A Nurse for Beauty


The Early Days

Florence Nightingale Graham was born in Ontario in 1878. Clearly, she was destined for the profession of a nurse on the day she was born. Her mother died when Florence was six years and Florence could not finish high school due to a lack of money.

Her father wanted her to work on his farm while the priest wanted her to marry or to become a school teacher. Florence liked neither of these ideas and her father reminded his 17 years old daughter to her first names. Somehow being a nurse seem to appeal to her; maybe she imagined some eternal glory coming with it.

Well, she went to a hospital which was run by nuns but could not cope with all this misery and sickness. All she brought back home from this clinic was a cream to treat skin issues which encouraged her to experiment and testing the newly created products on her sisters.

Since success failed her Florence went to Toronto. She accepted a series of small jobs until in 1907 she met a dentist who was a friend of her brothers and looking for an assistant. She liked the job in a medical environment which was so different from the hospital. Everything was clean and shiny. Plus she found a lot of opportunities to study the patient’s flaws which supported her decision to dedicate her time to beauty.

She knew as well that she had to go to the United States, where rich people lived, more possibilities and cosmetic salons existed. In 1909 she left for the States and started in the accounting department of a pharmaceutical enterprise. The little spare time she spent in the labs looking over the chemists’ shoulders. The next step is most important she got a position as till girl in a successful cosmetic salon and noticed the enormous financial possibilities in this business. This “house of beauty” offered as well facial treatment and Florence asked her boss if she could learn this skills. The lady taught Florence under the condition that she would not ask for more money. Apparently, Florence was quite gifted and soon was so much in demand that she was constantly fully booked.

New York – 5th Avenue

It is the time when American women just start to see the use of beauty products and their effects were scientifically confirmed. Florence is working 6 days a week and in the evenings she’s spying the products of other beauty salons. On one of her spying trips she meets Elizabeth Hubbard whose products are better than the ones of the salon she is working. Both ladies notice that they complement each other very well and open a beauty salon on the 5th Avenue, Number 509. Already at the end of the first month, they separate again due to misunderstandings regarding money. Since Florence’s relationship to the landlord is better than Elizabeth’s Florence stays while Elizabeth moves to Number 505. But the ladies from the suburb have to pass Florence’s door if they have an appointment with Mrs. Hubbard.

The Red Door

In 1910 Florence Nightingale Graham founds her company Elizabeth Arden since she understands that her birth name is not exactly a selling argument in this industry. It is said that she probably choose Elizabeth because it was already written on the window of her salon but it seems a secret from where “Arden” came. She takes a credit of 6000 US Dollars from her brother, who already is a successful business man. What sounds like peanuts was quite some money at that time when the average yearly income was 700 US Dollars. She paints the door of her salon in a bright red and applies pink damask and satin on the walls. Everything was rose and pink; the washbasins, the towels, just everything. No need to ask, what Elizabeth’s aka Florence favourite colour is. Henceforth she will be Miss Arden. Within a few months she pays her brother the money back to prove her success. But the ads cost a fortune and she is still living in a small one-room-apartment doing manicure in the evenings. How to attract more customers?


She remembers her hairdresser’s. Two sisters who manage the hairdresser shop and a third one, Gladys, who is a hat-maker. The hairdressers recommend a new hat fitting to the new haircut and of course the other way round. Elizabeth convinced the three of them to move in her salon because they all would save money and the concept worked perfectly. Elizabeth’s offerings of a full body treatment consisted as well of courses in Yoga, fencing and tap dance. Just like Helena Rubinstein Elizabeth is experimenting in her lab for more products. Her volume of sales increased along with the number of customers. Elizabeth tasted blood and we all know what this means. 1914 should be a big year for her. We will continue on that.

The pictures are created by the author. However, the portrait of Elzabeth Arden (former Florence Nightingale Graham) has been copied from the book "Der Kampf um die Schönheit" by Doris Burchard, 1999

A Skin Like Milk & Honey


Krakow 1870; a girl which once should be extremely rich and famous is born the eldest of eight children. Her name: Helena Rubinstein.

When Helena was 18 years old she was allowed to study medicine but dropped out because she could not see blood. Her family decided that in this case she ought to marry and already chose a husband for their daughter. The lucky guy was almost twice as old as young Helena who refused the marriage. In their despair her parents sent a message to Helena’s uncle who lived in Australia. Apparently he was in need for a nanny for his children and invited her to stay.


Helena arrived in Australia in 1898 with 12 jars of a skin protecting cream her mum made back home in Poland in her luggage. This should turn out a real treasure since the merciless sun had an impact on people’s skin as she quickly noticed. Apparently, some of the Australian women asked Helena about the secret of her flawless white skin. Not only she presented the ladies with her cream but also saw a real business opportunity because cosmetics were very rare on this continent at this time.

Since she longed to be autonomous she went to Melbourne where she knew a lady she met on the ship to Australia. She told her friend about her idea to open a cosmetics studio and selling this cream she intended to import form Poland. Her friend in Melbourne was delighted about the idea and convinced of its success. Helena took a credit of 600 US Dollars from her and set up her first shop in 1899. Due to Helena’s tireless work and her friend’s networking they were soon very successful. Apparently even the famous Opera singer Nellie Melba belonged to their customers and propagated the efficiency of this cream. Poland could not manufacture fast enough and Helena who got the recipe started experimenting and mixing cream in her lab in Australia.

It is said that she was one of the pioneers recognizing that cosmetics and science are inseparable. Her success was unstoppable and she called to Poland for help. Her sister arrived two months later and was taught how to make and apply this cream. Apparently, Helena was so busy that she made her admirers labelling or filling jars well aware that most of them wouldn’t show up a second time.

Back to Europe

During her work it began to dawn on her that one product was not enough for all the skin issues she analysed. In 1905 she entrusted her sister with the Australian beauty salon and embarked for Paris, where she got in touch with a famous dermatologist, learnt a lot about skin, health and nutrition. During the day she worked in the lab while at night she was reading about the theoretical aspects of these subjects and even studied everything about plastic surgery which was just in its beginning.

New Horizons

She decided to gain ground in Europe and to open another beauty salon in London. Meanwhile she had developed a variety of skin products which she produced industrially. Clearly, she targeted on a financially strong clientele and therefore had to choose a posh area. In 1907 she found exactly what she wanted in noble Mayfair. The cost for the house was high but Helena decided to run the risk. The house needed to be adjusted for her purpose which took some months. During this time she travelled to meet other dermatologists and experts in order to learn even more. Already in 1908 she was well known in London and specialized on skin analysis and treatments.

But she wanted more than that and again experimented for new products and horizons in her lab. Yet, these products were a secret.

The story is to be continued.

Simply Beautiful?


The Value Of Beauty

I really believe that beauty is a value of its own. Art, design, music, flowers, gardens and other things make life worth living. Call me vain but to me fashion, cosmetics and style go into the same category.

Some people may condemn plastic surgery arguing that doctors should rather find cures for diseases and saving lives. The same people would typically consider fashion and style useless. No doubt protecting lives is important but we need a reason to live. If not, where is the point of being saved? There is a difference between existence and life.


I am not claiming that everything depends on a wrinkle-free face or a model like figure. But the feeling of looking good is quite nice and can make things a lot easier. It is a circle: when we feel that we look good we indeed look happy and therefore more attractive to others. One does not need to be perfect or wearing the most expensive designer cloths but develop their own style. Yes, Shakespeare is right by stating that beauty was in the eye of the beholder.

Education & Passion

I originally started reading and writing about the subject of beauty out of pure interest in fashion, style and entertainment. The more I read about the key players of this field the more I understand how much of knowledge, experience, creativity, persistence and passion one must have to become a top shot. It is just like in any other field.

For all those who think that cosmetics and fashion was for uneducated, superficial no-brainers let me quote Oscar Wilde:

“One can never be overeducated or overdressed”.

I rest my case.

The Beauty and the Beast

The Father Of Haute Couture


The Draper

As one reads the man who is widely considered the father of Haute Couture was an English man. Charles Frederick Worth was born in 1826 where he accomplished an apprenticeship as a cloth merchant. In 1845 he went to Paris where he was hired by two well renowned drapers. Not only he was fashion-savvy he was as well a strategist. When he was a junior partner he married one of his employer’s models who would later model the first shawls and hats designed by him.

The Couturier

In the world’s fairs that took place in London (1851) and in Paris (1855) Worth’ creations were awarded the first price and a gold metal. No wonder, he anticipated the success of cloth making and urged his employers to invest in this line of business. They were reluctant while Worth was determined. He found a backer and founded his own firm Worth & Boberg in 1858. Soon he was patronized by the Queen Eugenie who was the wife of Napoleon III. The creations were not only extraordinary in design but also regarding the cost. Apparently, their owners got them modified according to the latest fashion and did not shun long journeys to see Mr Worth. Besides the Queen, celebrities like Sarah Bernhardt or Nellie Melba belong to his clients.

The company had to shut down in 1870 due to the Franco-Prussian war and reopened the doors in 1871 – without Boberg – as the House of Worth.

Charles Frederick’s son took his two sons into the business which continued flourishing. Gaston Worth, one of these two sons, founded the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1886 of which we already spoke.

As it seems the House of Worth was still an institution in the 20iest century. In the 1930ies the designed a fashion line of beach wear in the sailor style. Designed for celebrities; of course.

Some Impressions

This video is a quiet one

Image Credit

The picture of Carole Lombard belongs to Getty Images and it has been copied of "Fashion. Mode von 1900 bis heute." by Harriet Worsley.

The Eve Of Haute Couture


Everything we read about this subject is somehow related to France. Since 1973 “Haute Couture” has been a legally protected title awarded by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. Only accredited designers have the right to call their creations “Haute Couture”.

But let’s start at the beginning

Before Haute Couture was invented there were just more or less ordinary tailors to make clothes.

As I read the French King Louis XIV, also known as “le Roy Soleil” (sun king) promoted French fashion by using fashion dolls. I don’t know if this is true but at least it fits the image we have of this monarch indulging in luxury.

Rose Bertin

One of the very first and famous tailors was Rose Bertin. She was born in the north of France in 1747 and started her apprenticeship as a modiste when she was still very young. As it seems her extraordinary talent was seen almost immediately. At the age of 16 she arrived in the French metropolis Paris and started working in a fashion boutique.

Talented (and most probably determined) Rose made it soon to the top.

She set up her first shop in Paris in 1770 and delivered luxurious fashion to the nobles. During the French revolution she experienced a severe loss of customers, since a lot of them ended on the Guillotine. As it was insecure to be in close contact to the “enemies” of the current politics Rose left for London but secured her possessions and later returned to France. She was still famous but given the latest fashion was much simpler than the models she created she never gained her old influence.


During the Era of Napoleon I the couture house LeRoy was the blue bloods’ number one. LeRoy was Royal Warrant Holder and delivered robes for the empress Joséphine I. The atelier was founded by Louis Hippolyte Leroy whose first profession was the one of a hairdresser; even at the royal court of Versailles. I don’t know how he managed to survive the revolution and after this to be welcome at Napoleon’s court.

Haute Couture was on its way. Its story is to be continued.



There must be hundreds of perfumes out there. The Persian doctor and scientist Avicenna who was a genius in many fields created rose water and essence of roses by means of distillation and alcohol 1000 years ago. We will not go back that far but talk about the perfume pioneers that are still present in modern bath rooms.

Eau de Cologne

What is now a household name for perfumes was the creation of an Italian perfumer by the name of Giovanni Maria Farina. He launched his perfume in 1709 and named it Eau de Cologne (English “Water from Cologne”) in honour of his new hometown.

Since in Farina’s time there were no trade marks in place his fragrance was copied many times. The most famous copy is known as “Echtes Kölnisch Wasser 4711” which means Genuine Eau de Cologne 4711. By the way, 4711 was the house number of the “copyist’s” location.

Both fragrances are still on the market.


I mentioned “Joy” before as the world’s most exclusive perfume of the time. Jean Patou ordered his parfumer Henry Alméras to create something special (Alméras created the scent “Amour Amour” before which was very successful). As it seems, the enterprise only survived thanks to its perfumes.

“Joy” is an exquisite perfume of many components. It contains jasmine, roses and other flowers and ingredients that unfold a unique scent. One could say that it smells like the prototype of a flower and certainly goes well with an evening gown for a special event.

It is only available in very good perfume shops. I went to one in Zurich asking for “a nose full of Joy”. The boutique and the vendor’s service are as impeccable as “Joy” itself. Please feel free to use the link if you want to know where to get “Joy” from.

Chanel No. 5

Not only Coco Chanel was the first designer to name a perfume after herself “Chanel No. 5” that was launched on May 5, 1921 is the first perfume containing artificial substances. The scent belongs to the family of floral-aldehydic perfumes.

Chanel was as well quite clever if it came to marketing. She only released the perfume to a select clientele in her boutique in Paris. Of course this made it something very special and everybody wanted it. And look at No. 5’s marketing strategy today: every commercial’s protagonist is one of the women considered the most attractive of the time; from Marilyn Monroe to Nicole Kidman. Not sure if the idea of 2012 sending Brad Pitt in the No.5-arena was such a smart move.

However, in 2013 Marilyn was back.


An Empire For A Handbag


Away From Home

Louis Vuitton left home when he was 14 and walked about 400 kilometres to Paris where he began his apprenticeship as a trunk maker two years later in 1837. His boss, Monsieur Maréchal was apparently very happy with young Vuitton. Due to his undeniable talent he was engaged as the personal box maker of the wife of Napoleon III. I am thinking that someone like this might come in handy, although I am not blue-blooded.

Carriages were the most used means of transport for nobles until around 1850. Since the luggage was transported on the carriage’s roof the trunks had arched lids to make sure the rainwater would drain off. Once trains run between the cities the requirements for trunks changed since it should be stackable in order to save space.

A Star Is Born

As it seems this was Louis Vuittons magic moment. In 1854 he founded a factory outside of Paris and started his own brand. He designed transportation boxes and flat trunks which were very sustainable, light and suitable for train transportation. And the luggage pieces were expensive.

The wooden construction was covered with cloth. And this clothing is quite remarkable. He used linen which he impregnated with rye flour. The colour was a kind of grey called “Trianon”. In 1885 Louis Vuitton opened the first shop outside of France. The address: Oxford Street, London. Could have been worse, couldn’t it?

Well, Vuitton was always a high-end brand and meanwhile the manufacture grew to a world-wide company fabricating many more articles. However, they are still expensive and the most famous models of handbags and purses are still a kind of modern “Trianon”. These items are not made of leather but of plastic-coated canvas.

The famous monogram used as a pattern was invented by Louis Vuitton’s son Georges. If you look at the picture you will certainly recognize it.


The fake of famous brands is a really big business. There are millions of fake Louis Vuitton articles.

Apparently there are some points to control to be sure you get value for money. These are the ones I found about Louis Vuitton:

  • The handles must be genuine leather which develops a nice patina when used
  • The hardware (zip etc.) should be first class quality
  • The famous monogram (VL) must never been upside down and is always nicely aligned
  • There is a date mark somewhere
  • The stitching is always impeccable if really made by Vuitton

I believe that the boutiques of this company will sell you the real thing. Good things – and this goes beyond fashion – are never a bargain and hardly on sale.

Dame Nellie Melba


The Coupe Melba is a dessert that was invented in the 1890ies by the chef of the Savoy Hotel in London in honour to the Australian soprano singer Nellie Melba. It contains two of her favourite summer fruits: Peach and raspberry.

Dame Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchel in Melbourne in 1861. From her very early school career it seemed to be clear that her talents were singing, piano and arts. She did not acquire her stage name by marriage but by using parts of the name of her city of birth.

The Voice

Nellie Melba was famous for her brilliant voice which covered almost three octaves and had a silvery timbre. And unlike other stars her biographers convey that she never suffered from false modesty; not even real one. Her ego was quite intact and apparently not only she saw herself equal to all the crowned heads (which I think is ok) and her staff and people she considered beneath herself stood quivering when she gave orders. But what do we know? Maybe she was simply self-reliant; a quality most women of her time probably did not have.

What we know for sure is that she was blessed with a perfect voice and figured as the Prima Donna in Covent Garden and in the Met where she had 238 performances within 17 years.

For a more detailed biography please click here.

A Record From 1904

Still brillant…

The Greatest Tenor Of All Times


No doubt, we are talking about Enrico Caruso. He was born in Naples as the third of seven children in 1873. Although his family was rather poor his mother enabled his education since even the priest noticed his outstanding voice and talent when Enrico used to sing in the church choir. Since the Neapolitans did not recognize his art for what it was and still thought of him as a troubadour singing underneath a balcony he vowed to never sing in his home town again but only come back to eat spaghetti. Apparently he stuck with this resolution.

The story of Caruso’s private life reads like one of the operas of his repertoire. He was famous for his sense of humour and for his generosity. Rumour has it that for one Christmas he presented the entire staff of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Must have been quite a Christmas shopping. On the other hand his wealth made him vulnerable and as it seems he was threatened by the American mafia, the so called Black Hand Gang. His definite international breakthrough was in 1903 with the role of the “Duca di Mantova” in Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. And nothing could stop him; almost nothing.

In 1920 his health failed him and he needed surgery which he hardly survived. Some month later he had a fatal flash-back during his recovery period, a time he spent in Naples. The Italian king himself opened the church on the day of Caruso’s funeral and about a hundred thousand people followed the funeral march. The entire city was in mourning and the shops remained closed.

An All-Time Record

According to the database of the Metropolitan Opera Enrico Caruso was on stage 863 times between November 1903 (Rigoletto) and Christmas Eve 1920 which turned out to be his very last performance.

The Aria That Made Caruso Famous

I know the record could do with some remastering. 🙂

A Panther Meant To Last Forever


Some days ago I watched a documentary about the jewellery of Cartier. The noble house was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier and already in 1899 the company resided at the posh Avenue de la Paix 13 in Paris which is their headquarter to the present day.

The Roaring 20ies

The most glamorous period for the jewellers of Cartier was the roaring twenties of the last century. After World War I people had a hunger for life and luxury which – as it seems – is still unbeaten. And Cartier did have some really rich people for customers.

Cartier always understood the spirit of the era and manufactured the jewels accordingly. Once it was the flowers, later the rather geometrically shaped Art Deco style and when in 1922 the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter, Cartier satisfied people’s Egyptian fever by Pharaonic looking jewels. When in the 1940ies abundance became less they produced ingenious items that could be transformed from a pendent to earrings and the other way around. Fascinating, really.

Money can buy things that cost a lot or items which are expensive AND tasteful. Cartier definitely belonged to the second category.

La Panthère

But there is one “character” that survived the decades: La Panthère. There are panther rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. As different as they are, they have some features in common. What is supposed to be the fur is totally made of diamonds which are sprinkled either by emeralds, onyx or sapphires. The animal’s eyes are typically made of emerald and the snout is of onyx.

As far as I know the first panther was a bracelet ordered by Mrs Wallis Simpson who should become the Duchess of Windsor. She has the reputation to be crazy about jewellery and was one of the best clients of Cartier. The American heiress Barbara Hutton wanted la Panthère as well, but a personalized version. She got herself a pair of panther-earrings. These panthers would wag their tales with every move she made.

I understand the fascination of danger; especially when it is made of gold and diamonds. And Cartier still manufactures panther items.

The Panther’s Fairy Tale