Evelyn Lauder // Women's Health Advocate, Philanthropist & Photographer

“In capturing a singular moment, photography has also helped me learn how to let go of things I want to hold on to so tightly. You can’t hold back time, but you can look forward to what’s coming next and do everything in power to create the best possible future”  - Evelyn H. Lauder

Evelyn Lauder, referred to in the NYTimes yesterday as the, “Champion of Breast Cancer Research”,  passed away this weekend due to ovarian cancer - after living with a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1989 and then an unrelated occurrence of ovarian cancer in 2007. Lauder was a Holocaust survivor, teacher, Estee Lauder executive, mother, wife, grandmother, philanthropist, women's health advocate, photographer and breast cancer survivor. Lauder was uprooted as a child in Vienna due to the Nazi occupation. Her family emigrated to New York via England, where she was separated from both parents - her mother was in an internment camp and her father working until he could relocate his family. Lauder credited the difficult war years with making her ‘very strong”, and allowing her to grow into a significant role in the Estee Lauder companies, and ultimately towards making a profound influence in the efforts on behalf of breast cancer.

In 1992, Lauder created the  Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer and clinical research.  In my blogpost, October // a Pink Month and Women at Risk - I referenced that it was Lauder who gave out the first pink ribbon in 1991.  The NYTimes cited Lauder as, “ creator of the Pink Ribbon campaign, a worldwide symbol of breast health. In 1993 she founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, (BCRF) which has raised more than $350 million.”  Over the years, Lauder didn’t speak of her own health, “my situation doesnt really matter”, while working tirelessly to raise money and increase awareness on behalf of breast cancer research.

Two weeks ago, I was touched momentarily by Evelyn Lauder’s presence, when a client and I walked into the furniture showroom, SUITE NY, during a routine day in the home furnishings market. Co-principals Kris Fuchs and Maria Sepulveda sponsored The Pink Swan Project in partnership with the BCRF.  The showroom was filled with amazing pink, white and distinctively decorated chairs. The ‘Project’ asked a number of interior designers, architects and fashion icons to customize the classic Arne Jacobsen Swan Chair in honor of the Month, to be auctioned on CharityBuzz.  The creative interpretations were as varied as the designers, Kelly Hoppen, Madeline Weinrib, Margherita Missoni, Vitoria Hagan and more.

The Pink Swan Project

We unexpectedly walked  into the “pre-event” preparations happening in the showroom. Photographers and stylists were getting ready for the cocktail event and auction that evening. Kris spent time with me passionately discussing the project, showing me the chairs as well as  “Salon Beauties”, a collection of Lauder’s personal photographs. Her mother-in-law Estee Lauder, collected the Head Vase Ladies - and then Evelyn, an accomplished photographer, artfully photographed each one filled with bouquets of fresh flowers.  The collections was exhibited at The Gagosian Gallery UK this past September. It was a personal and beautiful display, all for sale to benefit BCRF.

Kris explained that Lauder had not attended the annual gala luncheon the previous day at the Waldorf Astoria and they were unfortunately not expecting her that evening as well.

Evelyn Lauder lived with breast and then ovarian cancer for 22 years. In that time, as she lived with and treated her own illness, she facilitated awareness and research that would help countless others. Companies like SUITE NY,  gain support from their respective industries and carry on the work that Lauder began when she made the pink ribbon ubiquitous with breast cancer.