Lauren Santo Domingo is constantly in search of something new—be it a couture gown, a ready-to-wear women’s look, an emerging men’s designer, or the perfect tumbler. Her curiosity leads her to incredible finds not just for personal pleasure, but for her devoted customers of Moda Operandi, the online luxury retailer that offers consumers the chance to preorder directly from designers right after fashion week.
Santo Domingo co-founded Moda—as it’s known to followers—in 2010, far before many brands would even consider moving into e-commerce. But the market was there, and it’s grown and outpaced its peers, expanding just this year into housewares and menswear.
Her own tastes and proclivities are changing all the time, which makes her a natural for spotting new talent, something Moda fans crave, too. Santo Domingo’s style and home reflect that as well, easily evolving from fashion week late nights to weekend days with her husband and children.
This summer, Whitewall caught up with Santo Domingo to hear about where her keen eye has wandered lately, how men were practically begging in the streets for Moda Men, and why she just may have cried during Valentino’s most recent haute couture show.
WHITEWALL: This spring, you launched home collections on Moda Operandi. How did you first become interested in design?
LAUREN SANTO DOMINGO: As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to create beautiful spaces around me. I crave beauty more than coffee.
WW: Has it always been a passion for you, something that came naturally?
LSD: My taste has evolved, for sure, but most of all I just gravitate toward anything new.
WW: Your customers enjoy discovering new fashion talents via Moda. Who are some of the young home brands or designers you’re excited to share with your base?
LSD: Frances Palmer ceramics are wonderful. Davide Fuin from Venice makes wonderful tumblers, and Vittorio Costantini, also from Venice, makes lovely insects and bugs out of glass.
WW: You’ve said, “The way you get dressed is the same way you set your table.” How is your fashion taste reflected in your home?
LSD: I never stick to just one style. I dress myself and my table in everything from minimal to boho to traditional to formal many times in one week.
WW: Can you tell us about your home in Paris, and how you worked with François Catroux on the interior decor?
LSD: When we bought our apartment, we were young and without children; and our life was largely nocturnal during Paris fashion weeks. While it looks great at night and conducive for entertaining, it also strangely works well for a family with young children, as it was designed to be durable and spill-proof!
WW: In Paris, as you’ve said, you’re often entertaining, especially during fashion week. What design choices are key for hosting guests?
LSD: I always try to think of our guests. As it is such a busy time, I have no expectations, so if people arrive late or don’t arrive at all, or come with guests and guests of guests, I am very relaxed.
The hardest part about throwing a party in Paris is the ice. No matter how much one manages to locate, for some reason, it is never enough.
WW: In Paris, you have works by Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Wifredo Lam, Robert Motherwell, Marc Quinn, Man Ray . . . How did you start collecting art?
LSD: I took art history classes in school just for my own amusement and appreciation. While I did not imagine at the time that I would one day be buying some of these paintings, the foundation of knowledge was extremely useful.
WW: Do you remember the first piece you acquired? Do you still have it?
LSD: I bought a large canvas from Nicholas Krushenick, an American abstract painter. It hits all the notes I like, including Pop, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Color Field.
WW: Just as you’re constantly looking for new talent in fashion and design, is it the same for artists?
LSD: Having good taste is the one area where being highly critical and extremely judgmental are one’s greatest strengths. I am pretty ruthless when it comes to evaluating new talent.
WW: In design, fashion, and art, who are some recent discoveries you’re excited about?
LSD: Green River Project and BODE Menswear did a recent collaboration that I thought was striking.
WW: You’ve also said, “I don’t have the disposition to collect anything. I’m far too fickle and my interests are ever-changing.” That disposition is perfect for fashion, but for home, some may be intimidated by mixing things up. How would you encourage customers to take more risks at home?
LSD: I just buy something I like, then move it around until I find the perfect spot. It always ends up in a place I would have originally least expected.
WW: Recently, Moda had a huge launch—Men. Why did you want to expand to men’s?
LSD: Men would stop me on the street begging for it. It was the natural next step for us as a retailer to expand our offering to men.
WW: Men’s fashion has become much more exciting in the past few years. How are you seeing your male customer base react to that?
LSD: Men care more about product and style than they do labels.
WW: In a past interview, you talked about shoes and handbags for women (getting them to try something other than a Louboutin or Birkin) as the “last frontier.” Are there similar categories you’re hoping men will become a bit more experimental with?
LSD: Men are especially timid about trying new things. I think everyone should stop caring so much about others’ opinions.
WW: Who are some of the menswear designers you have an eye on at the moment?
LSD: BODE is everything right now.
WW: What were some of the standout collections you saw this past July during couture week in Paris?
LSD: Givenchy was the highlight of the season in terms of glamour, and Valentino was a spectacle of creativity. Pierpaolo received a spontaneous standing ovation; I may have cried just a little.