Jane Lauder vividly remembers one specific visit from her grandmother, Estée. “She brought me this huge tester unit of Estée Lauder lipsticks,” gesturing to illustrate its massive size. “I spent hours trying every shade — bright purple, red, everything. I still have the same excitement today. Whenever we have a first production run, I’m like, Oh my god!”
Like her father, Ronald, who held positions at the U.S. Department of Defense and was the U.S. ambassador to Austria in the ’80s, Jane investigated non-beauty professions herself, including a summer film program at UCLA during high school.
While studying history at Stanford University, Lauder did various internships within the family company, including merchandising in the Paris office and public relations in London, as well as one at the Gap so she could experience a different corporate environment. Her first job out of college was not at Lauder but at an ad agency.
She joined the Estée Lauder Companies in 1996, and has worked at Origins, Ojon, Darphin, and two previous stints at Clinique before returning as global brand president in 2014. Recently, they debuted Clinique iD, five problem solving, add on concentrates in cartridges that click onto their Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotions, creating a more personalized experience.
“I think back to five years ago when I started in this job, and there’s not one thing that’s the same — the way we communicate, the store dynamics, what was happening in brick and mortar, in markets around the world,” she says. “Influencer marketing was just starting back then and now it’s so huge. It’s a very complicated process.”
And yet, it is the heart of the category, self expression, that she believes will never change.
“You might see someone with so much makeup on and think it’s too much, but they’re experimenting,” emphasizes Lauder. “I’ve been trying to wear red lipstick for 20 years. It never feels like me, but I’m going to keep trying because I see all these incredible red lipstick pictures and I think, Oh my god, I want to look like that. Even I get swept up into the magic of contour.”
Lauder spoke with the Cut about her current sports obsession, her challenged tabletop skills, and why a ski vacation will never be at the top of her list.
Bath or shower:
I switch around, but always with Jo Malone London bath oil in Red Roses.
What, if anything, is usually on your hands and toes?
Just clear polish.
Who is your style icon?
Both my sister and my mother do a great job at home decor — setting beautiful tables with beautiful china, and I … don’t. I‘m missing that gene.
What was your first beauty obsession?
When I was eleven, my father was president of Clinique and he brought home my first Three-Step. I’ve been using it ever since. Sometimes I try other cleansers, sometimes other moisturizers, but I’ve been using Clarifying Lotion my entire life — every day, twice a day. It’s the one thing I could never give up, no matter which brand I went to.
Purse of choice:
Work shoe of choice:
Lanvin boots, and they’re the most comfortable. They don’t make them anymore, so you have to go online to find them.
Netflix and chill outfit:
Comfy pajama pants, a T-shirt, and a White + Warren cardigan. I have them in every color, but I’m always searching for the perfect lounge pants.
Fashion look you struggle with:
Casual is harder for me. Work, I can do. Casual is super hard.
Fashion item(s) you have too many of:
Black pants, black shirts. I always try to wear color and I always end up wearing black.
What do you splurge on?
Costume jewelry. I’m obsessed with vintage jewelry, and I try to figure out how I could create a business out of that after I retire without just wearing all the profits! I love going to antique fairs and flea markets and digging through things. I have all these different vintage costume-jewelry stores in different cities and they always tell me about the sales they go to, and I want to go, too, before it all gets curated.
Bed linens of choice:
Towel brand of choice:
Window or aisle?
Window at night, aisle during the day.
Who was your celebrity crush as a kid?
What phrase or word are you known for saying?
“Can I just ask a question?”
Last great book you read:
The Great Alone.
Least favorite smell?
Go-to karoake song:
I hope you never find out. I’m a terrible singer.
Describe your most starstruck moment:
I sat next to Harrison Ford on the beach for five days on vacation and never said a word and he’s my No. 1 star crush.
What talent do you wish you had?
To be fluent in many languages.
What are you working on mastering?
About three years ago, I took up tennis again and I am obsessed with it. I could play every day. I play every weekend, all year round. I sign up for every tournament because that’s the only way you get better. I’ve also taken up bridge.
Favorite meal and where:
Sushi from Kappo Masa.
What is always in your fridge?
Most recently binged TV show:
If you weren’t living in New York, where would you like to live?
My dream is to live in LA., and climate’s a part of that. I am not a winter person. I do not want to go in the cold, I do not fly to the cold, I don’t ski. I can ski, but I hate the cold. If I’m going to have free time, it’s on a beach reading a book, or playing tennis. Not in the cold.