Lines of Beauty

By | July 18, 2012

Aerin Lauder does not need to work, either for money or prestige. As the treasured eldest granddaughter of the beauty magnate Estee Lauder, she has been a member of Manhattanelite from birth, with Kelly Klein, Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Kors on her dinner party invite list (being hosted by Aerin at her Park Avenue home, says her sister, is akin going on the perfect vacation”). And yet here she is, the ultimate beauty scion, describing to me her daily routine, utterly recognisable to any working mother: a precarious balancing act that falls somewhere between madness, exhaustion and elation. husband always says, writing on your Blackberry in the middle of the night,”’she sighs ruefully.
Teatime on a seductive, balmy Florida afternoon and were seated on the wide, elegant porch of Ronald and Jo Carole LauderPalm Beach holiday home (bought by Estee in the Eighties to protect the land adjacent to her own whitewashed villa), with an unchecked view of rolling surf beyond the immaculate palm-fringed lawn. At 42, when many might think they had earned more time in their holiday homes (the Hamptons, Aspen), shelaunching a luxury lifestyle brand named Aerin. Like her grandmother before her, she is betting everything on her name.

Perched beside me, cheeks flushed after a quick spot of sunbathing, having arrived at lunchtime direct from New York, she looks blissfully rejuvenated. just heavenly, isnit, to feel the sun after the cold of New York?”Her face is clear of make-up (though she loyally promises there is foundation and a smidge of blusher) and gratifyingly normal age lines are etched into her darkened skin —no Botox here. Wearing a Roberta Freymann geometric-print top and J Crew white shorts with bare feet, her oyster Louboutin sandals abandoned on the floor, she is the picture of casual elegance. A plate of sweet-smelling, freshly baked cookies is placed on the rattan table between us by discreet uniformed staff in white polo shirts and tan chinos, who move noiselessly about the house.
Her parents’home provides a tantalising glimpse into the world of immaculate perception that Aerin inhabits. Upstairs each airy bedroom is painted a shade of ice cream —frosted pink, lemon or pistachio —and the white hallways and corridors are decorated with a playful collection of colourful French ceramics from the Thirties to the Fifties, pieces by Jouve, Besnard, Jourdain and Lurcat (collected by her mother). Downstairs the cavernous front room is painted that pale candyfloss pink Estee favoured. The kitchen is fun and kitsch, filled with retro tableware and giant cookie jars in kaleidoscopic colours.

Everything is considered, but it still feels like a family home. No intimidating artworks here, just wall after wall of framed photos: Aerin and her mother, cradling her baby son; Aerin as a little girl with her younger sister, Jane, and her parents in stylish Seventies flares visiting Disneyland; more of her rugged, good-looking husband of 17 years (they were university sweethearts), Eric Zinterhofer, playing with their boys Will and Jack; and many of Estee with her grandchildren, her handsome face framed by groomed curls, wearing flowing chiffon-print dresses.
We were supposed to meet this morning, but, as Aerin unapologetically explains, it meant another night away from her sons (now 13 and 11) in New York, and thatall part of the endless give and take, the sandwiching of hours, necessary when youa board director and ambassador for a multibillion-dollar global brand. She relates how a few nights before, at a charity breast cancer benefit in New York, seated next to Michael Kors, Bryan Adams and Donna Karan, her phone rang and it was her eldest, crying because he couldndo his geometry homework for a test the following day. husband was away, so I went home. I left just as Elton John got up to sing. That is my priority.”

This same dogged straight thinking is why, unlike many of us staggering, confused under the weight of our adult female responsibilities, she has shrewdly converted her daily juggling act as ”and beauty mogulette into a business plan. (But then, her grandmother was fond of saying, didnget here by dreaming or hoping: I got here by working.”) And Aerin will not just be under the auspices of the Lauder family firm, where she has been creative director for seven years, but venturing beyond with, yes, a capsule beauty collection, launching in September to be sold at Estee Lauder counters, but also, from autumn, the world of Aerin starts rolling out to a few department stores, including Harrods-chic accessories and beautiful homewares, including fabrics, tablecloths and tableware.
Who wouldnwant to buy into her fabulous life, adopt her immaculate taste? I know I would. And if the closest I can get is buying a soft, scented rose hand cream in pretty floral packaging, so be it. is about effortless beauty, itthe items you canlive without,”she explains, a hint of nerves showing as she lays out her dream, spreading focus group spreadsheets and mood boards in front of us. There is Aerin in jeans and a cream silk shirt for the brand imagery, alongside a dramatic painting by Rothko, dusky gold-plated compacts and lipsticks in blush-rose pink. gold-dipped linen,”she says proudly, pointing to the gently raised texture on the eyeshadow palette. collated all the things I love. What I would purchase. Everyone needs something easy, no one has time to do anything. Women are multi-taskers.”
This is no empty platitude with Aerin. She has been at the family firm for 20 years, from her holiday jobs while studying communications at the University of Pennsylvania, on to her first job in the creative department at Clinique, working her way up to creative director and vice-president of Estee Lauder, overseeing all the advertising, the store and web design and, most recently, the Tom Ford collaboration.
Did she feel she had to prove herself? , you definitely represent a family. You have to handle yourself properly, work extra hard, come in on time, stay late —but my grandmother went to work every day until her eighties and at 79 my uncle is still looking at lipstick cases, so ita family filled with passion. I didnknow anything else apart from that, I have grown up with that.”Therea positive energy that rolls off Aerin. Maybe I met her on a good day, maybe itbecause shein Palm Beach (where she has holidayed with her family all her life), or perhaps sheriding the adrenaline that comes with a start-up, but she is not the shy, formal woman I had read about. guess Ialways been energetic, itprobably why I donsleep, and Ialways had a strong personality, you could say…”She trails off, unconfident in dissecting her personality naturally composed but fabulously funny,”says Jane, another in the Lauder stable (global president of Origins), speaking on the phone from New York. very much like my father in that way. And she can have a conversation with anyone. Iso shy, but sheso outgoing, it always impresses me.”The newr Aerin offices are across the road from the Madison Avenue headquarters of Estee Lauder, where she will remain a consultant and the style and image director. I can run back and forth. Itgoing to be a balancing act for sure. You have no time to yourself. Every morning is frantic, getting the boys to school, ita mess,”she stops and laughs out loud, the realisation of whatto come seeping in. Best not to think too long.
Then there are the various homes to synchronise, the Park Avenue apartment, the ski chalet in Aspen, the beach house in the Hamptons, each glowing with luxurious details, created by Aerin and her favoured interior designers, Daniel Romualdez or Jacques Grange (think large, comfy sofas with classic modern pieces and staggering artworks by Cy Twombly and Andreas Gursky, among others).
remember when we were little, her Barbie was very chic, and she would take a bookcase and make her Barbie a fabulous apartment,”recalls Jane with bemused affection. Barbie had the chicest lifestyle and mine was, like, a mess. I was always jealous because she would make her Barbielife better than mine. Everything has to be beautiful for Aerin, it permeates every aspect of her life.”
when itan informal group of us on a Saturday night,”says Kelly Klein, her long-term friend and Hamptons neighbour, always has the table set and itjust beautiful —the cutlery, the candles and the colours, but you never feel you canwear jeans. Therean ease about Aerinelegance that reflects on every aspect of her life,”she continues, way she entertains, how she is as a mother and a friend, itjust very natural. When I ring her in New York, sometimes therea quickness to her voice, but thatthe most stressed I ever hear her.”
Doesnshe ever wake in the night, worrying about what she forgot that day? , my mind is always whirring,”Aerin groans comically, giving in and taking a cookie. Didna life of cupcake baking and school-gate camaraderie tempt her once or twice? She shakes her head, then shrugs, course… I think at some point every working mother thinks that and some thrive on (being a full-time mother], but I need that balance, and work provides some femininity in my life.”
Ah yes, because she is a lone female surrounded by rugged boys (according to Klein, kids are great —polite, smart and calm”). But still. yes, boys are boys,”she says grinning. I hazard she has a hideout, away from the laser guns, video games and smelly socks (although I donthink smelly socks stay on the floor long in the Lauder household). More laughter and, like her voice, itthroaty and strong, no whispering girly tweet. have a beautiful dressing room and itmy wonderful feminine space, lovely wallpaper with birds and flowers, and a bathroom in the Estee pink. But yes, the boys play hide-and-seek in the wardrobes with my dresses, and I try and not get mad.”
No one doubts Aerindevotion to her children and home life —especially in a town where many of the rich and privileged do leave their child to the nanny (night,”she whispers, quite bewildered) —but itcanny marketing to remove herself from the cold echelons of the Park Avenue princesses, to connect to the everywoman through her mothering (though most women donhire their communications vice-president straight from advising Michelle Obama; nor do they share their hair and make-up stylist with Madonna). Motherhood is the safe middle ground where many women connect. She tells me I must stop at a particular toy store on my way back to Miami airport to stock up on gifts for my two boys. love the pranks. I mean, they have fake doggy doo doo,”she whispers, giggling.
you tried rock crabs?”she grins suddenly, standing up, visibly relieved now our interview is over (two communications directors sat in on our chat. In true Aerin style, their presence wasnobtrusive, but the brand message was gently pushed home; shea pro, after all). going to have a proper Florida dinner, and I thought we would have it over here,”she says, motioning to a large table being erected on the porch, so hot and itbetter to do it as a long table, donyou think?”
When I return at dusk, Aerin —in a cerise Celine chiffon top and white Stella trousers —is sipping white wine and eyeing up the platter of avocado dips, crisps and crunchy vegetable sticks laid out —nothing too fancy, mind. (Later, after we have generously fed on creamy spinach and deep-fried crab, she moans, , I used to be so skinny in my twenties,”before pulling her shirt over her thighs, you think I look OK?”Its an endearing moment of insecurity the night before a photo shoot.) There is chat about the Miami Art Basel and much more on her dress for the Met Ball that coming Monday. Aerin and Estee Lauder have a table each and the seating plans are being finalised. She is excited to have Victor Cruz next to her, David Beckham of American football. The Giants just won the Superbowl,”she explains. J Mendel has made her a simple grey lace dress. is a lot of pressure,”she grimaces of the red carpet. dinner is quick and the afterparties are fun. One year we went to The Crown and I was dancing with Michael Kors until half three in the morning.”
It is tempting to draw parallels between Aerin and the grandmother she remembers so fondly. And she admits they share many sensibilities. love of very feminine elements,”she says, even the way we dress. She would always wear pants and a beautiful top and one piece of jewellery. I learnt a lot from her. I think the way she entertained and the way she lived is very influential to me. At the same time, I have a bit more casualness…”
Whereas Estee doled out advice to women —to a glow on her cheeks and a spray of fragrance”in the morning, after she has kissed her husband goodbye he will remember her while he says hello to his secretary”—Aerin talks about putting the children to bed and switching on the computer to shop on the internet; how in her new line simple but timeless and itall very real”. Shethe embodiment of what our generation of doit-all, have-it-all women want and dream of achieving: seamless easy style at all times —if only we could pull it off as she does.