We are celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting women leaders who have made great strides across their respective fields. Join us for a conversation with Pauline Brown, pioneer in the business of aesthetics and author of best-selling business book, "Aesthetic Intelligence.”
Inspiring Women: Pauline Brown
Q: Since we’re celebrating International Women’s Month, we’d love to hear about any female mentors who’ve inspired you in your life.
Pauline Brown: My two grandmothers had an outsized influence on me. Both narrowly escaped the Holocaust, but that hardly hampered their zest for life. My paternal grandmother, "Grandma Hedy," fled Vienna for New York in 1939. Around the same time, my maternal grandmother, “Omi,” emigrated from Frankfurt to Cape Town via Barcelona - a circuitous route made it all the more traumatic by the Spanish Civil War.
As soon as they each arrived in their respective new worlds, they founded their own companies. In both cases, fashion companies. From Grandma Hedy, who ran a high-end children’s clothing line, I learnt the importance of graciousness, fine taste, and attention to detail. Despite modest circumstances, she only would shop at Bergdorf Goodman.
From Omi, who designed evening gowns for the gentry of South Africa, I developed a passion for good craftsmanship and quality, and for bringing products to life through great storytelling. While I personally took a less entrepreneurial path through the fashion industry, I still think my passion for fashion - as well as my aesthetic sensibilities - emanated from them.
Q: What was your driving force behind building a career in the luxury space?
P.B.: I’m a product person, and it’s always been important to me to work for a company that makes products that I appreciate and enjoy. Whether or not a particular luxury brand speaks to me personally, I still appreciate the artistry and skill that goes into making it; I appreciate the heritage of the house; and I appreciate the sheer magnificence and timelessness of a well-made product.
Q: With this past year being so challenging, what has kept you motivated and positive moving forward?
P.B.: Indeed, it has been a tough year. But I still see reason to feel grateful and hopeful. As I see it, we live in the greatest era in human history. Broadly speaking, people have never faced lower threats of war, crime, disease, and violence. And standards of living and wellbeing are higher than ever, notwithstanding the effects of COVID-19. So, I am confident we, as a society, will rebound quickly.
On a personal level, I’ve done my best to make lemonade out of lemons. The fact is, thanks to COVID-19, I no longer deal with rush-hour traffic, or security agents at airports, or the discomfort of wearing stilettos and Spanx. So, quarantining does have its advantages. Knowing that the constraints (eventually) will come to an end is helpful too. And when it does, I’ll gladly put on my stilettos again.
Q: What is one thing that you have learned from making mistakes along the way?
P.B.: The only mistakes I regret are the ones that are repeated. The rest are simply learning opportunities. They are gifts.
Q: What excites and inspires you?
P.B.: There’s nothing that inspires me more than to discover a new corner of the world. I am inspired by meeting new people and exploring different cultures. The more different and exotic they are, the better.
I used to assume that I would have to travel to far-flung places to discover such exotica. I’ve since realized that eye-opening opportunities can be found quite close to home — in places like local vintage stores, new and unusual restaurants, hidden wilderness areas. A curious mind knows no limits.
Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to pursue their own dreams?
P.B.: A lot of young women are in a rush to establish themselves, especially in the professional domain. But I tell them to play the long game. As John Lennon famously said, "life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
So, I remind others to enjoy the small moments, invest in friends, and leave time for laughter. Also, continue to invest in your nonprofessional interests and find ways to infuse them in your work.
Q: Now to the fun part! What does your skincare routine look like and what is your go-to product from RéVive?
P.B.: When it comes to beauty regimens, I’m of the philosophy that less is more. My skincare routine really hasn’t changed much over the years. I use a gentle cleanser, followed by light moisturizer during the day and a serum at night.
But the one ‘specialty product’ to which I always have subscribed is eye cream. The skin around the eye is thinner, more sensitive, and more prone to wrinkles than other areas of the face. So, it really does require special attention. I’ve tried many different products, by my all-time favorite ones are RéVive’s Firming Eye Cream and RéVive’s Anti-Aging Eye Serum. As long as I have access to these two items, I’ll stay away from surgery!