“My grandmother always talked about the importance of being authentic. She said that if you’re passionate and true, success will come. To me, there is no better advice. I have valued this idea since I was a young girl,” says Aerin Lauder in an interview with Liviani Putri.
Aerin Rebecca Lauder Zinterhofer is the granddaughter of beauty mogul Estée Lauder (1906-2004). She is Creative Director at Estée Lauder Companies and founder of her own business, the New York-based lifestyle brand Aerin. The eldest daughter of Jo Carole Knopf and art collector and philanthropist Ronald Lauder, 49-year-old Aerin gained a Bachelor’s degree from University of Pennsylvania and has worked in the family business since 1992. Her husband, Eric Louis Zinterhofer, is an American private equity financier.
In 2012, Aerin launched her own brand to celebrate her interest in art, travel, fashion and design. The brand develops beauty, fashion accessories and home décor collections that sell in 40 countries. Here, Aerin home décor creations can be found at Klots Home Furnishing in Kemang. Highlights of an exclusive interview:
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and designer?
After working at Estee Lauder for many years, I felt there was an opportunity in the marketplace for a lifestyle brand based on feminine, modern and effortless products with strong heritage and storytelling. I also realised when the modern woman thinks about beauty, she sees it as an extension of herself, her home, her wardrobe and her travels.
Therefore, beauty and home should live together. When I decided to launch Aerin, I expanded the whole concept of beauty to make it part of the way we live today. We did this with what I love the most: makeup, fragrance, objects for the home and accessories. Beauty is my heritage, but home and accessories are my true passion.
What do you think is the secret to great interior style?
There’s no real secret, but I always try to decorate with a sense of easy elegance. Nothing is ever forced. Every element in a space should work together, without appearing stuffy or overdone. This design philosophy can apply to all aspects of your home and life. Living beautifully should be effortless and every room should be useful and serve a purpose.
How do you think ideas about luxury have changed since you started out?
Luxury means the ultimate in quality and experiential richness. Its products that are created from the rarest, artisanal ingredients and are presented in beautiful packaging, which are collector’s items themselves. It’s also all about the experience you have as a shopper. In order for a product to truly be a luxury item, the entire experience should be pleasant and enjoyable from beginning to end.
Who inspired you when you were young?
My grandmother always talked about the importance of being authentic. She said that if you’re passionate and true, success will come. To me, there is no better advice. I have valued this idea since I was a young girl.
Tell us about your home in Park Avenue. What’s your favourite room?
I’ve lived in my apartment for 18 years and not much has changed. I worked with Jacques Grange to design the interiors of the apartment. I felt that every room should be comfortable and serve a purpose. However, my dressing room has to be my favourite room. With Gracie wallpaper and framed notes from my sons, it’s the ultimate space for me to relax and unwind.
Where do you do your most creative work – in the office or elsewhere?
I love to dedicate my time in the office to work on designs and projects, whether I’m in my office answering emails or in a meeting in our design studio. It’s the best place for me to focus and work collaboratively with my team. I spend so much time at the office, that I want it to feel as comfortable as possible. Just like my home, you will find flowers, bowls of candy and personal memories throughout the space.
How well do you work with your colleagues? How good are you at giving direction or delivering criticism?
I’m lucky to have a very talented team that I love working with. My uncle has an amazing quote. He says that he’s only as good as the people around him and he’s surrounded by the best. That’s the team I’ve created. I am surrounded by the best and I feel that is so valuable.
We always try to work with partners that share similar values, which makes working together very easy. Like-minded brands are the perfect partners for us because we are able to collaborate, share ideas, work together and learn from one another towards a single goal. It’s important to treat your partners in a way that you would always like to be treated, which allows for an amicable and successful partnership.
How has the rise of the internet, e-commerce and social media affected your life and your work?
Through social media, especially Instagram, I’ve been able to reach people all over the world. Connected with women I would like to meet through sharing photos of my home, a beautiful trip or a preview of my new collection. The power of communication is priceless and there is nothing enjoyable more than posting a beautiful image, learning about something new and following people that inspire me. Today, many relationships with my customers are through the digital space.
The growth of e-commerce has had a huge effect on retailing, as you know. How do you see the future of furniture retailers?
Although the internet is bigger than ever, I still believe that there is a place for retailers. It’s all about experience, and the Aerin stores have always been focused on surprise and delight. Shoppers are still going to brick and mortar stores for an experience that the internet can’t provide, so my best advice is to provide an experience that is positive and sets you apart.
How do you deal with the challenge of working with other cultures?
I love being able to share my product with people all around the world. Especially with social media, the world has become so much smaller. We have found that our bestsellers across the Aerin brand are very much the same. For example, last year I hosted a group of influencers from China. The entire group loved the Aerin lifestyle and had a very similar appreciation for our product and values.
We have learned that despite cultural differences, certain styles are universal. I would say my style has always been streamlined and classic, so in my opinion, they are definitely more bold and daring.
Please tell us about some of your latest projects.
I’m quite busy since Rosewood Hotels & Resorts added me to its Curators Program this year. It’s a carefully selected group of luminaries and leaders who share travel recommendations and insider tips for the Rosewood group around the world.
I’m joining them on behalf of Rosewood Bermuda, an elegant estate that opened in April 2018. Together, we partnered to bring Aerin’s first-ever hotel amenity line to the resort. It features six coral palm-scented bath and body products and a fragrance bar.
How about your home life? How does your usual day go?
I wake up at 7 am to feed and walk the dogs. Then I have a quick shower (since I wash my hair at night) and do simple makeup. I love to do Pilates three times a week and prefer to workout first thing. Having a long stroll in Central Park is also the perfect way to start the day. I walk to the office and stop by (Italian restaurant) Sant Ambroeus for coffee and a smoked salmon croissant.
How do you balance the demands on your time of work and family?
Staying connected is part of our reality, but I try to disconnect when I can. When I’m home, this is the time for me to be with my family. I am focused on my boys and my husband. They are my biggest priority.
When my boys were younger we would make it a point to spend time together every morning before we were all off to work and school and every night when we got home. Now that they are both in college, I especially love when we are together on the weekends or during school vacations. On the other hand, when I am working, my goal is to focus on my job.