Lauren Santo Domingo’s Unwavering Style Authority
Lauren Santo Domingo: fashion expert, co-founder and creative director of online catwalk fashion retailer Moda Operandi; contributing editor at Vogue, New York; embodiment of style. We aren’t talking here today, gone tomorrow fashion; this is unwavering, timeless chic and she has a wardrobe to prove it.
Business and haute couture aside, Lauren Santo Domingo is also the mother of two children and wife to Colombian record label owner Andrés Santo Domingo. At 39, LSD, as she is affectionately known to her friends in the fashion world, is recognised as one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past decade for her influence on consumer access to catwalk fashion. With homes in Paris and New York and frequent international travel, appearing at catwalk shows and award ceremonies, how does New York’s most photographed fashion comrade maintain her seemingly effortless elegance?
LSD talks to Total Management about the style secrets we wish we’d known earlier.
You set up Moda Operandi in 2010, what made you come up with the idea for an online market place where you can purchase items direct from the catwalk? After Vogue, I worked in PR at J. Mendel and Carolina Herrera. Both were small family-owned companies, and it was during that time that I thought: I would love to start my own business. Mrs. Herrera was so inspiring. It was fascinating to watch her. She was so in charge of her domain. I knew I ultimately wanted to create a company that worked within the industry while helping emerging designers to grow.
Moda Operandi narrowed the gap between the consumer and the runway, omitting the pain of falling in love with a dress on the runway only to find that it was never produced. I was granted access to the runway, so why not share that privilege with everyone else? Our customer has truly embraced the ability to shop the runway (almost as much as me).
How do you see online retail changing over the next decade? Power to the consumer! Our core business — runway — puts the client first and allows her to make a purchase that is unedited from the runway. We attract a very different clientele from the competition, which I love. Our goal is to continue to connect our customer directly to the runway, allowing her to choose who she wants to be next season and how she will dress. That’s a true evolution of the runway.
What or who got you into fashion in the first place? I started at Vogue shortly after college in 2000. I was young, inspired by my Greenwich, Connecticut upbringing, but surrounded by new, very cool talent. The new designers at the time were Jack and Lazaro of Proenza Schouler, Phillip Lim, and Zac Posen. I was the assistant calling in the clothes. My style was very mood driven, but always classic with calculated risks. Samples were a perk, absolutely. They were young, didn’t have PR people, and were doing it themselves. Real friendships emerged. Now we’ll sit around and say, ‘Wait, we’re not the new kids anymore. We’re the grown-ups!’
For three years, all I did all day was deal with clothes, and I loved it. Vogue prepared me, not only the long hours, the stress and the extreme dedication, but for this intimate knowledge of fashion that has served me so well. I can spot any designer, any fabric, and any silhouette. If I see an old dress, I can tell you what season it’s from, possibly the exit number when it went down the runway, and if it was a really special dress, maybe [even] the model who was wearing it.
“I think fashion is a bit amusing; the goal is to get the nod of approval from your girlfriend, and not get an eye-roll from your husband.”
Do you find it difficult always being in the public eye? Do you feel under pressure to be continually breaking fashion boundaries? The thought has never really crossed my mind. I like to think that I’m both exacting and spontaneous at the same time. I enjoy the process of curating and tailoring my wardrobe. I think fashion is a bit amusing; the goal is to get the nod of approval from your girlfriend, and not get an eye-roll from your husband.
You have a home in the Saint-Germain district of Paris. How much time do you spend there and how much inspiration do you take from Parisian style? I travel to Paris a handful of times each year, between work meetings, Fashion Weeks, and with my family. I have also learned that the idea of individuality is universally ridiculed by the French. The Parisian woman dresses proper; wearing real clothes and dialling back on the non-necessities i.e. 24-7 cell phone and bad breakfast food.
Moda Operandi launched its London showroom last year. How do fashion trends differ between London and New York? Our arrival in London was inspired by our clients and the overwhelming talent of London designers. The European customer understands fashion in a unique way. They are sophisticated and fashion-forward shoppers. London itself is an integral part of our business, as many of our top clients have a residence here. London sits at the crossroads for Moda Operandi’s international clientele and the space will serve to strengthen its presence and access outside of the US. Moda Operandi London is a luxurious extension of the trunk show experience and true to its inception the space will be by invitation only [Moda Operandi began as an invitation only online market space].
Where do you usually stay when you are in the UK capital? I almost always stay at The Connaught in Mayfair. It is insanely elegant and completely charming. As I would always prefer to be at home with my family and my heavy hardcover books, staying at The Connaught helps me achieve a certain level of comfort that is imperative to my wellbeing.
Which city in the world would you say has the best style and best access to haute couture fashion? Paris.
You are very involved with your business. How do you balance your work and home life? I have two children, so I can’t sleep in late. The first thing I think about is coffee, immediately. And then whether my iPhone is charged. I try to stay very organised, but after I wake up, the rest of the day is often a gamble. I have two non-negotiables in the morning, three if you count coffee: breakfast with my children and taking them to school. After that, it is either straight to the office or ballet class with Mary Helen Bowers. I find there is an assumption that those who work in the industry have days full of glamour (photo shoots, reviewing look books, designer lunches). In actuality, my day is more numbers, analytics, and spreadsheets than one would assume, myself previously included. Someone recently asked me what time I finish work. It was a cute question, but the real answer is never. A reward for me at the end of the day is time to read, it’s my most simple luxury.
Travelling is such a core part of your life; how does your wardrobe cope with constant packing and unpacking? What are your go-to luggage labels? It should be noted that I will always choose being home with my family [over travelling]. I always try to make plans ahead of time with friends and family that will be in town. I pack according to my plans, but bring two extras as options for a last minute calendar change. The best suitcases are by Burton, my husband turned me on to these and we won’t travel with anything else. I do however have my eye on a set from Globe-Trotter.
You’ve been complimented on your youthful radiance many times in the press, surely frequent flying dries out your skin. What are your beauty secrets? The beauty basics I always travel with are Georgia Louise Hydrating Rosewater, Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream, and By Terry Baume de Rose.
What’s next for Moda Operandi? We just celebrated our one year anniversary of Moda Operandi London, and in February it will be our five year anniversary as a company. More to come.
Favourite café: Café de Flore
Favourite bookshop: 7L
Favourite flower shop: Lachaume
Favourite stationery: Armorial
Favourite art gallery: Galerie Perrotin
Favourite art supply shop: Sennelier
Favourite eyewear shop: E.B. Meyrowitz
Favourite jewellery shop: Jar
Favourite department store: Le Bon Marché
Favourite restaurant: Caviar Kaspia
November 11th 2015