It’s Art Basel in Hong Kong. The city’s society crowd is out in force, the parties are in full swing and the art is, well, quietly ignored by most of the fair’s dolled-up attendees who would rather be seen than be the ones seeing something new. It also means that the 852 is playing host to an influx of international names and faces who’ve chosen to stop by Asia’s vertical playground for a few short days. Among them is Lauren Santo Domingo, contributing Vogue editor and co-founder of online runway trunk show Moda Operandi.
LSD, as she’s affectionately called by her closest fashionable allies, is a high-society darling, with homes in New York and Paris (where, incidentally, she spends time with her beautiful brood on the floors above her mother-in-law in an incredibly appointed hôtel particulier), a pulsing travel itinerary – Cartagena in Colombia, from where the family of her husband Andrés hails, is a holiday favourite – and a personal and professional résumé that would give any girl a heady dose of the green-eyed monster. The absolutely worst bit of it all?
Santo Domingo is that rare breed who knows she’s fortunate, is grateful for it, but feels no need to apologise in the least for the hand she’s been dealt – and, incidentally, one she’s worked hard to make the most of. She’s easy fun; laughing at herself constantly, asking everyone she spends time with on set a hundred questions, making suggestions to help the (very small) team around her get everything they need to keep things running smoothly.
And there’s plenty to keep running. Santo Domingo is in Hong Kong to celebrate the official launch of Moda Operandi into the Asian market – the digital store that style mavens flock to for fresh-off-the-catwalk designs is hitting the East. It’s a concept that could easily have fallen flat. So how much of the journey was afforded by luck, by chances seized, or by pure grit and determination?
“Totally all three,” she says, laughing. “One of our Moda Operandi investors, who’s from Condé Nast, said to me, ‘I don’t know if your success is a lot of hard work or if it’s just a lot of luck – sometimes I think it’s just sheer will.’ And sometimes I think I did just will it. I think it’s just not seeing anything but the long-term. Looking so far down the road, any pothole is almost irrelevant.
“You know, I was driving with a friend of mine to Long Island a while ago, I was in the passenger seat, and she was only stopping when the car in front of her stopped and I realised I’m looking 30 cars ahead, so I see when the traffic is starting to slow and if I were driving I would already be slowing down. I realised, my husband looks three cars ahead and I look literally two exits ahead. And I’ve just always been like that. I just look really far down the road.”
That road has taken Santo Domingo from a childhood in Connecticut with her artist mother and her father, the former CEO of The Perrier Group in America, to a life of luxury spent criss-crossing the globe to fuel her business and personal ambitions. Along the way, she has gathered a rolodex of friends that reads like a monumental who’s-who checklist of names. So, what kind of friend is the one-and-only LSD?
“I am that friend that you call when you got the job, you got the boyfriend, you got engaged, you got the raise,” she says, warming to the question. “You call me when you have got good news. You don’t call me when you’re sick, you broke up, your mom died, you’re having a fat day. I’m just not that friend. But I’m genuinely happy for people when they’re doing well, whereas other friends aren’t. I like seeing people when they are at their best. I prefer people at their best.”
Her wedding in 2008 was a sea of perfect faces and big names – a veritable ocean of folks at their best – with Santo Domingo counting Tinsley Mortimer, Fabiola Beracasa, and Coco Brandolini as three of her nine bridesmaids.
If Instagram had been around, the nuptials would have proved perfect fodder. As it was, a mere 10-page spread in Vogue had to suffice. While the wedding might have given Santo Domingo’s pals a chance to come together on exotic soil, annual get-togethers are always on the calendar, I’m told.
“Most of my friends work in fashion so we’re sort of lucky that we have this incredible life that no matter where my friends live, all over the world, we end up at least twice a year in the same place – Paris – all with crazy amounts of jet-lag, we meet and have fun. And whether they’re designers, photographers, creative directors, models, editors, we’ve all been in this industry since when we were kids. We all started out as the assistants, and now we’re in the driver’s seat.”
Look at street-style blogs and Instagram, and you’re sure to find a shot of the lady herself, robed in the newest couture costume – naturally – and hitting the latest show or A-list party with a beaming smile alongside her equally well-clad coterie. Indeed, when it comes to today’s social circus, the all-American businesswoman is a clear-cut advocate for sharing only the good stuff.
“Instagram is the perfect medium, because I like everybody to be doing their best, at their best, truly feeling wonderful. I’m perfectly happy with that perfectly branded, happy story. When I was young I would go on vacation and you would go to the tourist shop and you would find the postcard from wherever you are, and you would write to your friends saying, ‘We had such a nice time, we went snorkelling,’ but that’s it. You don’t write, ‘Oh I got food poisoning, I got sunburn.’ And on the postcard, there would be the perfect sunset, and then you’d write, ‘The weather is beautiful, I wish you were here, XOXO’. For me, Instagram is like that postcard. You’re sending the beautiful sunset with the nice message, of here I am having a wonderful time, missing you, thinking of you.”
When I point out that sunshine and rainbows aren’t the daily reality for many, her retort is delivered swiftly, with a knowing twinkle in her eye: “Do that on your free time. I want nothing to do with that.” We do love a lady who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Santo Domingo has had a charmed life – “I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky”– but there’s no denying that this is a dame who has seized opportunity and made it her mission to turn ideas into reality. What’s her secret? We won’t pretend to know, though we couldn’t help but smile at an earlier remark: “I feel that when I was pregnant I was the most competent and creative and productive that I’ve ever been. In fact, there’s always a little voice in the back of my head, whenever I’m feeling like, ‘OK, what’s the next innovation, what’s comes next,’ I’m like I should get pregnant and maybe it will come to me. I’m launching in Asia, I’m gonna have to have another kid!”