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Aerin Lauder can’t remember a time when she wasn’t deeply absorbed with the beauty industry, whether that involved working side by side with her legendary grandmother, Estée Lauder, or drawing inspiration from the company’s archives and giving them a modern spin.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now, Lauder is ready to put her own stamp on that world with Aerin LLC, a global luxury lifestyle brand that will encompass everything from beauty to tabletop to jewelry. Beauty will bow in late August and early September, with tabletop and gift offerings to follow for holiday. Personal accessories, fabrics and more home items will bow in spring 2013, as well as a book on living and style from Random House imprint Clarkson Potter, due the following fall.
“I like to joke that I’ve been in the beauty industry for 42 years and actually working for 20,” said Lauder — founder and creative director of Aerin LLC, as well as style and image director for the Estée Lauder brand — with a smile during an exclusive interview at her Madison Avenue offices in Manhattan. Naturally, she noted, that means beauty would be the first category to bow with her new venture — and she has licensed the Aerin name to the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. to produce the cosmetics collections. Lenox holds the tabletop license, while Nest is licensed to create a giftable candle line for holiday. Home will be a major focus, and will expand to include sheets and towels. Lauder’s also excited about designing jewelry: “I have this incredible book of all of Estée’s pieces, and it’s such a great sense of inspiration. What I think is so interesting about beauty and jewelry is that you buy it for yourself, and what’s fun about jewelry today is that it doesn’t have to be superexpensive.”
As far as beauty goes, “My goal was to create a line that was all about modern, effortless beauty,” said Lauder. “It’s very much a lifestyle brand, which I think is very much how Estée started. It was always about lifestyle photography and an environment and a world. It’s not necessarily an age group — it’s a state of mind.” Still, she says, women in their 30s through 50s will most likely comprise the bulk of her customers.
The Aerin Essentials collection is a permanent offering and is intended to be a carefully edited selection of products women depend upon. “We will keep adding to it, depending on the season and needs,” said Lauder. The initial offering is comprised of Fresh Skin Compact Makeup, a cream-to-powder foundation that doubles as a concealer, is available in six shades and retails for $48; Pretty Bronze Illuminating Powder, available in two shades, which retails for $45; Multi Color for Lips and Cheeks in Natural is $42; Rose Lip Conditioner in Nude is $28; Rose Hand and Body Cream is $40; the rose and white Essential Makeup Bag is $48, and the $148 Brush Essentials set includes foundation, concealer, bronzer, highlighter and lip brushes.
Lauder will also launch a limited-edition fall color collection in September, and plans to launch carefully edited seasonal on-trend offerings four times a year — for fall, holiday, spring and summer. “For this fall, the idea is very much weekend-weekday,” said Lauder. The dramatic weekday collection includes the Fall Style Palette in Weekday, which includes two eye shadows, a blush and a highlighter for $70. A lipstick, Pout, will be sold separately for $30, as will a lip gloss in Perfect Nude, also $30. The lineup includes Fall Style Palette in Weekend, which includes two eye shadows, a blush and a highlighter for $70, as well as a $30 lipstick called Sunday Morning and a $30 lip gloss called Sweet Pea. Gold-toned compacts with a linen texture are placed inside gold-logoed pink pouches for safekeeping. For holiday, Lauder plans items such as small lipsticks in party-ready colors that will easily slip into an evening bag. For next summer, palettes, beach creams and bronzers will be a focus. “It will change depending on needs. It isn’t going to be ‘Every season, we’ll launch four lipsticks and four lip glosses.’” She plans to follow a similar strategy for other Aerin categories.
The Aerin beauty collection will be merchandised in specialty stores with the Lauder brand’s upscale ReNutriv skin care brand. “Since this is going to be living with ReNutriv, it’s the perfect balance for that,” said Lauder. “ReNutriv is always lifestyle advertising, mostly black-and-white, and this is the makeup complement to ReNutriv.”
Imagery for the Aerin line was shot by Claiborne Swanson Frank and features Aerin in the New York City apartment she shares with her husband and two children, wearing jeans, an ivory silk shirt and a vintage gold necklace given to her by her grandmother. While the brand is not planning traditional print advertising at launch, it will use the image on store tester displays, as well as in retailer magazines and catalogues, on social media (including Twitter and Tumblr) and in a digital campaign. A microsite on esteelauder.com, aerin.com, will bow in late August and feature and sell the beauty brand, said Jane Hertzmark Hudis, global brand president for the Estée Lauder brand.
Hudis noted that the Aerin brand would be sold in about 100 doors in North America and 20 in the U.K. in its first year on counter. In North America, that will include distribution at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Holt Renfrew and select Nordstrom doors. In the U.K., it will be a Harrods exclusive at launch and moving to Selfridges and selected John Lewis stores by spring, she said, with selective expansion in both markets in its second year. For her part, Lauder would like the brand to expand to Asia. “I think it would resonate well there,” she said. She’d also love to do stores-in-store, and is considering a pop-up shop outside of New York City for summer 2013 (possibly in Southampton, N.Y.).
“Because of the unique nature of her family background, company expertise, and the way the business has been structured, only Aerin could do this brand,” said John Demsey, a group president of the Estée Lauder Cos., who has worked with Lauder on the company’s flagship brand for nearly a decade. “This step in beauty is a natural progression of Aerin as a stand-alone image and style leader. She has a strong point of view, amazing style and, like her grandmother, a strong intuition about what women really want. If Estée Lauder was alive today, she’d be doing what Aerin is doing.”
Of the brand’s first home at the Estée Lauder ReNutriv counter, Demsey noted: “Clinique and Prescriptives both had origins at the Estée Lauder counter. This is an authentic, next generation.”
Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos., added, “I am very proud that Aerin’s beauty brand has been licensed to the Estée Lauder Cos. Aerin has done a great job for the Estée Lauder brand for a very long time and for me personally, and she continues to lead a lot of creativity and style of that brand. With the Aerin line, she is creating feminine, pretty, effortless beauty.”
While none of the executives involved would discuss sales projections or promotional spending, industry sources estimated that the brand would do about $8 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, with about $2 million to be spent on marketing.