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A Day in the Life: Aerin Lauder

The granddaughter of Estée Lauder is a polished businesswoman at the helm of her own lifestyle brand

Written by Catherine Hong

Aerin Lauder has the kind of fame that makes her familiar—if not totally recognizable—to people on the street. “People often come up to me saying, ‘Excuse me, don’t we know each other?’ ” says Aerin, the much-photographed granddaughter of Estée Lauder. “They know my face, but they just can’t place it.” 

The eldest daughter of art collector and philanthropist Ronald Lauder (Estée’s younger son), Aerin has worked in the family business for more than two decades. Four years ago, she founded a luxury lifestyle label within Estée Lauder called Aerin, offering beauty, accessories, and home furnishings. The cosmetic shades are earthy and natural because Aerin’s own makeup is earthy and natural. The shoes are all flats because she likes to walk everywhere. The textiles she’s created with home furnishings company Lee Jofa have a lot of blue colorways because, well, “Blue is my favorite color,” she explains.  

Running the business while raising a family—she and husband Eric Zinterhofer have two teenage sons—seems to come naturally to Aerin, who has a formidable work ethic and the preternatural ability to look crisp and put together even before her first cup of coffee. 

[7:00am] The family’s three dogs, Biscuit, Schatzi, and Disco, are scampering around the kitchen of the Park Avenue apartment. “These guys are crazy at this hour,” Aerin says. She pours food into their bowls and clicks on the coffeemaker. French roast is her brew of choice, and she likes to take her cup into the living room before waking her younger son, Will. (His big brother, Jack, is at boarding school.) “I like to sit in here with the paper and just sort of collect my thoughts,” she says, gesturing around the beigey-gold Jacques Grange-designed space where early light illuminates Jean-Michel Frank armchairs and canvases by Yves Klein and Robert Ryman. After she gets dressed (today it’s a Stella McCartney jacket and Proenza Schouler trousers), she tries to get Will to eat something before school. 

[8:30am] Fresh flowers are a necessary luxury in Aerin’s life, and she pops into Plaza Flowers on Lexington Avenue about once a week. “I love picking out my own arrangements,” she says as she grabs her handbag and one of her own empty vases on her way out the door. “I always have blossoms next to my bed, in my living room, and in the office.” Today the shop is filled with an extravagant riot of pink, purple, and lavender blossoms, the air heady with the green scent of freshly snipped stems. She asks owner Connie Plaissay to make an arrangement of the fuchsia peonies in her gold vase, which he promises to deliver to her offices later that day.

[8:50am] “You can see why I like wearing flats, right?” says Aerin as she heads south on foot. “I’m trying out our new ballet slippers for fall.” Her usual stop is the Milanese-style coffee bar Sant Ambroeus at the Loews Regency Hotel. She nibbles on a smoked-salmon-filled croissant while scrolling through e-mail on her phone.

[9:10am] “Estée always said your office should be as homey as possible because you spend a lot of time at work,” says Aerin, arriving at the landmark Art Deco-era Fuller Building. Indeed, her work space feels like a glamorous Manhattan home, complete with a Baguès chandelier, Arctander armchairs, a striking George Condo canvas, pretty bowls filled with candy, and multiple touches of gold. “Estée believed in using gold as a neutral, and so do I,” she says, taking a seat at the mirrored table in the conference room for a meeting with Veronique Nguyen, Aerin’s merchandising manager. 

 [11:00am] After the meeting, Aerin returns some phone calls and checks in with her online team, dominated by stylish young women dressed in jeans. 

She pauses to check out a large CAD drawing of a tiered crystal chandelier, part of her lighting collection for Visual Comfort. (“I’m obsessed with lighting,” she says. “My attic in the country is full of lamps I’ve collected, which makes my husband crazy!”) Then she heads to the design studio, where she turns her attention to a sample of elaborately printed chinoiserie grass-cloth wallpaper, which she’s launching this fall with Lee Jofa. “See how the pinks are a little bit hot?” she says, pointing to one of the flowers. “It’s gorgeous, but I think it’s too bright. We’ll see another version later today.” 

[1:15pm] Lunch is takeout salad and Diet Coke at the office, then her driver picks her up for the afternoon’s appointments. First destination? The Met Breuer—the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new annex. The museum opened in its new guise just two weeks ago, and Aerin hasn’t had a chance to see it yet. “It’s so strange to think it isn’t the Whitney anymore,” muses Aerin, whose uncle, Leonard Lauder, is the Whitney’s chairman emeritus. “When we were kids, my sister and I would come to see the Calder’s Circus and have burgers in the restaurant downstairs.” She spends most of her visit on the fourth floor, admiring two pieces by one of her favorite artists, Brice Marden. (In fact, she has a Marden hanging in the entry hall of her apartment.) “I think his work is really magical,” she murmurs.

[2:30pm] On her drive downtown toward the Garment District, she phones Jack (“I know he had a big math test today”) and checks her Instagram (“I’m kind of addicted”). Her next stop is Mokuba New York, a Japanese ribbon shop. “This is the one store that makes me wish I had a little girl,” swoons Aerin, wandering the aisles lined with spools of grosgrains, satins, velvets, and leathers. Ribbon is a recurring element in Aerin’s shoe line, and today she’s seeking inspiration for her spring 2017 collection. “I could spend all day in here,” she says, as she chooses a few bright samples. 

[3:15pm] Her final appointment of the day is with Stephen Elrod, creative director of Lee Jofa. The two companies collaborated on Aerin’s first collection of textiles two years ago, and this fall they’re adding more fabrics and introducing wallpaper. The Lee Jofa studio on West 21st Street is draped floor to ceiling with samples in every color, texture, and pattern, and Aerin seems right at home. “How’s Sebastian?” she asks Elrod, referring to the designer’s poodle.  (As Elrod later explains, the two know everything about each other’s dogs.) They discuss fabrics for an upcoming marketing shoot, and then Elrod unrolls the third trial of the bird-and-flower-printed grass-cloth wallpaper that originally came out too bright for Aerin’s tastes. She gazes at the sample for a moment and then smiles. “It’s perfect,” she says. 

[4:30pm] The day nearly done, Aerin will spend another hour or so at the office before heading home. “I am happy to say I have absolutely nothing on the agenda for tonight,” she says, getting back into her car for the drive uptown. “I’m going to pack my bag for the weekend and maybe order in sushi.” 

Photography: George Lange  
Produced by Doris Athineos