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Spectacular success and worldwide career do not have to remain in the realm of dreams-H.Rubinstein

Monika Opalińska Poland

March 25, 2012 | 2:24 pm

Photo taken from socjolook.pl

 
Being a girl with the Jewish origins, Chaje knew what it meant to work hard since she was a child. Born on 25.12.1870 in Kraków, she was the eldest child of Gitel and Herzl Rubinstein. She came from an orthodox Jewish family that at the time was living at Szeroka 14 street at Krakow’s Kazimierz. When she was still just a child, she decided to provide proper living conditions and financial help for her family. (A. Kutylak “Krakowianie: wybitni Żydzi krakowscy XIV-XX wiek.”, Kraków 2006)

  In the evenings, without being seen, she slipped out of home to the nearest market, to observe the city which was teeming with live, and listen to men’s conversations about trading and politics.
Chaje knew exactly, what she wanted from life, and she would not allow anybody to decide about her fortune. That’s why she opposed to her father, refusing to marry a wealthy widower chosen for her by a matchmaker. She could not imagine, that she would be with someone without loving him. That was the reason, why she was forced to leave her home and move to her aunt – Rozalia Silberfeld–Beckmann. (www.gazetakrakowska.pl)

  After a year she went to Australia, where she spent two years in a Corelaine town living with her uncle who was a shepherd. At the beginning her every day was filled with unsatisfying hard work, bringing nothing more but necessary profit. Forced to live in modest conditions, she was strengthening her will to find what luxury means. Being a waitress in a place, where groups of artists were meeting she wanted to become someone unique, who would be an object of admiration, amusement and a centre of interest.

Finding her new goal, she was determined enough to run her own business. The idea of it came from observing women that surrounded her, who were greatly interested in Helena’s flawless skin. She knew, that she owed it to the small and inconspicuous jar of skin cream, that her mother had put into her travel bag, before she left. Krakowian skin cream made by dr Lykulsky became an object of desire for local women. Later on Helena found out that bringing the specific back from Poland was not profitable, so she acquired a formula and started to produce the cream on-site, calling it “Valaze”. (L.Woodhead “Helena Rubinstein I Elizabeth Arden. Barwy wojenne.”, Warszawa 2004)

Helena knew exactly that her business was based on a rule of „inaccessibility”. That’s why she kept on affirming that the goods were still being imported from Krakow, and made by high ranked specialists, even if truly she was the one, who was taking care of the production. Moreover, she knew that she needed a powerful potency of advertising, and because of that all she wanted was to put some advertisements about her products and her beauty salon in a local press as often as it was possible. A great part in developing Helena’s business played Edward Titus, journalist with Polish origins, whom she married later. (www.luksusowe-zycie.bloog.pl)

Flattering article about the specimen and the producer written by Titus raised the interest level of the product, providing an effective advertisement. Using the different ways of autopromotion, easiness of making contacts and good intuition about marketing, Helena soon acquired a fair number of about 15 thousand orders. That forced herself to be completely devoted to the arduous process of production. During the night, she personally made the mixture, put it into jars and labeled them.

That extremely enterprising woman didn’t settle for beauty salons in Australia. Shortly she started to run new ones in world’s capital cities like Paris, London and New York. Rubbinstein always said that „there are no such a thing like ugly woman, there are only lazy ones”. In her speeches she ruthlessly crushed her competition, blaming them for low quality of products and attempts of copying her specimens. She employed many members of her family, what was the main reason why her company was called “Polish mafia” by her biggest rival – Elizabeth Arden. (www.gazetakrakowska.pl)

Next episodes of Madame /so called by Titus/ showed us, that her development is a succession of her hard work and trust in her own abilities. As a child, Chaje constantly dreamt about exclusive clothes brought from Paris, and great art pieces, so badly desired by her. In the following years those dreams turned into friendships with many prominent characters like Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Rouault or Derain. She acquired the art pieces of remarkable artists, knowing that one day they will be much more appreciated.  Even Salvador Dali designed powder-boxes for her, obliging himself to paint her portrait.

After moving to London, Madame totally charmed the English aristocracy with her uniqueness. The success of the second Valaze salon was as spectacular as the first one. During the period of time she spent in England, her two sons were born – Roy (1908) and Horace (1912). She became even more self-confident and obstinate. “Valaze”, initially just a name of a skin cream, turned into a whole line of cosmetics. In 1912 Helena opened another institute of beauty in Paris. She created the first lipsticks and cassette powders, expanding her business onto new beauty treatments. Once more she earned a huge amount of admirers and achieved an amazing success. In 1915 another salon was opened in New York. It developed so fast, that it influenced the opening of new salons in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. (L.Woodhead “Helena Rubinstein I Elizabeth Arden. Barwy wojenne.”, Warszawa 2004)

  Helena’s strong character had let her outlast the parting with husband Edward Titus, his moving to the rival company onto the main manager position and his affiliation with company owner – Elizabeth Arden. Even though it was a hard period of time for Helena, she kept her mind sobriety and great marketing talent. In 1928, before the great financial recession, she had sold her American establishment stock for 8 million dollars, just to buy them back after the stock market breakdown with 6 million of profit, paying just a sum of 2 million dollars. Two years after her divorce, Madame got married once again – with a 15 year old younger Georgian prince Artchil Gourielli – Tchkonia. (www.kobieta.newsweek.pl)

Jean Cocteau once called Helena „the Empress of Beauty”. That amazing woman was managing her company until the end of her days. She kept on saying, that work makes people happy, because only at work they can find a real sense of life. Despite a lot of duties she had, she still found time for supporting artists’ communities and establishing many foundations. Fascination of art let her fill her residences with sophisticated art pieces from all over the world.

“Work was my favourite beauty treatment” - Helena was known to say. Her wish was to make her company to last for the following 300 of years. Creating a high quality brand and taking care about women’s beauty all over the world, she sank into the memory of many generations. (www.gazetakrakowska.pl)

Even today at Krakow’s Kazimierz her memory seems to be still alive. Apartment house, where she used to live - looks much different now, but one can find a dedicated memorial plaque on it. In tribute to Helena Rubinstein, a hotel situated at 12 Szeroka Street was named after her.  Its interiors are attractive because of their mystery and sophisticated apartment arrangement. Especially apartment number 201, dedicated to Helena’s memory. From its window one can see an amazing view, which lets your imagination to move into the time, when young Chaje walked around the nearby streets.
Only few people realize, how great the faith and the strong will of Helena’s were, to help her achieve her success and global career. Her history proves, that stubbornness and pursuing the goal can lead to the point, where the dreams come true.


You can see more photos of Hotel on our FB page http://www.facebook.com/groups/269930223039113/

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jews visiting Central & Eastern Europe frequently come with stereotypes and prejudices about the region.  In particular, group heritage and education tours for young Jews...

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