Perhaps the most vital aspect of the new line’s creation, however, was Dr. Orentreich’s contribution. Phillips had persuaded him to join her in the new venture with his visionary thinking and formulations. The result? From the beginning, Clinique was celebrated as the world’s first dermatologist-developed prestige beauty brand.
A new standard was set at beauty counters. Clinical white lab coats worn by the Consultants, and the Clinique Computer, a non-electronic box of levers that determined one's skin type and skincare needs, offered women a highly informative and tailored consultation that was the first of its kind in department stores.
Clinique debuted with not one, not five, but 117 skincare and cosmetics products. Off the bat, the 3-Step System—cleansing with facial soap, exfoliating dead skin cells with a clarifying lotion, and hydrating and balancing the skin with moisturizer—proved to be the forever star of the lineup.
From the start, the dynamic partnership with Carol Phillips imbued every decision. Both Leonard and Estée Lauder already knew they wanted the line to be both allergy tested and fragrance-free, to set it apart from the Estée Lauder brand. “That was a heated discussion, but it’s also what made them great partners,” says Mr. Lauder. “I remember [my mother] pounding on the table, saying ‘No, Carol, no, no, no. I want it to be 100 percent fragrance-free, and put that in the ads.’ Estée knew she already had a lot of fragrance in her own line, and the opposite end of that was a fragrance-free offering. Like Carol, she knew what women wanted.”
The 3-Step System (with the focus on allergy tested and fragrance-free qualities) combined with an equally rebellious ad campaign featuring now-iconic images by legendary photographer Irving Penn. In one ad, a white toothbrush sits perched in a glass, positioned opposite a trio of Clinique products—one each to represent cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize, of course—with a straightforward tagline: “Twice a Day.” The message was graphic, bold, and supremely uncomplicated: Commit to the 3-Step System just as you would commit to brushing your teeth twice a day, and you’ll experience fantastic skincare results. The ad would continue to be used for more than two decades, not only because it worked, but also because its sleek simplicity is timeless.