Inside Aerin Lauder's Beautiful Life & Office

For Aerin Lauder, the beauty industry is pretty much in her blood. She's the granddaughter of the late Estée Lauder, the founder of the eponymous beauty brand that has evolved into the Estée Lauder Cos. — one of the biggest beauty empires in the world, and home of some of your favorite lines, including MAC, La Mer, and Jo Malone.
With roots like those, you can bet Lauder knows a thing or two about looking good. She's been contributing to the company since her young adult years, most recently serving as the style and image director for the Estée Lauder brand. Now, she's finally ready to strike out on her own with Aerin.
The global luxury lifestyle brand will feature launches in the home, footwear, jewelry, and — no surprise here — beauty categories. Its ultra-chic makeup line just launched last month, with expansions planned for 2013.
In the midst of all that empire-building, Lauder took the time to sit down with us in her posh Madison Avenue offices, where she dished on how the line came about, her favorite beauty products (we'll give you one guess where they're all from), and what it was like growing up in such an iconic family. Click through to see the amazing snaps of her stylish space, peep the products, and learn all about Aerin.
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How did the idea for your own line come about?
"Well, a couple of years ago when I was creative director of the Estée Lauder brand, I was constantly challenged with how to keep the brand fresh and add a new element of surprise. How to maintain the heritage, but at the same time creating newness and bring in a new consumer. So, I had this idea of what’s inside my makeup bag — people are always asking me, 'you’ve been in beauty for so many years, Estée was your grandmother, you’ve been exposed to the best makeup artists, fashion shows, so you must have the best beauty secrets!' I had this idea of doing this capsule beauty collection of what’s in my makeup bag, and that’s literally what [the first collection for the brand] the Essentials is. It literally all fits inside the cute little pouch, even the cream. The collection is divided into the Essentials, and then we’ll do four color collections a year: The first one is Weekend, Week Day, and we’re going to do Holiday, Spring, and Summer. It’s either based on a fashion trend or a lifestyle trend — every season it’s different."

"I thought there was an opportunity to do something special, luxurious, unique, and feminine in the world of beauty and beauty accessories. And, we did makeup bags, slippers, and hairbrushes for that [Estée Lauder] Private Collection boutique at Bergdorf’s, which did very well. So, that was kind of a wonderful first step for this."

Inside Aerin's conference room, overlooking Madison Avenue and just down the street from the Estée Lauder Cos. HQ. Blouse and pants by Stella McCartney, shoes by Manolo Blahnik.

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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Why was it important to you to have your own line?
"Well, I think it’s kind of a wonderful next chapter for me, in terms of my career and my passion for beauty and accessories and home. And I think there really is a void in the beauty market for something feminine and modern. I’ve been walking into the beauty store, and everyone that sees it really responds to the pink and the gold and the simplicity of it. So, it was a wonderful next step. And I think that it works perfectly with Estée Lauder; it’s a wonderful complement to the existing gold fluted lipstick, as well as the Pure Color one, so it really becomes very much [part of] the family."

The main room of the AERIN offices, which pretty much looks like the most luxe living room, ever.

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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So, you’re saying that Aerin’s going to be both a classic line and also a trend-driven line. How do you balance that?
"I think that’s how the modern woman lives; there’s an element of classic to your style, or you buy the crazy handbag or the gold ballet slippers. You know there is always an element of fashion and trend, in anything you do whether it’s home, fashion, or beauty. It’s the balance of the two."

"It’s kind of an interesting balance, because when you go to runway shows, you’re really seeing extremes. You’re seeing the dramatic, dark eye, the very intense nail and lip color. And then there are the Michael Kors, Prada, and Jil Sander that still do that beautiful 'no-makeup makeup' — glowy skin and a foundation that creates that dewy finish. So, there’s always, every season, that look of no-makeup makeup beauty. It’s timeless."

Photographed by Mindy Best
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The Lauder brand is quite literally in your DNA. How does that translate into Aerin, the brand?
"It’s very much my heritage, and a lot of parts of this brand are inspired by heritage, storytelling, and Estée Lauder as a beauty icon and the ideas that she passed onto me. And then, there’s also an element that’s completely me, in the sense of the casualness of it. Yes, it’s gold, which is very luxurious, but the [ad campaign] shot of me is in jeans and a silk shirt, barefoot. So, there’s an element of the formal, and then an element of the casualness and unexpected. And that’s very much me."

Dress by Stella McCartney, shoes by Manolo Blahnik.

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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With the Courtin-Clarins girls and you and your sister, Jane, we're seeing many younger generations of classic brands start to take a more active role in the running of the family business. Why do you think that's so important?
"I think it’s so important because many brands don’t have that. Many brands make up a fake heritage, make up a fake story, and don’t have a family behind it. And we do have a family behind it; the Clarins family has those beautiful granddaughters behind it, as well. So, I think it’s really important to keep the story alive and keep the family alive."

Watch by Cartier, ring by David Webb.

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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How has growing up in the beauty industry shaped your own personal philosophy of beauty?
"I think it’s taught me a lot about beauty, because I’ve been watching beauty trends for about 20 years now. And I think just the idea of knowing where they come from, how long it’ll last, what people like, what they respond to, what doesn’t work, what does work. People like to look pretty, and at the end of the day, the trends that last and the trends that are relevant are the ones that make you look pretty. It’s the rosy cheek, the beautiful lip, the fantastic eye, versus a dark, goth, unattractive appearance. And I think that’s part of the success of Tom Pecheux [Estée Lauder's creative makeup director], the girls aren’t wearing a lot of makeup, and they look really pretty. And I think those are the trends that people like."

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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Where did you get your inspiration when you were designing the line?
"A lot of it really came from home. Concepts, fabrics — it’s a gold-dipped linen compact. The tube and makeup bag were inspired by a vintage batik pattern that we found. It was more than just beauty; it was really fashion and home."

A curio cabinet filled with some of Aerin's prized possessions and favorite things.

Photographed by Mindy Best
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What are your favorite products from the line?
"I love the makeup bags — I think they’re really beautiful — and I love all of the beauty accessories like the brushes and the combs. And the lipsticks and glosses are so iconic to me. They feel so modern."

What's the one product you can't live without?
"Lip conditioner — I just think it’s beautiful. I start my day with it, end my day with it. I just think it’s very luxurious. It’s pretty, it smells good; it’s a rose lip conditioner."

What beauty products do you think are necessities that all women should be using?
"I think every woman should be using a foundation, whether it’s liquid or compact. And our whole idea is a woman on the go, a woman that’s juggling many different things, so therefore we did a compact foundation, a bronzer. And then we have this wonderful product for lip and cheek. It’s kind of a brownish shade that’s very universal, which is great. And I think a neutral lipstick or gloss. And a lip conditioner is essential to keep your lips moisturized."

Photographed by Mindy Best
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How would you describe your personal style?
"I think my style is very plain, simple, feminine. I use the word luxurious a lot, but I do love luxury — I love gold pieces of jewelry, beautiful watches, shoes. I think quite simple. Simple, yet stylish. I love Stella McCartney, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler. I also love Edun; I think it’s really beautiful."

Photographed by Ben Fink Shapiro
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Who is your style icon?
"I think Kate Moss has amazing style. I’ve seen her in person many times, and I think she truly exudes that timeless, chic, feminine, and sexy — kind of everything you want to be. In terms of beauty, I think Kate Bosworth does it very well. I love when I see her when she goes to something. You know it’s a red lip and a pulled-back hair, or it’s a ponytail. And I think Olivia Palermo is really beautiful."

A framed photo of Aerin with her famous grandparents in Palm Beach. Aerin says Palm Beach, along with Long Island, are her "two favorite places. I've been going [to Palm Beach] since I was a kid, and it's like paradise for me."

Photographed by Mindy Best
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How would you describe the Aerin girl?
"I think it’s someone who likes a natural makeup look. Someone who likes fashion and style, who likes luxury, who’s feminine, who likes pretty objects and things. I think the brand is really feminine and, at the same time, it’s modern. It’s not so much an age group as it as a state of mind."

What do you think your brand brings to the market that's not currently out there?
"The idea of heritage and the ultimate beauty story. And, at the same time, it’s modern and feminine. Things are always modern or feminine; nothing’s ever really modern and feminine. If you can do pink in a modern way, that’s kind of unique. When you think of modern you usually think of cold, sterile, silver, and severe — almost masculine. So, this is modern, but it’s feminine-modern."

Photographed by Mindy Best
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What can we look forward to from the brand in coming months?
"I think the color collections are going to be really interesting, because they’re not always based on trend in a sense of fashion, but really in lifestyle, and I think there’s something interesting about that. And it’s great storytelling: Every piece in the collection has a story, every piece in the home line has a story, and I think it really is, whether it was a piece that was Estée’s or a piece that was inspired by [fashion]...there’s a realness to it, an authenticity."

Photographed by Mindy Best