“I love Instagram,” says Aerin Lauder, sitting in The Campbell Apartment, the iconic cocktail lounge in New York’s Grand Central Station. “I’m completely addicted.” A quick scroll through Lauder’s feed reveals an inner glimpse into the modern businesswoman’s life: there are shots of what she packs for work trips, how she sets her table at home, the chic suede bag she carries, the books she keeps on the coffee table in her NYC apartment—which is where she likes to prop up her feet in her ballet flats. It’s not surprising that Lauder has such a natural affinity for Instagram (to date, she has 135,000 followers) given that AERIN, the lifestyle brand she founded in 2012, is very much a curated assortment of the things she loves best, spanning beauty, home and now an expanded range of accessories with handbags and shoes, launching this fall. “It really is my style,” says Lauder of AERIN. “The brand is very true to me.”
Putting your DNA into a brand is a family trait for Lauder. Her grandmother, Estée, built a multimillion dollar, international cosmetic corporation from scratch in the 1940s, whipping up creams on the stove and giving women samples of her products, a little marketing tactic that later paved the way for the “gift with purchase” phenomenon. Estée was also well known for her personal style (she loved dressing up and never missed an opportunity to put on a ball gown), and had close relationships with designers Hubert de Givenchy and Valentino. Her grandmother’s love of fashion rubbed off on Lauder. “One of my first memories of Europe as a teenager was going to the Chanel fashion show with her,” says Lauder. “I remember watching Claudia Schiffer come down the runway as a bride.”
Lauder was particularly influenced by her grandmother’s accessories collection. “I have the most amazing evening bags of hers,” she says. “She used to carry an Hermès Kelly bag, and she loved their clutches.” After Estée passed away in 2004, Lauder and her younger sister Jane held onto many of these cherished items. “In every bag, I find a handkerchief, a beautiful little mirror and lipstick,” Lauder says, smiling.
In her own life, Lauder has cultivated an easy, relaxed sort of glamour. She grew up in the fashion spotlight, and has been frequently photographed out and about, becoming a style icon along the way. Like her grandmother, Lauder believes in dressing up for work—she’s particularly fond of trousers, silk blouses and Stella McCartney’s sharply tailored blazers. Weekends are for her Frame jeans, and more casual basics. Hers is a classic look, that always involves “a great pair of shoes, sunglasses or jewelry.”
With that in mind, Lauder considers her foray into accessories a natural move. “I think women today are busier than ever,” she says. “Similar to what we did for beauty and home, it’s the idea of an effortless capsule that’s easy and focused.” To that end, the fall collection features an edited array of handbags (25 in total), with modern riffs on classic shapes—there are structured totes, weekenders and clutches with bold shots of leopard and floral embroidery, along with sleek hardware. To match, there are six ballet flats, and a pair of tall suede boots, in coordinating colors and fabrics. “Everything is cohesive,” she says. “It’s the idea of a pink top-handle bag that matches a pink suede ballet slipper.”
To conceive the collection, Lauder teamed up with a former Gucci designer. “I’ve always loved Gucci accessories, I think everyone dreams about the Gucci loafers and those wonderful bags and scarves,” she says. Together with her team, Lauder says, “We basically went through all the different shapes, and through what we thought were the essential items a woman must have.” She knew a chain bag had to make the cut. “Many, many years ago, I think for Christmas, Estée gave me a little mini Chanel chain bag that I have to this day,” Lauder says. “I think it’s timeless and really feminine so we wanted to incorporate that into our launch as well.” All of the pieces are made in Italy, which Lauder got a kick out of visiting. “We went to the factory there, which was great. It was a totally new experience for me; everyone spoke Italian. I do not speak Italian but I do like pasta and pizza!” she says, laughing. The factory is family-run, which also hit home for Lauder. “It’s owned by the father and the son, and it was nice to see this generational passion.”
While Lauder rarely makes a fashion misstep in the public eye, she insists that growing up she fell into the usual style potholes like everyone else. “We wore jackets that were enormous and jeans rolled up! Everything was huge. It’s funny, sometimes I go back in my closet, because I still have certain things from when I was a teenager, and think, ‘God, this blazer was massive.’” Lauder and her sister also borrowed each other’s clothes. “Sweaters! We were always fighting over the Bennetton ‘B’ sweater,” she recalls. Still, Lauder credits her good taste to her well-dressed mother, Jo Carole. “She’s always had a very consistent sense of style,” says Lauder. “She’s got a beautiful eye but she’s quite simple in her look. She wears a pattern but then a solid pair of pants and minimal jewelry. So she did teach me that less is more. And the idea of simple, beautiful, timeless style.”
It’s a concept that’s being embraced by a new generation of style influencers as well—including Olivia Palermo, who will serve as AERIN’s first ambassador this fall. “The next step for the brand is to partner with personalities and people that we think represent the brand,” says Lauder. “I wanted to find someone that represented me and the vision, and I wanted it to be authentic.” Palermo, like Lauder, has a very developed, refined ease about her. Yet she’s not boring. Lauder tells a story about the quirky-fun trick Palermo did with the ballet flats. “She took the ribbon off and tied it around her neck, and it was a new way of wearing a strap,” says Lauder, adding, “It’s important to have someone who’s not only beautiful and has a great sense of style but a great personality, and I think Olivia really encompasses all of that.”
Lauder’s ardent social media followers will be glad to know that she’ll still appear in AERIN campaigns and visuals, in addition to keeping her role as the Style and Image Director for the Estée Lauder brand. This, along with being a mother to two teenage boys, means a lot of time on her feet. Good thing she’s got the chic ballet flats for it. “I’m forever walking to work, walking to something for my kids,” she says. “And now sometimes, when I wear heels, I’m like ‘I can’t walk home as fast!’”
Click below for gallery of productsm all available at aerin.com.