Aerin and Jane Lauder Celebrate the Launch of “Estée: A Beautiful Life” With A Nostalgic Dinner On The Upper East Side

There are many epithets associated with the name Estée Lauder: Founder. Entrepreneur. Beauty Icon. Mother. Grandmother. But the woman who famously said, “I never dreamed of success; I worked for it,” was also a legendary entertainer. “The first place my mother went when they were looking at this house was to the dining room. And she said, ‘it’s big enough,” Lauder’s younger son, Ronald Lauder, recalled in front of an intimate gathering of  guests who had assembled at Estée’s stunning Upper East Side townhouse for a good old-fashioned seated dinner party. “Tonight’s menu,” Lauder continued, gesturing to the printed cards on each table—shrimp cocktail with Oscar sauce (a creamy riff on cocktail sauce); filet de boeuf a la Périgourdine; baked Alaska—“is what my mother and father served the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1974 on the occasion of their anniversary. All of the things you see on the table I have not seen in thirty to forty years,” Lauder continued looking over the impeccable china place settings, Tiffany flatware, and crystal stemware. “It was a very special dinner.”

Its reprisal, nearly fifty years later—to mark the Estée Lauder brand’s 75th anniversary, and the publishing of Assouline’s new coffee table book, “Estée Lauder: A Beautiful Life”—was no different.

“The brand has an amazing history but there’s also an amazing visual history that many people don’t know about,” said Aerin Lauder, who co-authored the book with her sister, Jane. “Designers and artists were always talking about Estée’s old ads, so I thought it would be a wonderful project to create a book of all those images. And when we went deeper into the archive we realized there were so many more images that people had never seen”—a sentiment that was corroborated by AD Editor-In-Chief Amy Astley during cocktails in the expansive first floor living room, where a young Ronald Regan once announced to a room full of friends that one day he would be President of the United States. “The stories just don’t stop!” added model Karlie Kloss. Unearthed in the archive were hand-written cards from Valentino; thank you notes from a bevy of first ladies, as well as Diana Princess of Wales; large-scale reprints of the packaging motifs Lauder once commissioned for every new season of her color collection; as well as those iconic ads, many of which were lensed by the photographer Victor Skrebneski and feature the model Karen Graham, who famously received the industry’s first-ever beauty contract.

But it’s the book’s collection of intimate family photos, which are interspersed among many of Estée’s famous quotes, that is perhaps the most compelling feature of the impressive tome, which guests including Vogue’s Rickie de Sole and Alexandra Michler, flipped through after what remained of the baked Alaska had begun to melt, and the rest of the 1998 red—the last bottle of wine Estée purchased—had been drunk.

“Everywhere you turn you see a Lauder,” Estée’s older son and Chairman Emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies Leonard Lauder joked of the tight-knit family that had turned up for the party, making special mention of his nieces, Aerin and Jane, for their beautiful, hardbound tribute to his mother. “I’m a co-author, but really that means I supported Aerin from the sidelines,” Jane insisted, giving her sister a shoutout for her creative vision, which not only brought the new book to life, but was also responsible for the evening’s success. “She knows how to bring beautiful things to life. Aerin lives that life, and she inherited that from Estée.”

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