Beauty heiress Aerin Lauder on the power of scent, motherhood and design

Overlooking 57th Street and Madison Avenue and with a smattering of coordinated couches and art-deco chairs, the AERIN brand headquarters in Manhattan are more like a luxurious Upper East Side apartment than a head office – right down to the collection of gorgeous antique pieces that pepper the space's homier offerings.

But the best “vintage” pieces of all are likely the framed children’s artworks by Aerin Lauder’s now-teenaged boys, Will and Jack, which lean casually against the wall, unhung.

On one unseasonably warm New York day, there’s a crisis at the office. A brand associate – a mom – has just found out that her school-aged son accidentally poked his eye. Aerin is immediately concerned.

“Is he ok? Are you sure? Eyes are really scary!” she says. “Make sure you get it checked out!”

As it turns out, it was just a minor injury and Aerin relaxes. “ Oh, the joys of being a working mother!” she laughs.

She would know. The beauty magnate and granddaughter of Estée Lauder has not only served as image director for her grandmother’s namesake company, but she recently launched her own luxury lifestyle brand of beauty products, accessories, home décor and more — all while raising two sons with her financier husband, Eric Zinterhofer.

Describing the move into home furnishings as a “deep dark passion,” one gets a sense that, for Aerin, connects back to family – from Estée’s collection of fragrance bottles to her grandfather’s old club chair.

Now, with a new collection out for fall – including two new fragrances, Waterlily and Iris MeadowHello! caught up with the busy mom to talk about the line and learn more about the Lauder legacy.

You obviously love fragrances. Did your grandmother, Estée Lauder, share that passion? Yes! People always ask “what’s your earliest memory?” and I always have to say that with her, it was her fragrances, her scent. When she passed away, we actually went through her makeup drawers and her handbags and everything was covered in fragrance bottles. I’ve just always associated fragrances with her.

Why do you think fragrances were so important to her – and to you, for that matter? I think fragrance is important because it allows you to escape and feel a certain way. Even at the end of the day, when you come home and your son’s poked his eye [everyone laughs] and you’re exhausted and you’re stressed, you get out of your work clothes, throwing on sweatpants or whatever — that's when I always throw on a different fragrance or take a bubble bath with essential oils. The scent means it's “me time" and it takes you to the next chapter.


Do you also keep family in mind when you’re designing for home? I do. I think comfort is important. It should feel luxurious and special, but I always keep family in mind with my style. We have a chair called the Joseph and it’s named after my grandpa [Joseph H. Lauder]. It’s a big mushy club chair. I used to just love it, so I copied it. I remember him sitting there, like with a scotch and a cigar. It’s cute.

Is that still in your home right now? The original one is, yes! We put it in my son’s room. It's classic and it's actually one of our best sellers.

What’s a typical day like for you? I get up and I make coffee, always. Then I wake up the kids and get them to school. I try to exercise a few days a week – walk or Pilates or whatever. Then, I come to work. The great thing is, every day changes – it depends on what we’re working on and what season we’re in.

You’re a New York woman, living a very New York life. Does that affect the aesthetic? Yes, actually, and I have to be careful it’s not too New York. There’s nothing I dislike more than when it’s too focused on one city or that one person’s bubble. The world is global, trends are global and each season we get inspiration from something different – it could be Colorado, it could be New York, it could be Berlin. I try not to make it too New York focused.

Do your boys know what mom does for work? They do. They like to make fun of me: They’re like, “Flowers! Girls! So pretty!” But no, they’re really proud. I have my lights in their room, and the fabrics in their room and I think that at the end of the day they’re really proud of their mom.

Do you think they might go into the business one day? Probably not! [Laughs]. I think they really love what I’ve done, and they come to the office and see what I’ve done, but they haven’t expressed any real interest yet.

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