Written by Jessica Matlin
The Creatives: Aerin Lauder, Karyn Khoury, and Honorine Blanc, moderated by Jane Larkworthy
What do you get when you have four wildly intelligent, artistic women with perfectionist tendencies on one stage?
Answer: The third annual Creatives, an event designed “to inform, enlighten, and inspire,” said Linda G. Levy, President of The Fragrance Foundation. On Tuesday morning at the Metropolitan Club, members got a window into the culture of Aerin and how the team brings their fragrances to life.
The morning featured a conversation with Aerin Lauder, founder and Creative director of Aerin and the Style and Image Director of Estée Lauder, Karyn Khoury, Senior Advisor, Creative and Strategic Development of Corporate Fragrance for The Estée Lauder Companies, and Honorine Blanc, a Master Perfumer of Firmenich. Moderating the panel: Writer Jane Larkworthy, who Emily Bond of Givaudan (who sponsored The Creatives) best described as a “tour de force!”
Naturally, Larkworthy asked Lauder to start from the only logical place: How did the Aerin brand begin?
Aerin said she initially showed her cousin the idea for her own brand, which is more than beauty—it’s lifestyle. (“Beauty is my heart, but home is my passion,” she has said). After presenting it to focus groups and writing the business plan (both prerequisites from Fabrizio Freda, the company’s president and CEO), Aerin was born.
While this was Aerin’s own imprint at Estée Lauder Companies, her grandmother could still be felt.
“She definitely influenced me,” said Lauder. “For example, we launched multiple fragrances at once,” speaking to the Aerin fragrance collection. “That’s because you wouldn’t just have one fragrance. She would say you wouldn’t wear the same dress to play tennis as you would to go to dinner.”
Lauder takes after her grandmother in a lot of ways, said Khoury, who worked with Mrs. Estée Lauder on the creation of Estée Lauder Beautiful. (Khoury recently announced her upcoming retirement, to which Larkworthy said she is “in complete denial.”)
“Mrs. Lauder was a perfectionist,” said Khoury. While this was before the days of text and email, she said Mrs. Lauder wasn’t afraid to call her on Thanksgiving or a Christmas vacation when she had an idea. Her granddaughter did something similar, said Khoury.
“One night I got an email from Aerin that said, ‘Please don’t kill me,’” she said with a laugh. The brand was just months out from a big launch, but Lauder had asked, “Would we ever do a lilac fragrance?”
After much discussion and debate (there was some pushback, as lilac wasn’t exactly trending), the plan had changed. The end result: Aerin Lilac Path Eau de Parfum is now on the shelves.
“It’s all about responding to instinct,” said Khoury.
“I feel like those kinds of ‘Please don’t kill me’ emails are usually justified,” said Larkworthy.
Bringing these personal fragrances to life is a team effort, in which everyone has a role.
It starts with Aerin’s mood board, says Khoury, full of fabrics and photos. (It’s usually inspired by a place she’s been, and then perfumer Blanc translates all of that into “an uberluxe Aerin way,” says Blanc. “It’s always about finding a unique ingredient…[and] creating texture and emotions.” Blanc’s personal favorite: Amber Musk Eau de Parfum.
One of the most iconic Aerin fragrances, of course, is Rose de Grasse. For this collection, the team uses the most decadent florals.
“One rose wasn’t enough,” said Khoury. “We use three of the most expensive roses, because,” she paused, “she can!”
Lauder’s love of the flower—really florals, in general—is practically genetic.
“My grandmother always had roses around the house,” said Lauder. “That, and fresh tuberose in the hallway.”
“Aerin is like Estée in that way,” said Khoury, reflecting on her longtime collaborators. “Everything that came into her life fueled her creativity.”