Sarah Rutson, Fashion Director, Lane Crawford


"I’m the Fashion Director at Lane Crawford and I live in Hong Kong. I came back to the company nine years ago, because it wanted to rebrand itself—fashion is about change and evolution, not about staying still, but it’s also about staying true to who you are. Lane Crawford was much more traditional before I came on board. But any business, to survive and stay relevant, needs to evolve. So my job has been about repositioning, and rebuilding—really, from scratch—a wonderful heritage brand, by making it relevant for who the customer is today and to be cognizant, enough, smart enough, and ahead of the curve to not rest on your laurels. Lane Crawford is 163 years old, coming up on 164, and is very trusted.

We have a very, very strong beauty business. Skin is extremely important in China, and Lane Crawford is actually Crème de la Mer’s number one client in the world. We are also the number one retailer for the Estée Lauder group. SK-II and Fresh have grown exponentially, too, since they launched in China, which was very recently. The Chinese so want to embrace the new, but it takes a long time for a brand to be able to launch in this country. They can’t just go in whenever they decide. They have to go through all the testing and branding. It takes a while. Once all of that is done, then a launch can happen. That's why there are very few indie brands here.

In terms of my routine, I have never worn a lot of makeup. I have a very natural look, and the older I get, the less makeup and fewer colors I wear. I suppose it’s because I live in a climate that’s extremely humid, where makeup slides off of your face. I could never do a bright lipstick—I think we all made the mistake in the ‘80s. I don’t even wear lipstick now; instead, I always wear lip gloss. I love LipFusion Micro-Injected Collagen Lip Plump in Bare. It tingles on your lips, but it doesn’t plump—nothing plumps your lips. I mean, come on. But the moisture in it is phenomenal. I've always liked natural, nude shades. I won’t follow trends because I’m not a slave to them—my cosmetic choices are for me, not what’s going on in fashion. If it’s 'all about a heavy eye,' that’s never going to work for me because I have small eyes and it will just smudge all over the place. There’s no point for me to go there.

For eye makeup, I usually wear taupe and beige shadow with a light charcoal along the lids that I draw with a powder, never a pencil. And I only wear mascara maybe six times a year, like for the Met Ball, and only at night. It always runs down my face and gets into my contact lenses, no matter what.

I have thick eyebrows. You know all those people that are like, ‘Oh, I used to pluck my eyebrows, and they never grew back.’ I’ve never had that. If I didn’t pluck every day, I’d have a super thick, single eyebrow. I can over-pluck and a week later it will fill in. When I do accidentally take a big chunk out of one of my eyebrows, I love the Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in Espresso. I’m obsessed. No one’s is better. And the hair on my eyebrows is very long, so I use Laura Mercier Eye Brow Gel to keep everything in place. It's interesting: in China, lush eyebrows signify wealth. As a people, the Chinese tend to not be terribly hairy, so people are very much into penciling them in here. When I first came to Hong Kong, I’d see all the old ladies with their painted eyebrows on. It has always been like this.

On my skin, I use La Mer foundation, because it’s not too heavy. I changed my foundation when I turned 42 because I needed something lighter for my wrinkles. I find that every seven years I can see that my skin has aged. Now, it’s much drier and thinner. By the time I get to my late 40s, I will need to change it again. I’m not a proponent of fillers, I like the crevices—it’s part of aging. My mother is 83 and she’s absolutely beautiful. What’s wrong with wrinkles? Fillers stop working after a while anyway, especially when you start at 22 or 23. Just slap on a heavy moisturizer and try to stay out of the sun... But I grew up in a different time. I was baby-oiling up for twelve hours of sunbathing like a rotisserie chicken on a spear. I lived in the sun, and it has probably destroyed my skin a lot.  I love a tan—it makes me feel better—but now I use Nars bronzer instead of going in the sun. A tan on me now doesn’t look as fresh; it’s more like a lizard handbag. If I’m really dark, I’ll wear Bobbi Brown bronzer. I actually have very, very pale skin, but a little bronzer makes me feel less tired. It’s certainly not a Snooki or Jersey Shore kind of look.

I’m really lazy about removing my makeup. At the end of the day, I’ll just use the Neutrogena Deep Clean Oil-Free Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes and probably not even cleanse or tone. But, first thing in the morning, to wash my face, I splash it with freezing cold water to close the pores. I even end my showers with freezing cold water because I want to start the day with closed pores. I bought a Clarisonic six weeks ago and I’m loving that. I’ve noticed such a difference already because it takes off the layers of dead skin. Until three months ago, I never used a toner, because I thought it was an astringent that would strip my face. But a Lane Crawford cosmetic concierge told me to try one. The cosmetic concierges are brilliant because they’re not trying to flog you with everything in the house, they will just find the right thing for you. No one had ever told me the reason for a toner, and she said, ‘It will help your skin better absorb your cream’s moisture.’ It was as simple as that.

I’m all about as much moisture as possible—a cream cannot be heavy enough. The older I get, the more moisture I need, so I follow up my toner with the classic Crème de la Mer and let that sink in for twenty minutes. I’m a Crème de la Mer girl through and through. I've been using it since I was 27.

Another thing that I've found through getting older is that blonder hair is less harsh for me. My hair is naturally black—that’s the half-Italian in me—but I dyed it seven years ago to give me a softer look. During the winter months, I like it to be quite caramel, but in the summer, I like it blonder. Every blonde that comes to Hong Kong asks me where I get my hair done—I even get asked when I’m in New York. We all go to Justin Paul Chambers at Salon Chandler. He's amazing. I used to have pin straight hair, but when I moved to Hong Kong, it changed completely. With the humidity, it gets kinky and curly underneath. I only wash my hair at night now, because I need to let it naturally dry and then sleep on it to flatten it. When I’m traveling, I’ll pop in anywhere to get a blow-out. I can’t keep it straight in Hong Kong, only the Hong Kong-ers get to see my curls. [Laughs]

I could go out with greasy hair just tied up or without makeup on, but I would never, ever, under any circumstances walk out of the house without putting on perfume. I need a beautiful smell, something fresh. I wear Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne. People know me by that, and I think it smells delicious. My sense of smell is off the charts—when you’ve got a nose this size, and I love my nose, your sense of smell is extraordinary. I can actually smell people and tell what they’re wearing. So, I always keep Jo Malone in my bag. Even if I was at home sick, by myself, I would put it on. It lifts my spirit. It’s like putting on a pair of high heels—I have a lot more strength in a pair of heels than I do when I’m in flats.

The only thing that I don’t do myself is have my toenails painted. I always wear the same light nude: Deborah Lippmann Naked. The Shanghainese pedicure is like nothing else around. They really focus on your feet. I’ve been seeing the same woman for twenty years, so I’ve never developed calluses or anything, even after brutalizing my feet with high heels. My feet need to look beautiful—that’s my beauty thing."

—as told to ITG

Sarah Rutson photographed by Emily Weiss on June 10, 2013.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • SV

    Such an intriguing woman! I love it.

  • SV

    Also her arms are amazing.

  • Kasia

    She is cool indeed.

  • Bird

    "I was baby-oiling up for twelve hours of sunbathing like a rotisserie chicken on a spear... A tan on me now doesn’t look as fresh; it’s more like a lizard handbag." Goodness, she is chic and absolutely hilarious. What a gem!

  • Violeta Marniku

    Gorgeous! I trully enjoyed this...

  • Aubrey Green

    Love her.

  • hollygoeslightly22

    Going ilghter with your hair color definitely adds a softer look - I couldn't agree more. I'm naturally a dark brunette and added caramel highlights (I keep going lighter) and it's softened my look quite a bit and looks better against my skin tone.

  • S


  • Nancy

    Hilarious! She's awesome.

  • Alissa from ChicPeek

    I had such a great time reading her interview. I'm so glad for into the gloss, it's helping me read more about these awesome fashion icons and their jobs and also their great beauty tips! They really have wonderful advice and I love their product suggestions!

  • charlotte

    Please reveal the name of the toner recommended to her ...

  • Heather

    I like her no fuss attitude towards beauty and skincare - it's good to be reminded that you must do what works for you personally!

    Although I think Caroline Hirons would disagree that "But, first thing in the morning, to wash my face, I splash it with freezing cold water to close the pores." See:

  • Jenna

    Anyone working on trying to keep their skin looking their best should cleanse every night. A wipe is not good enough! Also the reason there aren't Indie brands in China is because in China it is the law that all cosmetics must be tested on animals and the indie brands are more advanced than that.

    • Vicki

      @Jenna- I was going to mention the animal testing aspect. I'm glad you brought it up. Its frustrating because I make a strong effort to not buy animal tested cosmetics and as more and more companies go to China, I have to stop using their products and look for replacements. Thankfully here in the US there is a growing market for natural/cruelty free products to turn to!

    • Sylvie

      Spot on! I was going to say, lots of animal testing. Even brands like Avon, L'Occitane, Revlon (Almay), SK-II are testing now... So it's Whole Foods for my beauty supplies. Thank God for Pharmaca, Chagrin Valley, and Spirit Beauty Lounge!! Though, the products are more effective anyway, and I'm probably healthier for it.

      Oh and more info here on China animal testing (and brands that lie):

  • renaphuah

    Sarah has the best job in the world and Lane Crawford is the best department store in the world x

    • Brenda

      Couln't agree more! Beat lots of 'famous' department stores anytime!

  • Esme

    I love her refreshing attitude toward aging! At 25, I'm a daily moisturizer and SPF 30 user, but every beauty blog I read tells me that if I don't start NOW with serums and retinoids and special eye and neck creams, I'm going to be a hideous dried-up hag by the time I'm 30. It's nice to hear someone admit that wrinkles are not, in fact, the end of the world.

    • Vicki

      LOL, I'm 31 and I promise you, with just SPF and a good moisturizer, you won't even resemble a dried up hag :)

      • Mopsy

        Seconded, water, SPF (Nars tinted moisturiser or Clinique City Block are good), moisturise, always do a proper but not brutal cleanse (Liz Earle is good) and job done.

        I think this may be my fave ITG article ever.

  • beautyidealist

    By Indie brands, I'm assuming the 'natural' skincare brands who are pretty much ruled out due to China's requirement of animal testing.

    I love her very international life and she has truly done a lot for infusing a touch of hip and cool to Lane Crawford. I'm not too surprised that she had such a great initial experience with Clarisonic considering she does not cleanse/tone at night and closes her pores first thing in the morning, imagine all the things trapped in those pores! The exfoliation definitely helps!

  • lesiagrace

    Great post with lot of information.Thanks for the sharing

  • Vanity Corner
  • Jolanda van Wingerden

    One of the first interviews I finished in one breath. Loved it

  • Aimee George

    I've read so many of these by models and celebs but this was honestly the most interesting one. She showed her quirky personality. Simple makeup- a real woman, with a real job, and real confidence in herself. Loved that she had such peculiarities like always wearing a nice perfume even if her hair was unwashed, and always having her toes done. And wearing the same shade of nail polish. And she was so honest- not acting as though it is sacrilege to be lazy in washing her face. As if it makes any difference! Absolutely loved her.

  • Jennifer

    I love this blog and reading about beauty routines and products. One thing that annoys me though, is when people talk about 'opening' and 'closing' pores. They are not doors! Having suffered from enlarged pores all over my face, I have never found a product that 'closes' my pores-and cold water doesn't make any difference. Would love to get opinions on this and some clarification

    • NeenaJ

      Hi Jennifer, You're correct in that pores don't open and close mechanically. People throw that terminology about and it makes me crazy. Pores are not open/closed; they are more visible/less visible. When people say something closes their pores, it means that the the skin is plumped so pores are not as visible as before the plumping agent (in her case, ice cold water). Also, pores can seem more visible if they're clogged so, using a good glycolic acid or other AHA toner on a regular basis will help keep pores cleared and minimized over time. If you're not familiar with Caroline Hirons (referenced in another comment), I highly recommend checking out her blog. She is an amazing skincare resource.

  • Brenda

    True about Shanghainese mani/pedi bit. But if you think they are just good at that, you better try their unique way of body scrubbing! The best in the world!

  • Lana

    i need to find a pedicure like that...


FusionBeauty LipFusion
FusionBeauty LipFusion Micro-Injected Collagen Lip Plump Color Shine, Bare
Tom Ford Beauty
Tom Ford Beauty Brow Sculptor, Espresso
Laura Mercier
Laura Mercier Eye Brow Gel
La Mer
La Mer 'The Treatment Foundation' Broad Spectrum SPF 15
Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder
Neutrogena Deep Clean Oil-Free Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes
La Mer
Creme de la Mer
Jo Malone London
Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne