With her incomparable taste, LSD reveals her entertaining secrets and shares this year's ultimate gift guide
Lauren Santo Domingo is an original tastemaker — a 21st century fashion maven with a devil-may-care attitude that’s helped her build an empire. At the helm of Moda Operandi, co-founder Lauren oversees one of the web’s most important high fashion shopping destinations. We sit down with LSD to learn more about how she entertains over the holidays, and get her picks for this year’s ultimate gift guide.
Mary Fellowes: Ok, so the holiday season has descended. Heaven or hell?
Lauren Santo Domingo: Heaven. They say in November you can go to a black tie every night in New York City if you wanted to and often I do… I would much rather be in a party dress than pajamas any day.
MF: What’s the worst part of the holidays for you?
LSD: When it ends, such a comedown! It’s January then February — cold, dreary and nothing to do.
"To me nothing says 'I don’t care,' more than a scented candle."
MF: How do you keep track and stay organized?
LSD: Running out of looks would be a nightmare. So I keep a little note on what I have worn to either a party for childhood friend or book launch of a fashion editor friend, for example — no overlap there so I can dress the same. I’ll switch up the hair or the makeup or the accessories so I don’t bore myself.
MF: What about getting ready? What’s the drill?
LSD: I don’t take long at all. I usually get my hair done — second day hair is better than first day hair so I plan accordingly. And nothing better than third day hair! After four days though you really have to be among close friends and family.
MF: Apart from keeping track of things, what are the other wardrobe rules in the season?
LSD: I subscribe to the “fewer the better” school of fashion. I have one great black coat, a great camel coat and one fabulous fur coat. That is actually one of the reasons I started Moda Operandi — having the ability to get the better things because they last so much longer. And I do the math in my head. Every time I wear something I deduct what I spent on it. So if I see something sitting festering in my closet, I really make a note of what’s wrong with it — is it too fancy or not fancy enough? Is it the color, the style? I think about how I can choose better the next time.
MF: Tell me about shopping during the holiday period. How? Where? When?
LSD: I do everything online; the idea of going into a store almost brings me to hives. I start in January and continue throughout the year, a rushed gift is never good. To me nothing says, “I don’t care,” more than a scented candle. A lot of the gifts I have given in the past or plan to give this year we now have at Moda Operandi.
MF: What gifts does Moda have?
LSD: We have some really extravagant things and we have really funny things in there too. There are things for everyone in the family. For kids, there’s a giant life-size panda or baby dragon, Del Toro slippers, and an Asprey rocking horse at $100,000. We have burlesque lessons with Dita Von Teese. Then we have a lot of tech stuff, such as Bowers & Wilkins earphones — the best on the market — or a soft cashmere wrap from Inverni. So they would be the most practical. But sometimes for our customers the most ridiculous things are practical… Maybe there’s a child who really does need that life-size panda or a BMW 328 Premium Collector children’s car.
MF: What about a holiday season playlist?
LSD: Well, my husband is in charge and he has amazing taste. I’m just the cruise director. I make the reservations, get the friends together and organize the menu and he is the musical director. There are different playlists for every point of the night — one for getting ready, for the car, for the party, for the after party.
MF: Where do you guys go for Thanksgiving? Out East?
LSD: Cartagena in Colombia, and for Christmas and New Year also. I have been going there with my husband since we met in 1998. You go there because you want action, sun, great food and music… and on top of it all, the week before Thanksgiving is their Miss America pageant, which is a really big thing for them — it’s their fashion week!
MF: So your holiday season for you is a juxtaposition of hot and cold — Fall/Winter and Resort so to speak.
LSD: Correct. So now Resort is starting to come in, and Fall/Winter is starting to go on sale. …The other day I just received a swimsuit from Lisa Marie Fernandez and a pair of Ancient Greek lace-up sandals and Ellery sunglasses… I sort of forgot I had ordered those things. It is like an early Christmas!
MF: What about wrapping presents — what’s your approach?
LSD: I like to change it up every year. A couple of years back it was all craft paper with twine, and last year I found a great Japanese paper — turquoise blue with glitter red lips and polka dot ribbons. This year I found a really cool malachite paper; I loved it so much we ended up doing something similar here at Moda. With the children, all they want is Smurf wrapping paper they can rip through! And I still am nostalgic about those stick-on bows and gift labels so I’ll try to use those whenever possible.
"I think not RSVPing is rude, canceling the day of is rude, only to be trumped by dietary restrictions."
MF: Tell me about your perfect holiday menus.
LSD: There’s so much room for error if you have a party that the menu is something you want to simplify. I always serve the most simple, basic, delicious food there is including steak, mashed potatoes and string beans. You’re not going to come and get weird food like quinoa and salmon. The men are the ones eating so I make the menu for the heartiest in the room so they leave well fed, not for those people who are going to pick at it. For the women, there is always the table decoration to get excited about.
MF: How about guest lists? How do you achieve the right mix?
LSD: I used to be totally separate about the whole thing but over the years, I’ve found that New York is really a small town that everyone really is (or at some time was) friends. I recently found out my roommate from boarding school is best friends with one of my favorite fashion designers, so it’s at this point where anything goes. And I’m usually “the more the merrier,” “bring a friend,” as long as they’re not boring, because that is just rude.
MF: What else is rude?
LSD: I think not RSVPing is rude, I think canceling the day of is rude, only to be trumped by dietary restrictions. I think asking to bring your children can be rude. At my house controversial subjects are welcome — whether it’s politics, religion, the environment, fracking or the Kardashians… all of that is completely welcome and if someone is not getting heated? It’s a boring night. So cocktail hour, therefore, really should be two hours. Before sitting down, people need to be a little loose!
MF: What is the rudest gift to bring?
LSD: The rule is that you are never to bring anything that the hostess immediately has to deal with. Give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she has enough alcohol, enough flowers, enough scented candles out in the powder room. People always come with bottles of alcohol and I find it tedious. I would much rather receive an email the next morning, a handwritten note.
MF: Best writing paper for thank you letters?
LSD: Smythson for everyday and Cartier for really special notes. It’s no secret; my initials are the way to my heart. Right now I’m working with Dempsey and Carroll on designing a monogram for me for some new stationery. I usually do everything just “LSD” but now I realize there are some moments when you may want something a bit quieter.
MF: What’s your dream gift this year?
LSD: A solid gold iPhone - or that life-size panda!
Editor’s note: Main image from personal collection of Lauren Santo Domingo.