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Aerin Lauder and Jane Lauder on the Convergence of Style and Substance

As the Lauder sisters mark more than 25 years in the business, they discuss the drive and attention to detail that have helped shape their careers.

Aerin Lauder

Founder and creative director of Aerin and style and image director at Estée Lauder

Jane Lauder

Executive vice president, enterprise marketing and chief data officer, The Estée Lauder Cos.

Few have grown up in the beauty business as you both have. What role does experience play for each of you?

Jane Lauder: I think about experience a lot because I’m celebrating my 26th anniversary at the Estée Lauder Cos., although I did work here during summers and in college. I think about it in terms of trying to have a lot of different experiences to learn all aspects of the business. When I came into the company, Dan Brestle was the president of Clinique and he said the best way to learn is to go have experience in sales, to be in the field.

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Experiencing different parts of the business teaches you not just about the business, but also what you do like and what you don’t. I learned I was much happier being behind the scenes versus being a salesperson. I never would have known that had I not had that experience. I’ve worked on big brands and small ones, international and domestic, and each has given me something great. And the jobs that were the hardest and not necessarily the best taught me the most.

Aerin Lauder: Having different opportunities to understand the aspects of the business you are passionate about has been a great experience. Every summer during college, I worked in different departments. Leonard was instrumental in encouraging me to go to Prescriptives after I graduated from Penn because he thought it was a great opportunity. Jane Hudis was the head of marketing and she was my first boss. I learned so much. Because it was such a small brand and so new, I worked on all aspects of the business — product development, marketing, Christmas, promotions. I was at the company 20 years before I started my own brand in 2012, and that opportunity at Prescriptives was one of the most inspiring — I learned so much there and as creative director of the Estée Lauder brand that I used when I started my own lifestyle brand.

J.L.: With experience comes knowledge of what you do know and what you don’t know and the confidence to bring on people who might know more about some things than you do. I know the company very well and the business side, but now I’m leading enterprise marketing and data and analytics, I brought in people who are really experienced there.

The other piece is you are open to learning a lot from the young. We have a reverse mentor program, and I remember about two years ago when we started talking about the metaverse, it was like, do people buy land there? [laughs]. It’s great to have that breadth of experience — it is what makes us unique and diverse.

What have you’ve learned from each other?

A.L.: Jane is one of the most persistent, driven people I know and what is so inspiring about her is she never gives up. When she was little she used to say, “No I said, no I said!” She was driven and persistent even at a young age, and I see that in everything she does: sports, friendship and business. I have learned persistence and drive.

J.L.: What I have learned from Aerin is the incredible attention to detail, which she does so beautifully. Because she has her own lifestyle brand, everything has her name, her touch. When I went to spend the night at her house during a hurricane — by my bed there were flowers and candy and magazines that were picked just for me. It is the perfection, the detail.

A.L.: Estée used to say love what you do and do it with passion. I love building a lifestyle brand and that attention to detail — Jane loves the analytical side of the business, the marketing and strategy.

J.L.: Estée taught me never to take no for an answer.

A.L.: People often compare me and Estée, but I see so many similarities between Jane and Estée — their persistence, their sense of effortless style, their love of fashion and jewelry. Estée was incredibly driven. She wanted her office to feel like home because she spent so much time there. Even when she couldn’t come to the office anymore, she would work every day. I remember we would go in the car and look at store windows and have first productions sent to her home.

What advice do you have for young women who are just entering the industry?

A.L.: It is really important to love what you do. Young people should follow their hearts and love what they do because you spend a tremendous amount of time at work. Even in the last two years, learning to work a new way, you have to stay focused and passionate.

J.L.: I always say it’s never about the job. It’s about the boss. The sooner you learn that the better. You want to have a great experience with someone excited to teach you and be a mentor, who will support you and give you opportunities. Even if it’s not the most exciting job, it is about the mentorship and the opportunities. I’ve been in job situations where I thought it was going to be so exciting and the person working there wasn’t the best supporter. That is a lesson learned over time.

A.L.: Jane Hudis was my first boss. She was probably the hardest person I ever worked for, but I loved working for her and she taught me a tremendous amount.

J.L.: You continue to learn as you progress. When I took on this job, I made it a point to meet with leaders and asked for their suggestions on how to approach it. Jennifer Tejada from our board of directors said put aside two hours every week for learning, whether that’s attending a conference or reaching out to people in other companies and picking their brains. You learn so much when you go outside of your immediate circle. You have to be in charge of your own learning and development.

What keeps you engaged and driven in the business?

A.L.: The family and responsibility. After starting my own company, I realized how hard my grandparents, my uncle and my father worked to create this incredible company. I remember their stories and their passion. Loving what I do and having happy customers also drives me. I love when I’m in a store and someone comes up to me and says how much they love a candle or fragrance or straw bag. I love the responsibility I have and I love what I do. Creating beautiful products for people around the world makes me happy.

J.L.: We are really lucky we’re in the beauty business. It’s a business that’s exciting and changing all the time. Once you think you’ve mastered one thing, there is something new. That keeps me energized and excited.

Like Aerin, I feel a huge sense of gratitude for our family members who started the company — Estée, my father and Leonard, William. That makes me want to continue this amazing opportunity.

The second part is the incredible leadership under the helm of Fabrizio Freda and all of the ELC employees around the world — they feel as passionate about the business as we do. We are a company with family values and I feel responsible to continue that.

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Lastly the customers whom we serve — like Aerin said, I still get the biggest kick when someone says, I love this product. With so much going on in the world, it feels really good to provide joy in someone’s life.