No profile of Aerin Lauder fails to mention Estée, her iconic grandmother, in the same breath. Yet the late cosmetics magnate wasn’t the only one who shaped the 43-year-old’s aptitude for impeccable style. Credit goes to her mom (a fine arts grad), who enrolled her in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art classes when she was five, and her dad, who whisked her to Serge Sabarsky’s gallery on countless Saturdays. As Ronald Lauder talked art with his dear friend Serge, she crayoned for hours while soaking up the Austrian and German expressionists.
During the family’s summers in Europe, says Lauder, “We rented a car and drove everywhere, going to a tremendous number of museums. I kicked and screamed because I wanted to go to camp, but being exposed to everything made me who I am.” Her father would go on to establish his own museum, NYC’s Neue Galerie, which houses the best Klimt collection outside of Austria.
Lauder picked out the living-room art in her Park Avenue pad with her father: Ed Ruscha’s painting This Is It; Yves Klein’s “mesmerizing” Blue Monochrome; a bold emerald Lucio Fontana. But her personal collection also reflects her serendipitous finds, detailed in her new book, Beauty at Home. There’s the 18th-century tapestry she spotted in a Paris antique shop (the lush forest scene spans her hallway at home), and the Helen Frankenthaler abstract in her Madison Avenue office (a “love at first sight” buy).
But while her cache covers bigwigs—Damien Hirst, Alberto Burri, Cy Twombly—she has also amassed lesser-known but no less valuable works: doodles from sons Jack and Will, now 14 and 13. “There’s a note my youngest son wrote to me: ‘I love when you help me when I do things wrong,’ and he spelled it R-O-N-G, with butterflies and flowers. I framed it and look at it every day,” says Lauder, who teaches her kids that art is not “alien and esoteric,” but something anyone can make.
These days she channels her creative spirit into her products, now spanning furniture, light fixtures, rugs, jewellery and cosmetics. For the making of the new Aerin Fragrance Collection—sun-soaked Gardenia Rattan; almost gourmand Amber Musk; fresh Lilac Path; dewy Ikat Jasmine; and cognac-dipped Evening Rose—she arrived to meetings armed with personal photographs to stick onto mood boards. Sculptural pastel stones grace the caps, while cartons feature adaptations of vintage Lee Jofa textiles. The floral pattern of Amber Musk recalls Estée’s signature décor, for instance, while blue-and-white Ikat Jasmine conjures the wallpaper of Aerin’s childhood bedroom. In their varied smells, looks and feels, she clearly has the collector in mind.