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EXCLUSIVE: Aerin Lauder's Beautiful Life

Midmorning, I make my way to mid-Manhattan upon the invitation of Aerin Lauder’s team. Aerin, is the heiress of the Estée Lauder group of companies, and though she would not care to admit it, is also the favorite of her grandmother Estée. Her grandma built her empire on her business acumen for what customers need along with her distinct acumen for beauty—with Estée, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, dreaming of a different kind of life as she mixes face creams in her kitchen in Corona, Queens. It would not be too difficult to imagine then that Aerin would follow the same path of imagining products meant to make the most mundane of days feel extraordinary. This is one of those days.

Aerin’s studio is located in the Fuller building, an art deco gem in the corner of 57th and Madison built in the 1929. Then and even now, it houses many art galleries, most of which prefer its high ceilings and large windows overlooking the city below. The first thing you’ll notice as you enter are the mosaic floors surrounded by ornamental gilding, your eye leading up to the row of elevators. One of these elevators lead to Aerin’s design studio, an office she established when she decided to launch her own line of makeup, along with her essentials—sheer foundation, illuminating bronzer, lip and cheek cream, lip conditioner, hand and body moisturizer.

As soon as the door opens, you’ll realize that her space is unlike any corporate office you can ever imagine, one where you immediately look for a snazzy reception desk with a phone and fax machine, a small L-shaped sofa on the side with magazines meant for guests, perhaps a hallway that leads to a room of cubicles and desks. Instead, my eyes were led to the main room with two sofas underneath a crystal chandelier. There’s a small vestibule on the side with a rough concrete table punctuated by a floral bouquet.

Our first meeting, however, was in what constitutes a “conference table,” a mirrored dining table by Karl Springer in the 1950s, on top are samples of her newest perfume line, Aerin, which she just launched in Manila a few months back, and an assortment of candles and fresh flowers that filled the room with instant cheer.

Aerin came out of the room dressed in a white shift dress with volume sleeves, her hair delicately tucked behind her ear, her face with just a hint of makeup. She walked towards me confidently in her nude heels, her warmth filling up the whole room, reflecting on the gold accents that make up the surrounding display shelves.

She was exactly how imagined her to be, and more. On her social media sites, she let us in on different aspects of her persona—an entrepreneur, a world traveler, an aesthete, a mother, a friend. Yet in our short time together, I’ve gleamed much from her experience and her aesthetic that one can’t help but be in awe of her persona.

On her favorite fragrance. “I love Lilac Path because it’s wearable, it’s so easy. There was a wonderful story behind Lilac Path—it was the easiest one for us to create. We were working on a completely different direction and we couldn’t get it right. So I was away for the weekend in Long Island, my parents are in my grandmother’s house. And there’s a big lilac bush that she had planted many years ago. It was in full bloom and I took a picture of the lilac bush and I said to the team: Can we change directions, please don’t kill me. And it was so interesting when we presented it to the parfumers. Hey immediately loved the picture, the concept. And it was the easiest one for us. It was only a few months and we got it right. So it’s exciting that it’s one of our bestsellers, and it meant very much to me.”

On the bottle design. They’re inspired by the idea of semi-precious stones. The brand is feminine, modern, and effortless—but at the same time, there’s a sense of ease to it. I love the idea that they almost look like you were walking on the beach and you found a stones. They’re kind of imperfect, so the inspiration really was based on these natural elements that’s a part of the brand—whether it’s raffia, or flowers, or stones, or shells. So this is very much inspired by beautiful stones. You see that they are all meant to look not perfect.”

On the Aerin woman. “It’s funny because people always ask. And when I was in Estée Lauder, the concept behind the brand really came from the fact that people were always saying to me: What’s in your makeup bag, what are the items you can’t live without? My grandmother worked with the most amazing makeup artists in the world, and as creative director for seven years in Estée Lauder, we likewise worked with Pat McGrath, Tom Glasgow. So it was really that idea of creating this kind of capsule beauty collection of essentials and the must-haves. Women are busier than ever. And they’re juggling their career, family, travels, and responsibilities. It was the idea of effortless beauty, and that was very much the DNA behind the brand, and that definitely appeals to the woman of all ages. It’s exciting to see the results in these different markets we’re going into. I think it’s a total of 39 countries now. Well, obviously, it’s a global brand, and it’s fascinating to see that it’s not just one type. That’s what’s so exciting about it. It’s very much like a beauty-lifestyle brand, so it’s really about someone who loves something so feminine, modern, and easy.”

Selecting fragrances. “Estée had this crazy, amazing quote that said: You wouldn’t wear the same dress to have dinner or when you will play tennis? So why would you wear the same fragrance? And I think the woman of today loves choices, so you have different fragrances for different moods. There’s also something wonderful about having a signature scent.”

A woman’s choices. “The brand is very much about escape. In a busy woman’s life, it allows you to smile, have fun, discover fragrance, wear for different moods, and of course, the spa line allows you to escape for some quiet time.”

On surrounding yourself with beauty. “That’s one thing I learned from her. She always used to spend so much time in the office, and she’s been so comfortable and beautiful as possible. She tried to make everything like a home. If you go to the Estée Lauder office, which is just across the street, they have a salon like this, but it’s all blue and white and a bit more formal. And I really felt strongly about continuing that tradition.”

Grandmother’s legacy. “She was an amazing woman. She lived in Queens, her parents barely spoke English, and she didn’t go to college. She had this incredible dream, and passion, and drive. She realized there was an opportunity to do high end skincare and makeup, so she started it, and she was very persistent, even to the very end.”

Fondest memory. “She was really warm. And she was kind of like the grandmother that would tell you to take more than one chocolate. She loved life. And she loved to travel and meet people, and food! She loved chocolates, that’s her favorite thing. She always had a little refrigerator full of chocolate boxes. And because of that you can see her love of beauty or home, and family and friends, and living. ”

We asked Aerin about her favorite places in NYC...
Central Park. I love going for walks there. I think it’s so beautiful, it’s like an oasis.
Shopping. Barneys and Bergdorfs, or Nike with my kids.
Restaurants. Indochine, which is a classic New York staple. I love Greenway, which is a beautiful French restaurant, for special occasions.

This feature originally appeared in Metro Magazine September 2017 and was repurposed for Metro.Style
Photographs courtesy of Aerin