Remembering Evelyn Lauder

Almost 1,500 people attended the funeral service to recall the triumphs and warmth of the late philanthropist and businesswoman, who died Saturday at 75.

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Evelyn Lauder

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Leonard and Evelyn Lauder

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Evelyn Lauder

Photo By Stephen Leek

Another person who worked by her side in the cancer fight was Elizabeth Hurley. “Evelyn Lauder was an amazing woman and her phenomenal work for breast cancer will never be forgotten,” the actress said. “She inspired me in so many ways and I learned so much from her. She was a wonderful friend to me for over 17 years and I will miss her terribly.”

“Evelyn was the consummate juggler — a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, an incredible philanthropist with great compassion for others, a brilliant businesswoman with a constant sense of optimism and a fabulous sense of humor,” said Michael Kors. “A dinner with her was always full of laughter, charm and great stories. She was a true one of a kind.”

“There’s no greater gift in life than the gift of friendship,” said Bloomingdale’s Gould. “And that is what Evelyn Lauder gave me.” Referring to the packed crowd at Monday’s service, Gould noted, “Everyone in that synagogue thought that she was their best friend. Evelyn always wanted to make everything better,” adding that is a trait she shared with her husband. “Leonard never saw a personal problem he didn’t want to fix. I was blessed by being touched by them. I was blessed by having been in their home. It was that zest for life they had. They were always young.”

Lundgren paid tribute to Evelyn Lauder, the corporate marketer and innovator. But that persona paled beside Evelyn Lauder, the tireless foe of breast cancer, whose work through her BCRF actually saved people’s lives, he noted. And then there was the personal side, such as a month ago, when her illness forced her to miss her cherished BCRF awards luncheon. Lundgren sent her a goodwill note and she found the strength to send back a reply. “She dictated a warm and loving e-mail,” Lundgren recalled. “I will always cherish that.”

Robert Mettler, retired president of special projects at Macy’s Inc., said, “She was an unbelievable force.” Mettler, who has known the Lauders for 49 years, said even though Lauder had a voice within the Lauder corporation, it was her role as a fund-raising superstar that ultimately gave her a global voice, which enhanced her presence within the company.

Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, the retired chairman of L’Oréal, said, “I have always thought that Evelyn Lauder was an exceptionally elegant ambassadress for the Estée Lauder family and company, but also for our industry. I share the grief of all those who admired her.”

“Evelyn will be forever remembered for her energy, passion, and enthusiasm for life and all she did to make the world a better place,” Pamela Baxter, president and ceo of LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics, said. “As an Estée Lauder alum and survivor of the infamous market visit van trips with Leonard, the first question we would ask [was]: ‘Is Evelyn coming?’ As she was our buffer. Her favorite phrase was ‘Now Leonard, leave the kids alone. They got your point. Let’s stop for milk and cookies.’”

Terry Darland, president of North America for Christian Dior Perfumes LLC, said, “A few years ago, my mother gave me Evelyn’s cookbook, ‘In Great Taste for Christmas,’ knowing how much I admired and loved her as a mentor and woman of strength and warmth. As a member of the Estée Lauder management team for over 20 years, I will always feel a part of this great company and its family. I am so very saddened by her loss and will savor my memories of her as I cook the wonderful dishes that she loved serving her family and friends. She was the ultimate mother.”

Lauder had been part of the beauty business founded by her mother-in-law, Estée, since shortly after her marriage to Leonard Lauder. She was born Evelyn Hausner in Vienna and survived the London Blitz during World War II. She emigrated to the U.S. with her parents during the Nazi occupation, settling in New York City. Lauder would later recall that she was asleep when the ship bringing them to the United States arrived in New York Harbor, and her mother woke her up to see the Statue of Liberty ­— which, she always said, served as a source of inspiration for her for the remainder of her life.

She met Leonard Lauder on a blind date at age 18, while a Hunter College student, and they married in July 1959.

Before joining the Estée Lauder Cos. and after graduating from Hunter College, Lauder taught school in Harlem. Her teaching experience came in handy for her first official job at Lauder, creating the company’s training programs. She also served as new product director and marketing director, and was named to her last role, senior corporate vice president and head of fragrance development worldwide, in 1989, and worked on such blockbuster fragrances as Beautiful, Happy and Pleasures. When the company began creative work on what became Clinique in 1968, Lauder thought of the name and became the first to wear the now-ubiquitous Clinique white lab coat after she was appointed the brand’s first training director. She also was the brains behind the acquisition of Bumble and bumble in 2000. “I went and fell in love with the salon, the product mix and with Michael [Gordon] and his leadership and philosophy,” Lauder told WWD in 2002. “I introduced him to Leonard and the other powers-that-be, and the rest is history.”

In 1964, Lauder, working with her powerhouse mother-in-law, helped to create Aramis, a best-selling men’s scent and now the namesake of one of the company’s larger divisions, Aramis and Designer Fragrances. “When we were working on the fragrance, it was the aramis root which gave it a distinction,” she recalled. “It’s also one of the names of the Three Musketeers, and the root itself comes from Turkey and is said to be an aphrodisiac.”

She also professed to go by her nose — and not by extensive research — when it came to creating scents. “We had a fragrance launch where they over-intellectualized everything, and the test results were good,” she remembered, declining to name the scent. “I was the only voice who said this is never going to sell and I was right. You don’t sell fragrance on intellect. You sell fragrance on your nose. It’s an immediate response. You either like it or you don’t. It’s like food — you either like beets or you don’t. Leonard still can’t get me to drink beer.”

Despite her wealth and prestige, Lauder remained down-to-earth and approachable, serving as a mentor for many within the company. She recalled that her mother-in-law had done the same for her, passing on valuable business advice while they worked together. “The most important lesson I learned was to do whatever you need to do yesterday,” she recalled in 2002. “Having been an academic, that was not my speed. But it became my speed — quickly.” Lauder also refused to rest on her laurels. “You always have to be dissatisfied. If you are completely happy, you’re complacent, and that’s not good.”

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