At 56, Lauren Wittels has never been happier. A longtime New Yorker and partner in the Luhring Augustine art gallery, she brings her passion for art and fashion to life daily. Happier now than ever, she leans into her age, seeing it as an asset, the wrinkles of age as something to be admired, a mark of time lived and wisdom accumulated. Being seen and recognized is her way to get a conversation started. It is an act of generosity and friendliness that brings people to her.
From her early days of fashion experimentation to her current role in the art world, Lauren reflects on the evolution of her inspiring style and the profound impact it has had on her career. She discusses the importance of confidence when navigating the challenges women over 50 face, emphasizing the powerful connection between personal style and professional success.
How old are you?
I’m 56 and a half.
What did you learn about yourself in your years that you didn’t realize when you were younger?
I’m much more social and friendly than I thought. I am pretty introverted. I needed my two days off to recharge, but I always thought I was awkward and weird. I am awkward, but I like talking to people at Starbucks or on the train. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself, so it is natural to be more open to others. I spent so many of my younger years not feeling comfortable with myself, which is inhibiting.
And when you’re younger, you’re trying to find your way. I’ve been in this business for 34 years, and maybe I know a thing or two.
How do you organize your day and your week?
I wake up at 4:30 am daily, ensuring time for the gym and taking my dog to Central Park every morning. It gives me a little headspace. I try not to book too many evenings. If I know I have a lot of work events in the evenings, I won’t make any other plans. I need nights off. So, I’ll never have a week with five nights of plans, a work week. Saturday nights are verboten. I come home, and I watch Columbo.
What are you most looking forward to in the next five years? What are you still looking to accomplish?
I want to keep growing the gallery. My partner, Donald, and I have taken over a lot at the gallery; I want to keep doing that and expanding it and mentoring younger women, which I do. I want to stay feeling great. So I just want to keep having a good time. I want to maintain dressing fantastically and spend lots of time with my kid and friends. I feel satisfied, but I want to keep it going.
“Yes, we can be overlooked. But consider leaning into who you are”
Some women feel invisible as they age. And speaking of the six-inch leopard shoes, what are your feelings on that?
I do understand it. Because there are specific ways that you’re not invisible, but you’re seen through a different lens. Like, I don’t think you’re seen sexually the same way on the street. You’re not perceived as prey, which is great. Sometimes, people disregard older women, especially like, “Eh, let’s get someone young.”
Years ago, I was having a casual lunch with two friends, and one of them was on the search committee for an executive director position at a nice little not-for-profit, and I said, “Well, I’m not looking, but that’s a job I would like.” She said, “Oh, you’re too old.” I was 50.
I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “Yeah, we need someone who’s young and has ideas.” And I was like, “Those two things don’t match?” So, yes, we can be overlooked. But consider leaning into who you are. I am 6’2”. I don’t look like your typical pretty woman; I have a strong face and style and will never be invisible. So I just leaned the hell into it.
When did you move to New York, and where from?
I grew up on Long Island but always felt connected to the city. I went to college here and, during high school, my mom got an apartment on the Upper West Side to escape Long Island.
And so, from 14 to 18 years old, I spent every weekend, when possible, in the city, alone, wandering. So, by the time I went to school here, I was like a native, and I’ve been here ever since.
Are you married, and do you have kids?
I have a 20-year-old; the most incredible person in the world. I’m so head over heels with them. I’m no longer married but very friendly with my ex.
“People want to see visual inspiration in all parts of looking at art”
We love your Instagram and love how much fun you have with fashion. How would you say your career in the art world has influenced your style?
The short analysis is: it’s a visual business. People want to see visual inspiration in all parts of looking at art. So, they want to see it in the object; they want to see it in the gallery; they want to see it in the person trying to sell them art or conversing with them about art. So, everything has to be on the same level.
But the opposite is how style has influenced my career in the last few years. I go to an art fair booth or in the gallery, especially on a Saturday, and people are drawn to me. It’s a great conversation starter. Second, it shows generosity and friendliness, making people comfortable. They take your picture. But thirdly, I think it shows confidence, which is essential when talking to someone about something completely subjective like art.
So, you have to have confidence in your own opinions, enabling them to have confidence in theirs. It’s like a simultaneous exchange between art and style.
What inspires your daily look?
I think about it a lot in advance. I think about it at night before I go to sleep. I think about it on the treadmill in the morning. But I usually pick one thing I want to wear. It’s usually a pair of shoes. Sometimes, it’s a coat, and then I build around that. And in New York, the shoe is essential depending on your day — so lots of good platforms.
You have said you love to shop. Do you shop online? What’s your shopping experience of late?
I travel every week. My time off is limited. So, I do a lot online. I love The RealReal. But I’m always searching for vintage dealers and bought some things from old CELINE on Instagram. But I live, and not by accident, between Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman. I recently spent a lot of money on one item, more than I’ve ever spent. And now it’s like, “Oh, this is only what? Half that?”
“Some people would like to hike Everest, and some would buy a country home. I love clothes”
What’s the item?
It’s an Alexander McQueen leather motorcycle skirt. I’m single, work hard, and finally make a salary that allows me to do what I love. Some people would like to hike Everest, and some would buy a country home. I love clothes.
But my new policy is, and this is very hard, one thing comes in, one thing goes out.
That’s awesome. How about the glasses?
Yes. I bought them without trying them on and ordered them online. I have a giant pair and a slightly smaller one. I love glasses. I haven’t worn contact lenses since COVID started.
Who would you say is a style icon to you?
Kate Lanphear. She’s astonishing. I also love every woman in Chicago over the age of 60. There’s a midwestern elegance that’s not flashy or branded. I saw this woman at the florist in Chicago. I was like, “I’ve got to take your picture.” You’ve never seen anyone so chic in your life.
What do you do at the gym? What’s your routine?
Walking. I used to be a runner, but I had knee surgery. I lift weights, and I do sit-ups. It’s basic, but I do it every day, six days a week. It feels great.
“I have no desire to look younger than I am. I have wrinkles, and I like them”
Regarding beauty, what do you do for yourself? What’s your beauty routine?
I don’t have one. I love getting my hair cut. I cut off all my hair during COVID. It was down below my nips. I chopped it all off, and I’ve never felt better.
I buy my skincare at Walgreens. I like makeup, but I do the same thing every day. I get facials maybe twice a year with my sister. I go to the gym a lot. But I don’t buy fancy shampoo or skincare.
I have no desire to look younger than I am. I have wrinkles, and I like them. I was on a Zoom with this woman in her mid-60s; she was a book designer, one of the best in the world, and had lines on her neck. After 30 or 40 minutes of listening to her, she’s so brilliant, and she knows her shit so well that the lines on her neck looked like something you’d want.
So, I’m not looking for the miracle cream that will make me look 25 years old. I’ve already been 25. I wasn’t happier then. I’m happy as hell now.
“I’ve already been 25. I wasn’t happier then. I’m happy as hell now”
How do you pack for a trip?
Sometimes, it’s a 24-hour trip. I take a lot of those. So, I have to wear something that is not only not going to wrinkle, but also I can put on the next morning and come home. I have that all so structured about what those things are. The shoes have to be comfortable. But I plan far in advance when I pack for an art fair. I used to pack outfits. When I got to the hotel, I would hang them in order of the days I would wear them with the accessories on the hanger. Now, I don’t do that anymore. Now, I pack items, and I make outfits from them.
I make lists a month in advance. I’m planning to go to Miami now.
What are you currently listening to music-wise?
I’ve been listening to Sinéad O’Connor at work. I listen to Depeche Mode. I’m not someone who knows about contemporary music. I might know about contemporary art or contemporary fashion but, when it comes to music, it’s like, the tried-and-true Psychedelic Furs, just like, old school. And also, I listen to a lot of Michael Jackson.
Tell us your favorite restaurants.
My favorite restaurant in Chicago has to be Shaw’s Crab House, which I love. Not fancy. It’s very Chicago.
In New York, my favorite is Loi, by my apartment, and it’s Greek. It’s owned by this woman, Maria Loi. I have hosted many events there. The food is fantastic. It’s fun. They all know your name. I like that feeling of being a regular. And of course, Bottino, which is the art world canteen. They let me bring my dog there. So, I’m a repeat offender.
I usually organize a professional lunch at least twice weekly because that removes it from the social sphere after work.
“I want to remain grateful and positive”
What is your biggest life challenge today, and how are you dealing with it?
My biggest life challenge is keeping the pace up and keeping my sense of humor and spirit positive. There’s a lot of people relying on me. My artists depend on me. And personally, a lot of people rely on me. I want to remain grateful and positive.
Give us a hot art tip: who should we be looking at? What artists are making a splash in your world that we should have our eyes on, or any good shows that we should go to?
New York has had a resurgence of many younger, either artist-run galleries, house galleries, or off-the-beaten-path galleries.
Find them in Queens and parts of Brooklyn, and you’ll uncover great things.
Any parting words of advice for all of us women out here in our 50s trying to still make it happen with fashion?
Oh, my God, yes. If you have two brain cells considering wearing something, just put it on and walk out the door. Nothing brings more positive energy your way than putting it out there. What you get back is just as good as what you put out. In New York, it’s like you’re always on a runway.
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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.
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