It’s a crisp June morning and I’m having tea on the sun-filled patio at the East Hampton country estate of the late, great beauty pioneer Estée Lauder.
These days the Greek Revival-style home belongs to her granddaughter Aerin Lauder, 44, who has proudly carried on the Lauder legacy, working with the company for the past two decades, most notably as creative director of the Estée Lauder brand before creating her eponymous line, Aerin, a chic capsule collection based on her can’t-live-without beauty products.
‘People always say to me, you’ve been exposed to the best make-up artists in the world, what’s in your make-up bag? I loved the idea of a beauty/lifestyle brand based on an edit as we’re inundated with lipsticks, fragrance, eyeshadows, jewellery and handbags.
When my boys were little I’d throw so many toys at them but they didn’t want to play with any. Then I’d give them a truck and they would play for hours. I believe the same thing applies to a consumer – edit their choices and they will be more intrigued.’
Aerin Lauder at her home, she says she has ‘Always loved flowers, as a little girl I’d collect flower objects and little flower books. Now I love flowers on my night table and on my desk.’
‘I’ve always loved flowers, as a little girl I’d collect flower objects and little flower books. Now I love flowers on my night table and on my desk.’ CREDIT: JONATHAN FRANTINI
That said, the collection initially launched as ‘Essentials’ included just five face products, a make-up brush and make-up bag. Considered additions have followed, with the latest launches debuting this month as part of the Aerin Rose collection – Rose Oil, Rose Body Wash, Rose Body Scrub, featuring the line’s signature pale-pink packaging with gold accents and a vintage batik print.
They will join hero products like the cult fragrance Rose De Grasse and Rose Balm, a use-everywhere product that comes infused with over 350 rose petals. ‘I put it on my cuticles, face, lips, elbows and heels,’ says Lauder, who also counts the Rose Lip Balm and Hand and Body Cream among her favourites.
These new products, Aerin says, reflect her love of the whole bath, body, spa ritual and, of course, scent. ‘Rose is the most beautiful flower – it and tuberose are my favourites.
My earliest memory is of my grandmother and her fragrances. She always had white fragrant flowers in the front hall of her home, that was her thing. I’ve always loved flowers, as a little girl I’d collect flower objects and little flower books. Now I love flowers on my night table and on my desk.’
If Aerin, the woman, is all about the bath – ‘I am such a bath girl: we’ve gone to some of the beautiful hotels in the world and if there’s a shower I’m so disappointed’ – Estée was firmly focused on the face. ‘My grandmother would always say, “You have one face, take care of it.”
My earliest memory is of my grandmother. She always had white flowers in her home, that was her thing
She also advised finding what works for you and sticking to it. She wore coral lipstick 365 days a year, no matter what the trend was. She had beautiful, hazel eyes so it looked amazing on her.’ Personally, Aerin prefers ‘to stay very neutral’ when it comes to lipstick and make-up. A hint of mascara, bronzed skin and a pale lip ‘is what I feel most comfortable in’.
Beyond cosmetics, what makes her feel beautiful? ‘Fresh air and sleep, though I am the worst sleeper. To me, a woman who is confident and happy is the most beautiful.
It’s not about having the most perfect face or perfect hair,’ says Lauder, who has a long and enviable mane of warm brown hair with honey highlights. ‘I will never forget that when I would come home from college, my grandmother would always tell me to brush my hair,’ she laughs.
Aerin with her grandmother, the beauty guru Estée Lauder
Aerin with her grandmother, the beauty guru Estée Lauder CREDIT: COURTESY OF AERIN LAUDER
Dressed, as if to complement the rose packaging, in a baby-pink shirt (‘I’m just drawn to this shade’), Capri pants and ballet flats, Lauder is the epitome of classic uptown New York meets beachy East Hampton (she divides her time between this home and an apartment on the Upper East Side).
‘You could say my style is simple, effortless, feminine. But I love fashion. I love Stella [MacCartney] for that classic fabulous blazer, Erdem for the prints and unexpected patterns, and Michael Kors for casual, luxurious sports clothes – he actually made me a jersey dress for this year’s Met Gala and it was perfect: white, plain simple.’
Describing her uniform as ‘a great pair of pants, pretty blazer and one piece of jewellery’, Aerin is most at home in flats. ‘I love ballet slippers, since I love to walk, especially Tabitha Simmons,’ though she’s also a sucker for a great bag. ‘I just bought that Valentino bag with all the flowers on it, and I adore it. And I love what Chloé is doing, its bags are so clever.’
Social media is important for Aerin personally – and for business, too. ‘I’m such a voyeur. I go deeper and deeper into people’s posts and it’s so interesting and a great source of inspiration. People such as jewellery designer Aurélie Bidermann are so talented I love to see where she’s going for inspiration or travelling to.’
Holidays are a source of inspiration for Lauder. ‘I love London, and Morocco. I’ve been a few times and I’m so inspired by the colour and the culture. We just went to Paris and it was amazing.
The Lauder family gathered at Palm Beach: Estée is on the right, Aerin, the little girl in pigtails.
The Lauder family gathered at Palm Beach: Estée is on the right, Aerin, the little girl in pigtails. CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
We visited the Picasso Museum, which was incredible; I love a broad range of art and contemporary photography.’ Aerin collects the work of the artist Clifford Ross, who has become a friend. ‘I love his sensibility; he does oceans during storms and they feel very close to home.’
When not working or travelling, how does she unwind? ‘I love New York but there’s a side to me that thinks coming to my Hamptons house, breathing the fresh air, having a coffee, is paradise. I have a couple of dogs and love to walk on the beach here. If we’re in New York, we’ll walk around Central Park – that’s my sanity.’
Finding the balance between work and life, even when you’re the descendant of one of the great American dynasties, is, Lauder admits, ‘really hard, you know you never really do’.Understandable, given her vision is to take the Aerin brand global. ‘We love the idea of Aerin stores – something in St Barths would be great.’
With this, Aerin feels she has finally found her true calling. ‘Right after college I went to Prescriptives and I remember walking in wearing a Giorgio Armani pants suit and people had their ice coffees and Filofaxes, and it was very traditional and corporate and
Estee Lauder at the opening of a shop in Hungary in October 1989
Estee Lauder at the opening of a shop in Hungary in October 1989 CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
I thought, “I want to be that when I grow up.” But at this age I realise I don’t want to be that. I like a more casual, creative environment. If you come to my office you will see, it feels like a home.
We all sit in this big design studio, and for me it’s perfect.’ Her team includes one of her closest friends, a former accessories editor at Vogue, who consults on fashion, bags and shoes.
Aerin offers me a tour of the house and we walk through the cosy sitting room, which is dark and masculine, to ‘Estée’s room’, which overlooks her precious rose garden. ‘I have kept this room as is. It is blue and white and was very much the inspiration behind her brand.
She loved blue and white ceramics and textiles, and this was the concept behind her blue packaging,’ says Aerin, pointing to a table holding a white orchid and an assortment of photos. ‘These are moments in history; there is a picture with Princess Grace and signed notes from – and pictures with – Nancy Reagan.’
Aerin Lauder launched her own fragrance and toiletries brand, based on the premise that ‘Living beautifully should be effortless’
Aerin Lauder launched her own fragrance and toiletries brand, based on the premise that ‘Living beautifully should be effortless’ CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
Is she proud of her heritage? ‘Yes, it’s very special. My grandmother’s biggest strength was her passion. She was unique because, although so many women are driven and passionate, they are not always feminine.
She taught me the importance of being feminine and strong. She would always have perfect lipstick and she was brilliant at marketing.’
Does she believe she has made Estée proud? ‘Yes, she really connected with her consumers, which is so important, and I think I have that quality. I love people. She would always say, “A woman knows what a woman wants.”
Article taken from www.telegraph.co.uk