As style and image director for Estée Lauder and more recently founder and creator of the luxury lifestyle brand Aerin, Aerin Lauder is one busy woman. Witness her recent visit to Houston when she made personal appearances at Neiman Marcus to talk beauty products, to Circa Lighting to talk lamps and chandeliers and finally to Longoria Collection in Uptown Park where she wowed fans with her home furnishings and accessories line — all in one day.
The indefatigable Lauder first worked at her grandmother's beauty empire, Estée Lauder Companies, in the summers during college and then began the climb through the ranks by starting at Prescriptives. After earning the mantle of style and image director, the mother of two young sons expanded her oeuvre to include lifestyle. Move over Ralph Lauren as she continues to expand Aerin from home furnishings and accessories to soon include bedding.
"Color can be tricky. I think color is great to live with but it's easy to make mistakes in color."
In 2012 she launched a capsule, edited beauty collection, followed that holiday season with candles and home objects. Over the past two years, she has added 11 categories, collaborations that include everything from sunglasses to lighting fixtures. That's a lot of work for the woman who reached the billionaire ranks last year according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
CultureMap sat down for a brief chat with Lauder during her Longoria Collection visit.
CultureMap: In your book Beauty at Home (published last year), you share images of your homes in New York and the Hamptons and provide inspiration for DIY decorators. What is your definition of beauty in the sense of home?
Aerin Lauder: It means something different for everyone because for me the definition of beauty and what makes you happy for me is about friends and family and it's living with items that have been handed down generation to generation and total comfort.
CM: What is the key to successfully decorating a home?
AL: If you really go with elements that you love, you can't go wrong. Also, comfort is very important. And I think that light fixtures can create a room. I've always loved lighting and that's one of the reasons that it's one of our largest categories. If you put a ceiling fixture up or you have a floor lamp, even if you have no other furniture, it immediately creates a space.
CM: How would you define the Aerin line?
AL: It's about comfort and wonderful home objects. Even when you are sitting in a dining room chair like these (from her collection and where we are sitting) they're super comfortable — the beautiful fabric, the finishes, the textures, the different accents all work together. Also, we do a lot of these wonderful home objects. It's a big category for us.
So it's the whole idea of accessories for you home, picture frames, vases, candy dishes. It's the whole idea of making your home feel inviting and warm.
CM: From articles on your homes that have appeared in Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and Harper's Bazaar, it's obvious you have a penchant for blue and white but I don't see it so much in this collection. What is your take on color in home design?
AL: Color can be tricky. I think color is great to live with but it's easy to make mistakes in color. I think you should live with color but do it in a subtle way. I think sometimes you can play with color in a smaller room or as an accent but in my experience a bright, bright color in a large room is hard to live with. I use a lot of gold — matt gold, textured gold — in my accessories. It's a great accent.
CM: As you expand the brand next to include bedding, it sounds as if you are giving Ralph Lauren Home a run for the money.
AL: Ralph Lauren is a wonderful role model and I do think there is a great opportunity in the market place for a feminine approach to lifestyle with a sense of heritage . . . It's very exciting it has made me so proud of what we've accomplished with a very small team but an incredible team.
And I think my grandmother would be proud as she always advised me to follow my dreams, work hard and be passionate about what I do.