When Lauren Santo Domingo founded the online luxury retailer Moda Operandi in 2010, it was clothes and shoes—not place mats and flatware—that got her pulse racing. Fast forward to today, and Santo Domingo, a passionate connoisseur of beautiful china, glassware and table linens, has come to embrace her decidedly more “domestic side.” The fashion executive recently debuted Moda Domus, a tabletop collection for Moda Operandi that reflects a love of relaxed yet elegant entertaining. Luxe caught up with the stylish entrepreneur sheltering at home with her family in Southampton.
What’s your new normal like these days? In the city, I used to love going out for coffee before heading to the office. Now, I make my own coffee and sip it wandering in my garden, often in my slippers. I haven’t worn heels in nine months. I bought my first sweatsuits, one from Cotton Citizen and a cashmere one from Madeleine Thompson. Though I can’t help but think of what Karl Lagerfeld said about how wearing sweatpants was like giving up on life!
Ha! Although, it looks like you’ve found a creative outlet in flower arranging. Completely. I’ve gotten really into growing flowers and floristry. I used to measure my seasons through fashion, and now I’m marking time based on what flowers are coming in, whether it’s hellebores or lily of the valley or sweet peas. I’ve been buying antique vases and vessels from auction sites.
So, how did you develop your interest in tabletop? It actually started with the business. As Moda grew internationally, we began having special dinners for designers and top clients. We put a lot of effort into our tables and decor, and the response was amazing. The next day people would be asking me, “Where can I get this?” I also enjoyed the creativity. Designing the tables felt much more satisfying than simply putting on something to wear.
Describe the inspiration. I love heritage pieces that feel like something passed down or collected. I would say I’m very inspired by my mother in law, who is very elegant and entertains beautifully. She and her friends have incredible collections of porcelain and silver from a range of makers and countries.
Does that sentiment show up in the Fiorito ceramics? Yes, it’s a pattern I saw at auction based on an 18th-century Italian design. We found the original manufacturers and asked them to remake the pattern for us in pieces our clients would use today. Each piece is hand-painted in Emilia-Romagna.
Tell us about the Murano glassware. I’ve spent a lot of time in Venice collecting vintage Murano glass. The wine glasses with the swirled stem are based on an antique set I own from the turn of the century. The original glasses are smaller, almost the size of cordial glasses; we’ve updated them to modern scale.
How do you envision the collection being used? Everybody has the gilt china and fabulous wine glasses they got as wedding gifts. But how often do they ever use them? This is much more casual—the way I like to entertain. It’s perfect for a lunch or casual dinner. I don’t use finger bowls or have butlers behind every chair, so why would I want an ornate and formal table setting?
Let’s say you’ve arranged your table in the country with Moda Domus settings. What are your guests wearing? Hmmm. I could see them wearing a great knit sweater, a perfectly tailored trouser and a small heel. Casual but sophisticated.