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Anita Roddick, 64; founded Body Shop cosmetics chain

September 11, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop chain of stores featuring natural-ingredient cosmetics, died Monday after suffering a brain hemorrhage, according to British news media. She was 64.

A social activist and author as well as an expert on natural-ingredient skin care, hair care and cosmetics, Roddick died after being admitted to St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, according to British media reports.

Roddick opened the first of her innovative shops in Brighton, England, in 1976. She promoted low-priced cosmetics that she packaged in refillable containers and offered a discount for refill purchases.

She also made a point of avoiding ingredients that had been tested on animals. Instead, she featured products made with banana, strawberry, pineapple, seaweed, jojoba, elder flower and the like. One of the more unusual items she made was a carrot moisturizing cream.

Roddick's passion for the natural and unpretentious in cosmetics fit easily with her commitment to the environment. Over the years she became as well known for her efforts to protect whales and restore rain forests as for her henna hair-coloring products.

Her success as a businesswoman allowed her to aid orphans in Romania, sponsor food and shelter programs for the homeless in London and battle laws she opposed, including the death penalty.

"Our reason for being is to dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change," Roddick noted in her company's statement of principles.

In 2004, Roddick donated $1.8 million to Amnesty International, the human rights organization.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, called Roddick an "incredible woman" and noted that she was living "green" decades before it was fashionable to do so.

"She was so ahead of her time when it came to issues of how business could be done in different ways, not just profit-motivated but taking into account environmental issues," Sauven said in a statement carried by the Associated Press.

Born Anita Perella on Oct. 23, 1942, in Littlehampton, West Sussex, England, Roddick was the daughter of Italian immigrants.

She graduated from Bath College of Education but often said her best teacher was world travel.

She married Thomas Gordon Roddick, a poet, in 1970. He soon joined her as co-chairperson of her business.

After expanding to include nearly 200 shops in England and Europe, most of them franchise stores, the Body Shop entered the U.S. market in 1988.

Her emphasis on small boutiques that stocked natural ingredients inspired a number of imitators, but she remained the most prominent name in the business for two decades.

Before Roddick and her husband stepped down as co-chairs in 2002, the business had grown to include more than 1,900 stores in 50 countries, according to a company history.

The Body Shop became part of L'Oreal, the French cosmetics industry giant, in July 2006.

Along with building her cosmetics business, Roddick wrote a number of books, including "The Body Shop: Skin, Hair and Body Care" (1994) and an autobiography titled "Business as Usual: The Triumph of Anita Roddick" (2000). She edited "Take it Personally: How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World" (2001).

She was awarded the title of dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for services to retailing, the environment and charity.

Earlier this year, Roddick announced that she had contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1971. She discovered her condition as the result of her latest blood test.

"It means that I live with a sharp sense of my own mortality," Roddick said of her condition, "which in many ways makes life more vivid and immediate."

Roddick's survivors include her husband and her daughters, Sam and Justine.

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mary.rourke@latimes.com

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