Evelyn Lauder dies of ovarian cancer

Evelyn H. Lauder, breast cancer advocate and The Estee Lauder Cos. executive, passed away Saturday at age 75 from complications due to ovarian cancer, a href="">reported WWD.

Although well-known for her position as senior corporate vice president and head of international fragrance development at the beauty company, Lauder is also responsible for founding the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. A breast cancer survivor herself, for the past 18 years she has successfully fought to help those struggling with the cancer. The foundation has generated more than $350 million for research.

“My mother carried the torch of our company heritage and the values that were passed to her by my grandmother, Mrs. Estée Lauder,” William Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos, said to WWD. “My mother and father were life partners as well as business partners. They nurtured the culture and growth of the Estée Lauder Cos., and as we grew, my mother was our creative compass and pillar of strength. Together my family and the company celebrate the beautiful person she was.”

Lauder leaves behind Estee Lauder Cos. chairman emeritus Leonard, her husband of 52 years; her son William; her son Gary Lauder, managing director of Lauder Partners LLC; her daughter-in-law Laura Lauder, general partner of Lauder Partners; and five grandchildren.

“Evelyn embodied the heart and soul of the Estée Lauder Cos.,” Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO of the Estée Lauder Cos., Inc., said. She was one of the pivotal architects of our vision, values and culture. She was dynamic, creative, smart, endearingly warm, generous and incredibly gifted at connecting with people. Her enthusiasm was contagious.”

Born in Vienna as Evelyn Hausner, Lauder emigrated to New York with her family during the Nazi occupation. Following a blind date in college with Leonard Lauder, the two married in 1959. Graduating from college, she became a schoolteacher in Harlem. Soon after, she started working at her mother’s beauty company as new product director and marketing director. In 1989, Evelyn was promoted to senior corporate vice president and head of fragrance development worldwide, a position she held until her death.

During her tenure, she named Clinique, backed the purchase of Bumble and bumble, and collaborated on major fragrances such as Beautiful, Happy and Pleasures.

“We had a fragrance launch where they over-intellectualize everything, and the test results were good,” she recalled to WWD in 2002 of an unknown fragrance. “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.”

Her humanitarian efforts include more than breast cancer awareness. Evelyn helped build play areas for kids in New York and served on the board of the Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Foundation, in addition to philanthropic work in health, education, the environment, women’s issues and the arts.

A noted artist, Lauder also created three books of photography and had her images displayed in galleries such as Gagosian Gallery in London and the Whitney Museum in Manhattan.

In 1999, Lauder was chosen to be part of Crain’s New York Business’s list of New York’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business, plus received Cosmetics Executive Women’s prestigious Inner Beauty Award in 2003. She also was honored with the Fragrance Foundation Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Lauder is remembered for her generosity, approachability and kindness, as well as her tenacity.

“She was an American icon,” Tommy Hilfiger declared.

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