Skip to main content

In Class With Leonard

Curiosity, passion, dreaming big and sticking to your gut are just a few of the lessons designers, executives and others have learned from The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.'s "chief teaching officer."

Some key players in Leonard A. Lauder’s world share lessons they have learned from The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.’s “chief teaching officer.”

Ralph Lauren: “Leonard’s life and mine have intersected for so many years and during that time I have called on him many times for advice. He was always there for me. He is a man of honor, a man of integrity, a man of great energy and passion, and what I’ve really learned and respected was his love and support of his family. They always came first.”

Michael Kors: “In the beauty and the fashion world, you can never give up your curiosity. The minute you give up your curiosity, it is time to do something else. Not that long ago, it probably was 10 years ago, it was the Thanksgiving holidays and I ran into Leonard in Hawaii. I was on vacation and we went and had a dinner. He said to me, ‘What are you doing tomorrow morning?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. Going to the beach. What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I am going to Ala Moana [mall]. To talk to people and see what’s going on at the counter.‘ And I said, ‘But we are on vacation.’ He said, ‘No, we are never on vacation. No matter how successful you get, you can never, ever think that it’s too time-consuming to listen to what sales associates have to say. To speak to a customer and just to see the general mood of what’s happening in the stores.’

Related Galleries

“I thought to myself, ‘If Leonard at this point in his career and life is willing to do that on vacation, that means I probably will be doing trunk shows well into my 80s.’ He has always stressed keeping the connection to the people who sell your product, hearing what they have to say and really meeting the customer and seeing them and seeing just in general what is going on. It is his inherent curiosity.

You May Also Like

“The other thing that I learned from Leonard was this idea that you can have this blend of class and mass. Things that are chic, things that are elevated and elegant can be in fact democratic. I think he has always understood that from the very beginning of his career. I don’t think they have ever been in a situation where they sacrificed quality for going broad and vice versa. If they went broad on something, that didn’t mean you had to be talking down to the consumer. Leonard always talks up.”

Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer of The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.: “From my earliest days in the company, attending one of Leonard Lauder’s Brand Equity Symposiums I learned from our ‘chief teaching officer’ about the rich heritage of our core values such as quality and high touch service and how they underpin a long-term view for sustainable growth. Also, Leonard’s belief that ‘the wealth of a company is its people’ is a root principle of the past, the present and for generations to come.”

Ronald Lauder, chairman of Clinique Laboratories LLC: “Everything I’ve learned in business comes from my older brother. He has always been, and continues to be, my inspiration.“

Tommy Hilfiger: “When we first launched Tommy [the fragrance] in 1993, it was really guided by Leonard with a real all-hands-on-deck effort. What I learned from Leonard was that you should listen to all of the business propositions and reasons that a product should either be positioned in a certain way or not, but ultimately to go with your gut. If your gut tells you that’s right, nine times out of 10, it’s right…Nothing replaces the gut feeling of how you feel about the product, the packaging, the marketing, the advertising. It always starts with what Leonard has always said, if you have the juice, and the juice is right, then you have the secret formula for success.”

Jerrod Blandino, cofounder and chief creative officer of Too Faced: “If I learned anything it was: Stay true to your heart; don’t change, don’t look to the left or the right, keep looking forward and do what you do.”

He added, “Stay true to who you are and change the world for the better. That’s what this man has done.”

Tory Burch: “It is an absolute honor to call Leonard a dear friend. He is a true visionary. His creativity, intuition and business acumen are inspiring. I love so much of the advice that Leonard has given me over the years, but one thing stands out: ‘If you can’t see the future, you’ll never get there.’”

Jo Malone: Leonard Lauder is a man who lives and breathes a passion for an industry he loves. From the first moment we met, I knew that we shared that same true love. He is a pioneer, an inspiration and equips people with the baton of opportunity to fulfill their dreams — he is one in a million. Thank you, Leonard, and many congratulations.”

Robert Mettler, retired chairman and ceo of Macy’s West: He had a great saying, which is: ‘Dumb is forever.’ As much as you’d like to change someone, if you have done everything you can and they still don’t get it, that’s when you have to make a change. His predilection was not to be fast about somebody, but once you’ve figured the thing out, then you have to move on.”

Jo Horgan, founder of Mecca Brands: “[Leonard Lauder] taught me to dream big, pointed me in the right direction and then helped me navigate the forks in the road. Due to his encyclopedic knowledge and his prescient nature, he declared Mecca would be the third channel of distribution in Australia at a time when I couldn’t see past trying to work out how to run a couple of stores. He imparted an incredibly valuable lesson of what a win/win really looked like for a brand and retailer, and then helped me build that model. He pushed me to think creatively and to come up with solutions — he showed me how the silver lining could be bigger than the cloud. He taught me to play beauty chess…to think four and five moves ahead to ensure I stayed in the game.”

Elizabeth Hurley: “I’ve thought of Leonard as my ‘American dad’ for the last 23 years. He has always been so kind to me and is the best person to go to for advice on simply anything: business, love life or family matters. Leonard has the answers. I adore him.”

Donna Karan: “I am in awe of Leonard Lauder. Leonard Lauder equals love. Love of arts, family, friends and fragrance. He is a leader, founder, father, grandfather, husband and dear friend. He shared his scents and senses with the world. A legend.