In Dallas to celebrate the new Estée Lauder shop at Neiman Marcus NorthPark Center and a new red lipstick just for NM, ELIZABETH HURLEY and LEONARD LAUDER sit down with FD and dish about Dallas women, English women and how Liz got the Lauder job. (Even she didn’t know.)
edited from an interview by ROB BRINKLEY and BRADLEY AGATHER MEANS
photographs by NAN COULTER
Wednesday, June 18, a private room adjacent to the NM Cafe, Neiman Marcus NorthPark Center, 12:50 p.m.
ROB BRINKLEY: When did you first come to Dallas — and what is your impression of Dallas women, then and now?
LEONARD LAUDER: Well, let me say that Dallas women, then and now, are pretty much the same. Fashions change. Hairstyles change. Makeup changes. But the idea of style and of quality doesn’t — it never changes. I first came to Dallas in 1960 with my new bride, Evelyn. Stanley Marcus invited us for dinner. All the women there were gorgeous! I went the next day to the Neiman Marcus store on Commerce Street and I did what I do whenever I am in a store: I would never take the elevator; I would only take the escalator. I would ride up and visit each floor — ride up and ride down. My job was to make women look beautiful, so I was always looking to see what they were buying, not just in cosmetics, but how they were doing their hair, et cetera, from the very start. The women were all very stylish.
RB: And still are.
LL: And still are.
RB [to Elizabeth Hurley]: You’ve worked in Dallas. You spent time here [in 2002, filming the movie Serving Sara]. Did you get an impression of Dallas women in that time?
ELIZABETH HURLEY: I spent four months here — and I grew up watching Dallas on TV! I always associate Texan women, particularly Dallas women, with being very glamorous — especially compared to many English women. The women here are more likely to make sure their hair, their nails, their face, their shoes, their bags are all sleek. And I like that. I like seeing women looking like they have made an effort. Dallas women make an effort — and they are not embarrassed to make an effort.
RB: Were you a stylish young girl?
RB: That all came later?
RB: You were scruffy?
EH: [Laughs] There is a tendency in Europe that women stay scruffy, whereas I see ladies here stepping up a bit.
RB [to Lauder]: Estée Lauder and Neiman Marcus have a long relationship.
LL: I joined Estée Lauder in 1958. In 1956, and then again in 1957, Mrs. Estée Lauder created a lipstick shade for Neiman Marcus, called Christmas Kiss, that we sold at Christmas. It sold right out. So over the years we have been doing things exclusively for Neiman Marcus, and now this new lipstick, Pure Color Envy [in Neiman Marcus Red]. Now, I just so happen to have a lipstick [reaches into suit-coat pocket]and I want to show you something, OK? You ready? I love this product. I don’t use it [laughs], but I love it! So, have you ever driven a Mercedes or a BMW?
RB: I have.
LL: OK. When you close the door of the car, it goes, what, thunk. Not tink — thunk! So, I sat with our designers and I said, “I want to have a lipstick case that goes thunk.” [Lifts the magnetized cap off the lipstick tube repeatedly and lets it go, allowing it to click back onto the tube each time]
RB: You are my new favorite person, for that reference alone. [To Hurley:] What about Dallas, the city? Did you get any impressions of the place?
EH: I was just thinking, when we drove from the hotel, how well-planned the city is. Everything is so well-spaced — really, really well-designed. When I was [first]here, I went to see some basketball. I did some line dancing! I had great Mexican food. I had a fantastic time. That was, like, 12 years ago. And I remember it’s quite quick to get to the country. We went to some ranches, but it didn’t take long to get there. I love that.
RB [to Lauder]: Your mother, Estée: I want to know a strong memory you have of her personal style.
LL: You know the magazine Vanity Fair? [One of its editors-in-chief] was a man named Leo Lerman, long since gone. He was a high-school classmate of my mother’s, and he used to tell me that she used to comb out the hair of all of her friends, just to do it. She loved making women beautiful. She couldn’t stop. The reason we wound up being able to do business here in Neiman Marcus was that Mrs. Estée Lauder came to Neiman Marcus in 1949. She wanted to have Estée Lauder [at Neiman Marcus]. The cosmetics buyer told his assistant, “Look, go see this lady Estée Lauder, and if you like her cosmetics, we will buy them.” Now, the assistant was not a very attractive woman, but my mother took her into the ladies room and gave her a facial and made her up right there. She emerged like a movie star. My mother understood that every woman can be beautiful — and should be beautiful — if they just know how to do it.
RB: Do you give your niece Aerin [the style and image director for the Estée Lauder companies]any advice?
LL: We talk all the time. But essentially, I am the uncle, the older uncle, and if you aren’t the parent …
LL: You keep your mouth shut. But the one bit of advice I did give her, which I think she is following, was this: “Aerin, become famous for one thing. If you are famous for one thing, people will remember you and come buy [all]your things.”
RB: Has she found her focus?
LL: I think where she is putting a lot of time and attention is her perfumes and fragrances. The packages are lovely and the fragrances are great. And the [Private Collection] Tuberose Gardenia is a phenomenal fragrance, very sexy.
RB [to Hurley]: You have been the face of Estée Lauder fragrance for …
EH: … almost 20 years! My first fragrance with Estée Lauder was Pleasures, which we launched in 1995. I remember my first meeting with Leonard, Evelyn and Aerin at the Four Seasons hotel in New York. Do you remember it, Leonard? It was before I got the job. I was being interviewed. In fact, Evelyn had in her purse a little sample bottle of fragrance, which actually would become Pleasures. I don’t think it even had the name yet. And she said, “Take this with you and see what you think.” And that became Pleasures.
LL: Something that very few people know is how I met Elizabeth. A very good friend of mine had been the editor-in-chief of Tatler magazine …
EH: Jane Procter!
LL: Right! And I had met with Jane in New York. I said, “Look, I need someone to be our spokesman. I need someone to be able to be with us for a long time. Who, when you have them on the cover, sells the most magazines?” She said, “Someone that you have never heard of” — and that was Elizabeth Hurley. [Looks at Hurley] And so we got your portfolio. But what you don’t know is I had two other portfolios. I brought them to our creative-department office. I went to the young women. I said, “Look, here are three models. Who would you like to be friendly with?” I didn’t ask, “Who is better-looking?” I asked, “Who would you like to be your friend? Who could you identify with?”
RB: Good call, by the way.
LL: Leave it up to a guy if the question is, “Who is the sexiest woman?” Elizabeth is sexy — but since our business is selling to women, we want to have someone say “Gee, I would like to be her friend. And I would like to look that way.”
BRADLEY AGATHER MEANS [to Hurley]: I would love to know some of your favorite Estée Lauder products that you use in your routine.
EH: Well, when I first joined the company, a very nice French scientist, Daniel, said to me — and this was right at the beginning, 20 years back — the one product that you must use, even if you leave the company, is Advanced Night Repair. He said, “It’s not a gimmick: It’s real.” And so I have used that twice a day for nearly 20 years. I use all the new products when they come in, but I go back to that one because it’s fabulous and just suits my skin very well. And I change to every new mascara that comes out. Right now, it’s Sumptuous Extreme Waterproof, which is the best. They keep getting better and better and better.
BAM: Do you wear red lipstick a lot?
EH: I am not a big red-lipstick girl. This is my favorite lipstick at the moment [digs into handbag], which also has a thunk [demonstrates the tube closure]. My one is Impulsive. It’s beautiful. It’s the perfect pink. [Dials the lipstick up from the tube] Look at that.
BAM: Let me see if I have my go-to lipstick in here. [Digs into handbag] I usually keep it at my desk. [Finds lipstick, and checks label] Impulsive![Cheers and clapping from all]
EH: See? There you go. Look at that!
LL: Bradley, send me your résumé!
RB: Goodbye, Bradley. It’s inevitable.