brestle, 56, shared some of his success secrets while in Seoul last week, and talked about the special qualities of the Korean beauty market.
Q : You've been with Estee Lauder for many years. How did that happen?
A : I was born in New Jersey, grew up and worked in New Jersey. I just loved the East Coast. After serving in the air force for six years, I found a job at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, hoping to work there, but I was transferred to Chicago. Then I had a job offer from a small family-run company in New Jersey, Estee Lauder, and the company is still being run by the family. I had never thought of working there, but it just happened. I've been with the company for the past 25 years now.
Q : What's it like to work in a cosmetics company?
A : From working and being surrounded by many female staff members, I've learned to understand women better, I think. Ninety-five percent of our staff is female, in fact. When it comes to makeup, women understand the product better. For lipstick, say, women can talk about the subtle color differences or how it feels when applied on the lips. Men just cannot come up with something like that.
Women are as dedicated and responsible as men, but women cannot take criticism as well. For instance, if a female staff member were criticized for something at work, one week later she would bring that up and discuss what had gone wrong or what could have happened.
Q : Estee Lauder boasts so many top-selling products. What's the secret of your success?
A : Trends may change every season, and there are so many colors to choose from. When you're looking at products, they're not so different from one another. It's the people who work in the company who make the difference.
In our company, every brand, with one exception, began and revolved around one person's idea: Aveda by Horst Rechelbacher, Bobbi Brown by Bobbi Brown herself, Stila by Jeanine Lobell, and so on.
For the launching of Stila, we invited the Korean representative, and she thought of how to make it work for that line's target group in Korea. So, the image of Stila is slightly different in different cities. The girl shown in the poster in Paris would wear a beret, while the poster in Korea features a Korean girl holding a fan in front of Namdaemun.
How do you make that special person come to work for your company?
It's the competitive salary. We guarantee the kind of working environment for that person to stay. We hire few people, but we pay them more and they work more. It's important to have the right person working on the project, not the number.
Q : But those creative minds are also difficult to handle.
A : If I were to teach a class, I'd want to hire that kid who raises questions all the time and disturbs the class because he's different. It's also important for a company to hire different kinds of people.
True, a creative mind can be difficult to work with, but when that mind knows how to sell, everyone will want to work with the person.
Q : Do you know what the Korean girl's look is? Do you know what Korean women want?
A : Fashion changes every season or two. What Korean women want is probably the same as what all women want: attitude. Over the past three days of getting around Seoul, I saw a sea of many young Korean women filling the streets, buses and department stores, and they seem to prefer famous brand names. We're projecting sales greater than $200 million in Korea, making the peninsula the No. 3 market in the world after the United States and the U.K. within two years.
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