Plus, lessons she learned from her famous grandmother, Estée Lauder.
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Aerin Lauder
Credit: Courtesy

Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.

When your grandmother is Estée Lauder, Sunday dinner doubles as a chance to learn from one of the most innovative beauty entrepreneurs of all time. Such was the case for Aerin Lauder. "[Growing up] many of our experiences as a family—meals, trips—were spent looking at stores, talking about beauty and products," she says.

The early education inspired Lauder to follow in her grandmother's footsteps. She joined The Estée Lauder Companies upon graduation, working her way up the ranks before debuting her namesake brand, AERIN, in 2012. Today, the line includes fashion accessories and home goods in addition to fragrance and beauty.

Here, Lauder reflects on her first job, launching her own brand, and her trick for looking pulled-together through it all.

What were you like as a child?

It’s funny, because I was very similar to how I am now. I loved beautiful things, even as a little girl. I would always find shells at the beach and bring them back to my desk. I loved my dollhouse; it was my favorite toy, which is so interesting since now I have a home brand. I even remember going to a costume store where [I got] this big fake diamond ring that I used to love to wear when I'd come home from school. To this day, I always like to wear one great cocktail ring.

What was your first paying job?

When I was in high school, I worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a paid intern in the archives department. I was probably was 16 or 17—it was my first summer job. Even though I was in the archives, it was still very visual—even the chair and desk where I sat were beautiful. My grandmother used to always say that you spend so much time at the office that it has to be as attractive and comfortable as it can be. That concept translates to my space today.

Aerin Lauder
Credit: Courtesy

Lauder in the AERIN showroom.

Did you always aspire to join the family company?

I always knew I wanted to go into the business. So I held different positions [while I was in school]. Then when I graduated in 1992, I joined Prescriptives [an Estée Lauder brand] in the marketing department. It was wonderful because it was such a small brand that I was able to be involved with all aspects.

How long were you in the business before launching your own line?

Almost twenty years. I held different positions in advertising, marketing, and product development. Creative Director of Estée Lauder was my last position. [In that role] I was always asked about my makeup bag, and the items I couldn't live without. I felt there was an opportunity for an edited collection with my sensibility, which is quite natural. The concept was really effortless beauty. So that's why we launched [AERIN] with very natural colors and rose beauty essentials, which are still best-sellers today.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Probably finding talent. I always keep my eyes and ears open [for potential team members]. It’s important to have a loyal group of people you work with that you can always trust. My uncle [Leonard Lauder] has an amazing quote—he always said he's only as good as the people around him, and he's surrounded by the best. That’s the team I’ve created—I am surrounded by the best, and I feel that that is so valuable.

What one product from the line is your absolute must-have?

I love the lip conditioner because it's the first product we ever created. We now have it in three tinted colors as well, but I still go to my classic rose conditioner multiple times a day. It's the first thing I put on in the morning, the last thing I put on my lips before I go to bed. It is my complete favorite product within our line. I love the packaging, I love the way it smells. It obviously moisturizes and hydrates your lips. It's great.

You have such a distinct personal aesthetic. What advice can you offer those still honing their style?

I think it's important to feel comfortable and confident in what you're wearing, whether it be a fragrance, a lipstick, or a piece of clothing. So I'm always consistent: I love a great pair of jeans, a silk shirt. I think my clothing is quite classic and then I have fun with the other elements, like accessories. I love a great pair of mules in a fun color, a pretty pair of earrings, or an unexpected bag.