Lydia Fenet, Managing Director, Christie’s


“In my capacity as Managing Director, I have two jobs. I run a department called Strategic Partnerships, and then I’m the lead benefit auctioneer, which means that I take all the charity auctions for Christie’s—I’m the auctioneer on stage. Christie’s has been around longer than America—it was founded in 1766 in England. It was a place where people would go to sell items from their homes—pictures, or any kind of furniture or jewelry. Christie’s now is an iteration of that auction house. One of the most common misconceptions is that we only sell expensive things, when in fact, a lot of interior designers come to Christie’s to buy couches, things like that, and then they recover them and sell them for three times the price. It’s actually a lot less expensive than retail!

I grew up in a small town called Lake Charles in Louisiana, but for high school I went to Taft, a boarding school. My mother is British, which I always have to say, otherwise people assume you go to boarding school because you’ve done something wrong. When I was at college at Sewanee I did this thing called this thing called European Studies that’s like a study abroad. I went to Oxford University, and a professor traveled with my group through France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. You literally study in front of paintings. It was sometime around that trip that I read an article about women who work in the auction world, and that was the first time [I heard about that]. There was just something about the tone of the women, and the glamour of the job—it just seemed very interesting and appealing to me. You would travel, you would meet all these incredible people, you would be around unbelievable art. When I got back to college, I told everyone that I was going to work at an auction house, even though I had not a single connection. But then oddly, at a Christmas party, my dad met this very chic woman who worked for Christie’s. He pulled me over to her, and I nervously asked her about the internship program. It all sort of started there.

During our peak seasons we have about four days of sales a week. We have 80 different specialist categories—everything from wine to jewelry. Everything we have has a story, which is the beauty of it. In 2011 we sold the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. I didn’t know anything about Elizabeth Taylor when I started working on the project, and there was a very small core team of us that really dug in for pretty much a calendar year. We call those landmark sales—every element of Christie’s is activated around these big sales. It was all jewelry, she had the third largest jewelry collection in the world. There was a ruby suite that one of her husbands had given her, and after he gave it to her she dove into the pool while wearing it. ‘I should do that!’ I said to my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, ‘I feel like perhaps you should buy me a ruby suite, and I’ll jump into a swimming pool.’ Unfortunately that didn’t work out as I hoped! [Laughs]

For the first 30-plus years of my life my skincare was really just water. And then I slowly started picking things up. I have a friend who sells Beautycounter, and she is a very aggressive salesperson. Week after week for a period of about two months, she would email saying I needed to try her stuff. I got the [Cream Exfoliating Cleanser], which I now use twice a week. And then another friend recommended that I use La Roche-Posay [Hydrating Gentle Cleanser] to wash my face. I use that every morning and night. For moisturizer, I use one from Clé de Peau, and I absolutely love it. It was gifted to me, and as someone who doesn’t even deal with beauty, I tried it and was like, ‘This is amazing,’ not knowing how expensive it was. I only use it at night—I really can’t use that much moisturizer. And whenever I’m traveling, I use the La Mer Mist—I just throw it in my bag.

This is my everyday. I use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Sand. I used to never wear anything on my face—any time I put anything on, even moisturizer, I would break out. And so when I started using this just on stage to keep the makeup on, I realized that my skin wasn’t reacting. It’s light, and it’s pretty, too—it just gives you a nice gloss. For concealer I like Clé de Peau—I can do it quickly, and it stays on. I do a little under my eyes, and should I ever have a blemish, I will probably use it on that. Every day I wear this shade of blush, Nars Outlaw. It’s almost a deep pink, but it gives you a little bit of a pop. Another everyday thing for me is my Tom Ford—I love these palettes. I bring the empty container when I go to the store and just say, ‘This is what I need!’ And then sometimes on the weekends, I love this Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow that my mom gave me.

My husband works for a company that has a lot of products, and he came back from a fair and was like, ‘Here’s a swag bag.’ That’s how I found Doll 10. Show Stopper is a creamy, nude, pearlescent color—I wear it on stage. I like to have dark eyelids with a little bit of shimmer above, so that's sort of a nice complement. And then I have a lot of brushes. Sephora, Pro Blending Brush in No. 27 for eyeshadow, MAC 150 and Sephora 59 for blush. I’ve learned a lot about makeup from friends, and one of my friends did this thing that I loved—it’s this shimmery gold eyeliner, which I use every once in a while. It’s Kat Von D in Gould [Ed. note: discontinued], and I found it at Sephora. It’s really fun for going out—I do it just on the top, in a line. And when I have big auctions, like I’m in Madison Square Garden or something like that, I use Laura Mercier’s Smoke, and it stays—it is a thick black.

About once a month I put on new lashes—I’ve been doing lash extensions for five years. I go to Ebenezer—it’s great, they give you a massage. I would do it when I was pregnant, and I would fall asleep every time. But this is the mascara I use when I’m between sessions, Bold and Bad Lash from MAC. The nice thing is it has this [spoolie] for the bottom lashes. That’s sort of my daily. Lipstick, I vary—it totally depends on what I’m wearing. I usually wear nude during the day, but I love this Clé de Peau one for stage, Legend. This one, Berry, is another one I use during the day—that’s Bobbi Brown.

My kids and I love taking baths. Even though it’s a cleanser, I use Philosophy—it travels really nicely. Purity One-Step works as everything. I have like fifteen different types of it, because the kids pick out the colors that they like. We have Joy, Grace, Purity—it doesn’t really matter, you can just empty any of them into the tub and it creates bubbles, and it’s nice for their skin. I’m even less wedded to body lotion—I’ll just take what’s around. I probably use Body Soufflé the most, and then there’s my Clé de Peau. That’s really good. I actually didn’t like using body lotion for many, many years. I feel like I’ve gotten into it as I’ve gotten older. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that.

My hair is naturally curly, but not crazy curly. I try to wash it after I go to the gym, or after I go for a run, so usually every day. I love R+Co—their smoothing shampoo and conditioner. It’s sort of like a gloss, too, and I think it makes hair drying a lot easier. The Shu Uemura Blow Dry Beautifier is good for smoothing. I put it on when my hair is wet, otherwise I feel like it’s too sticky. And then I’m actually out of my Shu Uemura Texture Wave, which I prefer, but the Oribe Texturizing Spray is good, too.

A woman on my team bought me a Conair curling iron and taught me how to curl my hair after a blowout. She said it’s all about the length of time that you hold [the barrel]. I wrap it to the middle of the hair, and then I just pull it to give it a bend. I spray it with Shu Uemura hairspray. A hairstylist once used it on me and it was probably the first time that I didn’t feel like I had a heaviness on my hair. It was really light and it wasn’t sticky, and even when I woke up the next morning my hair looked like the night before—but not frozen. Love it! I’ve ordered many bottles.

I used to wear a lot of Chanel Gardénia, and I’ve graduated to French Lime Blossom. That’s my go-to. And then I’m fastidious about manicures. I have two nail places within 100 feet from me—VIP Nails on Reade Street and Abey Nails on Chambers. I take my daughter when I go, so that’s fun. I usually do Bare With Me by Essie, but I love Essie in general because I feel like it’s the only one I don’t immediately smudge afterwards. On my toes I always do gel because it lasts forever. During the winter I do something with a tanner undertone. Sometimes there’s another one called Ladylike which even has a little more purple in it. It goes with everything, and it’s very easy. I always wished I was someone who rocked out blue nail polish, but that’s just not me. Not my style.

Beauty in general just makes me feel like I’m put together. If I want to go out, if I want to impress someone—that’s really what I use beauty for. And I love it! I fully love the fact that if I have lipstick on my face looks brighter, or if I have mascara on my eyes pop. My oldest daughter is more into makeup than I am. My sister-in-law actually works for Bobbi Brown, and for Christmas my daughter requested makeup brushes and makeup. Now, everyone who comes in here gets made up. She puts on like, aqua eyeshadow. She came in yesterday, and she had bright red lipstick on. We had to have a conversation about toning it down. But then she puts it on her two-year-old sister, which is even funnier. My two-year-old wears green eyeshadow now.”

—as told to ITG

Lydia Fenet photographed by Tom Newton in New York on January 15, 2019.