As a former chair of LVMH, a managing director at Carlyle Group and an executive at Estée Lauder and Avon, Pauline Brown has helped lead influential financial firms and luxury brands. Her first book, Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost It and Use It in Business and Beyond, debuts this fall.

1. What are you reading?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I think it’s brilliant.

2. Your favorite city?

It’s a tie between Vienna, where my father was born, and Cape Town, where my mother was born.

3. How many days a year do you travel?

Depending on the year, 50 to 100. But in my mind, I’m traveling every day.

4. Private or commercial?

I’d like to say I only fly private, but I only fly commercial. My favorite airline is JAL—it’s like staying at a four- or five-star hotel flying to Tokyo.


5. Other than your phone, what do you never travel without?

My Make Up For Ever nude lip liner. It’s very important even on days that I’m not supposed to be putting makeup on.

6. Your investment philosophy?

It hurts me more to lose money than it elates me to make money, so I’m careful. I definitely would avoid Bitcoin and not invest in Uber.

7. Your best management tip?

Lead from the heart and hire for the long term. Skills are trainable but cultural fit and values are generally not.


8. What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in business?

I regret the chances I didn’t take, where I was lost in indecisiveness or corporate paralysis.

9. Your favorite movie?

Gone with the Wind, because it’s so romantic and such an extraordinary story of America. It seems inconceivable that we were fighting in a way then that I almost see us fighting today.

10. TV show?

Game of Thrones for the artistry, the character development and the fact that the most interesting characters were all women. It’s all too rare to see that form of women in leadership, in fantasy or reality.

11. What do you drive?

A Mercedes CLS 500, a beautiful and very impractical car, a little too delicate for urban navigation. It’s gold and beige, not the colors I would pick today.

12. Beer, wine or spirits?

I’m a big fan of Ruinart blanc de blancs Champagne, and I’ve rarely come across a sauvignon blanc I don’t enjoy.

13. Favorite piece of jewelry?

My grandmother’s extraordinary Victorian-era set of white opal earrings, necklace, brooch and a bracelet. Opal was my mother’s birthstone, so I feel her strength and wisdom whenever I wear them.

14. What type of watch do you wear?

My favorite is a Bulgari with a bejeweled top that closes over the face. It was a gift from me to me while I was at LVMH.

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15. Favorite meal?

Any time my close friend Rossano Ferretti comes to New York. He’s a terrific hairdresser and an even more spectacular chef.

16. Favorite designer?

Iris van Herpen’s ability to meld handwork with new technology, whether 3D printing or materials not historically used in fashion, is brilliant and fascinating. When I shop, I only want costumes, not uniforms, because I have plenty of basics.

17. Favorite outfit?

My favorite, a real attention-getter, is a skirt by the Faroe Islands-based designers Gudrun & Gudrun. It’s voluminous but surprisingly light and feminine.

18. Your next dream job?

To go to Ford or GM for three months and rethink some of their aesthetic choices, especially color palettes and textures. Cars are by and large designed by men. If I could affect any industry in the next 10 years, it would be the automotive industry.

19. Your favorite philanthropy?

Any organization training creative thinkers and makers is creating a skill set to make this world a better place. I’m on the board of Parsons School of Design.

20. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you love. Anytime I follow a purely strategic road map, I regret it.

See all past 20 Questions columns here.