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Aerin Lauder is more than just a businesswoman and billionaire heiress — she’s the ultimate tastemaker. The granddaughter of the esteemed Estée Lauder, Aerin is the style and image director of the eponymous beauty empire as well as the founder of her own refined luxury lifestyle brand, AERIN. She’s also penned a number of books dedicated to the stylish life, including her most recent, Entertain Beautifully. In this exclusive interview, we chat with her about travel, entertaining and more.

Photography by Oberto Gili for Architectural Digest © Condé Nast

What influence did your grandmother have on you?

I inherited my creative passion from my grandmother. She liked to make everything around her beautiful; she saw beauty as an extension of herself, her home, her wardrobe and her family. She used to say, “Everything can be beautiful if you just take the time.” This concept has not only inspired the way I live day to day, but it shaped my philosophy behind the AERIN brand — that living beautifully should be effortless. I am always inspired by art, travel, fashion and design, which serves as a focal point of my lifestyle brand. 

How have you stayed creative amidst the coronavirus outbreak?

I draw inspiration from everywhere: from friends, family, travel, museums, exhibitions, hotels and destinations. Staying home has drawn attention to another source of inspiration that is often overlooked: our own homes. The AERIN brand has always placed value on finding and creating beauty wherever you are, and this situation has reinforced the importance of doing just that. We will continue to embrace this mentality as we move forward. 

What inspired your love for entertaining?

At an early age, I learned that any occasion can be beautiful if you take the time. From milestone events to everyday moments, attention to detail has always been very important to me. Whether it’s a cup of tea for yourself or a more formal gathering of friends and family, every occasion can be special in its own way.

What are some of your entertaining must-haves?

Games have always been a focal point of entertaining at home. Especially around the holidays, games are an easy way to bring generations together. The AERIN collection of luxury games includes timeless pieces with an elevated yet modern sensibility. Our new Tortoise Backgammon Set is a must-have gift and a true heirloom home accessory.

Photography by Simon Upton

Who would be the guests at your dream dinner party?

I would love to have my grandparents for dinner. I learned so much from them, especially about entertaining, so it would be extremely special to host them in my own home. I also think that Jayne Wrightsman, Walt Disney and Picasso would be amazing dinner guests. I find them all to be very inspiring, and I know that they would contribute to fun and interesting conversation.

Your new book, Entertain Beautifully, is broken down by season. Do you have a favorite time of year to entertain?

It’s very hard to pick a favorite; I’m so inspired by nature and the changing of the seasons. I love dining outdoors in the summertime as well as the feel of the air getting cooler in the fall. Whenever I entertain, I try to bring the outdoors in, so the changing of seasons really allows me to experiment and have fun with that concept.

You explain in your book that “taking time for yourself is the secret to being a good hostess, wife, mother and friend.” Can you elaborate on that?

Taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for others. Even if you’re enjoying a cup of tea, I believe in using the beautiful tea set that you may have been saving for a special occasion and making the most of these moments. My grandmother Estée always used to say that everything can be beautiful if you take the time, which is so true. 

What are your three favorite travel destinations?

Italy, the tropics and East Hampton. Travel might be limited right now, but I still dream of returning to my favorite destinations, which are all rich sources of inspiration. I hold certain destinations so dearly because of the vibrant cultures and beautiful landscapes that inspire me creatively and have made lasting impressions on me. Italy is richly layered with inspiration, from its breathtaking architecture to its dramatic coastlines. An escape to a tropical island, framed by white sand and strewn with vibrant florals and natural textures, sparks endless ideas. And the surroundings of East Hampton influence the seasonal color palettes for my recent collection, such as mist shagreen, a particular shade of sea and sky that I love.

Photography by Simon Upton

What are some of your travel must-haves?

I always travel with my AERIN Weekender Bag and classic pieces that are easy to wear in many different ways, such as a blazer, a cashmere scarf and shoes that are comfortable to walk in. My must-have skincare products include the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum and Mask and our AERIN Rose Lip Conditioner, which keep my face feeling refreshed and hydrated at all times. I also always travel with my D. Porthault travel pillow.

Where are you itching to go once travel restrictions are lifted?

I have been dreaming about going to India for quite some time now. I was actually planning a trip to India with PRIOR travel company for my birthday. The trip has since been canceled, but it’s still giving me something to look forward to. I can’t wait to experience the food, culture and fashion. I have heard so many great things and am hopeful that I will be able to visit soon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I learned how to be an entrepreneur from my grandmother Estée, who was a true pioneer. She stood out amongst others, as women were often overlooked as entrepreneurs at the time, dating back to the very beginning of the Estée Lauder brand in 1946. Estée looked at things in such an interesting way and always believed that it was her name on the product so it had to be the best that it could be. Many years later, I feel the exact same way. I maintain a very hands-on approach throughout all areas of the business, and I feel strongly about every product we make. Passion and determination for excellence are the most important qualities that any entrepreneur must have.

And finally, what exciting projects are you currently working on?

There are many exciting things happening for the AERIN brand, including my recently launched decorative accessories and lighting collections. I look forward to developing new products, continuing to collaborate with like-minded brands, and conceptualizing new retail and pop-up ideas.

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