Original Tastemaker

How former model, stylist, fashion editor and now beauty entrepreneur Linda Rodin remains sartorially relevant at 68. Writer Kate O’Brien.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

How former model, stylist, fashion editor and now beauty entrepreneur Linda Rodin remains sartorially relevant at 68. Writer Kate O’Brien.

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We could learn many life lessons from Linda Rodin, but most importanty, that it’s never too late to start a project. Rodin was 60 when her cult Rodin Olio Lusso hit the market and the brand continues to thrive. She says, “I’m not a businesswoman but have always lived by the mantra that one step informs the next. And that’s exactly what happened.” Rodin’s cult Jasmine & Neroli Face Oil continues to top the ‘best of beauty’ lists in magazines the world over.

Known for her silver hair, vibrant lipstick, bold glasses and jeans, Rodin is the epitome of minimalist chic and New York charm. Born and raised in Long Island, she is the daughter of an artistic mother and dentist father. “My mother did the most incredible things, which my sister and I didn’t appreciate at the time, like a black kitchen with daring blue flowers on the walls. I had no clue back then that I would get everything from it.”

The US$1,000 compensation Rodin was awarded following a car crash at nine-yearsold was saved until her 18th birthday, was used to follow her boyfriend to Italy – a big deal for a young American girl in the 1960s. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and I totally fell in love with Italy.”

Fast forward three years and numerous jobs, Rodin was back home in New York. With an eye for fashion, she realised that her favourite clothes shared a common demoninator – acclaimed Swedish photographer Gosta Peterson. “I literally followed him and knocked on his door. You could do that back then,” she adds wryly. “Now, 20 emails later and people still won’t see you! He [Peterson] was the real deal, the first to photograph Twiggy.”

After a brief stint as the curator of what was then the first concept store in SOHO, Rodin established her freelance business styling for America’s top titles including Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, as well as brands like Revlon and Victoria’s Secret. “Some were great moments, some just a job,” she adds. “I’m not sad to be out of it. It’s all changed now as everyone wants to look the same and it’s all gone haywire.”

Working closely with the industry’s best, Rodin had access to exclusive skincare lines but grew disillusioned with their anti-ageing claims and complicated regimens. “What I longed for was something far simpler – products for the here and now, that caress the skin noticeably and without any delay. Nothing out there did that.” 

This quest for simplicity led to the creation of Rodin Olio Lusso. “It wasn’t deliberate,” says Rodin. “I was happy styling. I would mix oils for my own dry skin – jojoba or apricot oils as the carrier, neroli and jasmine because I adore the scent, and calendula, arnica and evening primrose oil simply because they worked.” She passed her elixir to models and make-up artists, and before long Rodin’s Luxury Face Oil became an insider secret shared within the industry. Soon she was mixing up to 500 bottles every weekend.

In 2007, aged 59, she put the finishing touches on her first dream elixir, the original Rodin Olio Lusso face oil. This face elixir contains jojoba, rose hip and calendula. “It’s the alchemy of the 11 essentail oils that makes the product so hydrating and wonderful,” says Rodin.

Even 10 years ago, face oils were a new revelation and people were intoxicated. Rodin feels her age and authenticity were key. “I never dyed my hair or had a facelift. I was real and didn’t make claims. I didn’t say my oil was anti-ageing, simply that it was luxurious.” Interestingly, facial oils soon became the rage and continue to thrive.

Rodin’s foray into perfume was pure chance too. “A year into making my face oil, a handsome young man introduced himself, saying he loved my oils. He told me he made perfume so I asked him to make some for me. He did and he still does. We work perfectly together.”

That man is David Moltz of Brooklynbased perfume house D.S. & Durga and their initial collaboration, Rodin, is a heady mix of jasmine and neroli. The follow-up, Bis, is an ode to Rodin’s mother. “She always smelt so wonderful and I wanted to recreate a scent that is classic 1950s – like the peppery, tobacco smell inside her coat, infused with cinnamon and Juicy Fruit.” A third is on the way. “With so many similarities, our story always comes together so beautifully. It only takes us a month to put the perfume together, but the testing and approval process takes ages. It’s insane!”

Today Rodin’s brand, acquired by Estée Lauder in 2014, carries a limited number of core products along with her recently launched Luxury Lipstick Collection in chic trademark shades. She says, “I still approve every batch and am the creative director and founder. While there have been many challenges, I really do the same thing.”

On the style front, those Twiggy eyelashes, tiny skirt, maxi coat and overthe- knee boots of the 60s have morphed into a few key pieces mixed with jeans, simple checked shirts and delicate jewellery. Denim comprises 80 per cent of her wardrobe, as it almost always has since the dungaree days of her childhood. 

Rodin doesn’t have children and prefers to stay home with Winks, her stylish miniature poodle, browsing flea markets and enjoying her own company. She has ventured into social media, via Instagram, with Winks (@lindaandwinks) enjoying a cult following of 117,000 and counting. She follows nobody.

“I never felt I looked old until I hit 60,” Rodin admits, “but it’s hard sometimes in this youth fixated culture to resist the tide. While I do miss the beauty of youth, I accept myself more and feel wiser than ever before and that’s good.”

This low-maintenance approach permeates Rodin’s life and her beauty ethos is no different. With a routine comprising her own products, she eats well but exercises rarely. Sleep is her secret weapon. “I suffer from FOBI (fear of being invited) – like just don’t even call me. By 5pm I just want to unwind, read, watch Netflix and shut down. I used to watch politics but now that the election is over, I never will again, as the Trump era leaves me terrified.“

Once again, Rodin’s parents legacy resonates. She says, “My mother was social, my father not. Really, I’m a mix of both – my mother from 9am to 5pm and my father for rest of the evening when I’m like ‘stop the world, I want to get off – it’s all moving too fast.’” www.oliolusso.com.

“While I do miss the beauty of youth, I accept myself more and feel wiser than ever before”
“While I do miss the beauty of youth, I accept myself more and feel wiser than ever before”
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