AERIN Lauder’s world must smell of flowers. Tuberose and gardenia to be exact.
At the launch of her new beauty line, available in Scotland from this week, the scent hangs in the air, while her homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons are filled with heady bouquets of daily cut flowers – roses, peonies and gardenia.
Fragrance has always been in the air surrounding Lauder and the sweet smell of success permeated her childhood. Her grandmother, the legendary Estée Lauder, was responsible for some of the biggest-selling fragrances of all time – her Youth Dew is still selling 60 years on. Born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Queens, New York, in 1906, one of nine children of a Hungarian Jewish mother and a Czechoslovak Jewish father, she started her beauty business from humble beginnings in the 1940s and built it into an international cosmetics giant. Today her presence still lingers like perfume on a silk scarf, almost a decade after her death.
“Estée was an incredible role model,” says Lauder, speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday on the launch of her beauty line. “She taught me the importance of passion, style, hard work, family and, of course, all things beautiful. She always said, ‘You only have one face, take care of it’.” As we know, it pays to listen to your granny, especially when she’s the founder of a multi-billion dollar beauty empire that has put her descendants on the US rich lists.
As well as learning about make-up at her grandmother’s dressing table – as a teenager her first beauty products were a Clinique soap and Estée Lauder Opal lipgloss – she also picked up Estée’s work ethic.
“In terms of work, she said, ‘Whatever you do, do it well’ and ‘Work hard and love what you do’,” says Lauder. Now, after grafting at the face of the beauty industry with the family firm for two decades, Lauder has branched out with her own eponymous brand, Aerin, while remaining at Estée Lauder as style and image director. As well as cosmetics, the Aerin collection includes fashion accessories – rumour has it her friend US Vogue editor Anna Wintour has been giving advice – and home decor, since the home comes a close second to beauty concerns on the Lauder radar. “Beauty is my heritage, but home decor is very much my passion,” she says, “so it was the logical next step.” With its gold and pink packaging, the Aerin brand, like the 42-year-old herself, has the Lauder good looks. Whether or not she’s ever had a little ‘help’ she doesn’t comment and anyway, for her, the point is that the Estée Lauder ethos embraces her adored grandmother’s belief that “there are no ugly women. Only women who don’t care or who don’t believe they’re attractive”.
With her long tawny hair, healthy tan and understated style – classic Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney designs are typical – Lauder favours the natural look and prefers simple, effortless make-up she says anyone can emulate.
“I believe you don’t need dozens of products or a complicated, time-consuming routine to look beautiful. Like most women, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to getting ready but I also want to look my best. I was inspired by my own busy life, and the desire to make beauty effortless, stylish and mistake proof.”
She is at pains to point out she’s like every other woman, not a pampered Park Avenue princess with the world at her feet, but a working mum to 12 and 13-year-old sons Will and Jack with broker husband Eric Zinterhofer, juggling children and career like everyone else.
Certainly, she’s credited with helping keep the cosmetic giant on track with her business know-how and the success of the new brand, which is already on sale in the US, has seen her tipped as the next Tory Burch.
There’s no pressing financial need for this would-be lifestyle tycoon to go out on her own, taking a risk and dropping the surname, so why has she decided to break out now?
“I am fortunate to have learned so much from a lifetime in beauty. The time has come for me to take those lessons and re-interpret them, pursue my own vision, from my own perspective,” she says.
The need to publicise her new enterprise has seen the normally intensely private Lauder allowing the outside world a glimpse of her home life, overseeing the Spanish homework with the children, the family film nights watching romcoms such as last year’s Silver Linings Playbook starring her favourite Bradley Cooper, or curled up with her latest read, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, the story of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson. “It’s very hard to balance everything, it’s one of my biggest challenges. I do feel one should always try to take time for yourself. I love to go for a walk. I love Central Park, or along the beach or on a country road. Nothing is more peaceful then a walk in the fresh air. If you are happy, everyone around you will be happy.
“The most important thing in my life is family. A happy family is about honesty, support and unconditional love.” She credits her children as “my biggest success”, saying, “You have one chance to be a good parent. I have never worked so hard on anything in my life. Parenting is the most challenging, but most rewarding, job.”
Lauder’s make-up range is designed for the working woman on the go, albeit one with a taste for “easy luxury”, and comprises a permanent Essential Collection of must-have products she says she can’t live without. There’s also an on-trend limited edition seasonal Color Collection that will appear four times a year. All are infused with Aerin’s unique rose scent.
There are foundations and blushers, eye make-up and lipsticks, all cannily designed to suit a global market – even peely wally Scots. Lauder has first-hand experience of the Scottish climate, declaring herself a fan of “the beautiful untouched landscapes” she encountered “many years ago” when she visited the country to attend a wedding. However, she’s much more likely to be found holidaying in the somewhat sunnier East Hamptons or at the home left to her by Estée. There, the flowers planted by her grandmother still inspire and inform so much that she does.
“Flowers are luxurious and feminine, they make you smile, they smell good and are great for your skin.”
It was flowers and their scent that lured her back to Estée’s archives to rediscover some of the original scents and create the 2007 Private Collection of Amber Ylang Ylang, Jasmine White Moss and her personal favourite, Tuberose Gardenia.
Selling a lifestyle makes smart business sense – ask Martha Stewart or Cath Kidston – the idea being if we buy something from the forthcoming homewares collection – a gold-dipped nesting bowl in which to serve our Pringles or white dove ornament inspired by Estée’s porcelain bird collection – we can all have a little taste of Lauder’s sophisticated world.
Or we could treat ourselves to a lipstick like the one Lauder has in her own make-up bag – in times of recession, lipstick sales soar as we reach for an affordable pick-me-up. As for Lauder’s cheer-yourself-up cosmetic, should she ever have need of such a thing?
“Fragrance. It changes your mood almost instantly,” she says. Of course, tuberose and gardenia. Whatever happens to the economy, we can be sure that Aerin Lauder will come up smelling of roses. n
• Aerin Beauty, from £20, and Spring 2013 Color Collection, A Garden in Bloom, from John Lewis, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen (www.johnlewis.com, (www.aerin.com)