In The Magazine

A Visible Cause

Monday, August 3, 2015
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Lise Evans is using fashionable wrap bracelets to rally attention for causes that need it

“Eighty-seven people die everyday because of gun violence in this country,” recites Lise Evans. “Which is so easy to prevent with a few background checks.” At first glance, I would not peg Evans for a gun safety activist. We are sitting in her well-appointed, modern living room, which overlooks the Metropolitan Museum. Larger-than-life art is installed all over the walls; beautiful books about things like travel and fashion are stacked in neat piles along the oversized coffee table, and a grand piano suggests this room has seen some glamorous parties, and will probably see more. Looking effortlessly chic in her jeans and a lightweight tank top, I actually wouldn’t peg this blonde, blue-eyed beauty as someone who has any worries at all. Just then, she politely stops our conversation to ask her towering, handsome son where he is headed. Just back in the city on summer break from Princeton, he replies that he is going to hit golf balls. It occurs to me that everyone–no matter how blonde, blue, tall and glossy—has worries. Of course, Lise Evans cares about gun safety. She is a mother.

“Coming from a country like Norway—where even today the police do not carry guns—to see what’s happening here . . .” says Evans, who had a vision to create a fashionable awareness bracelet to propel a social campaign. Whether it is her Norwegian background or a reaction to the devastating massacres that have taken place in this country over the past decade, Evans decided to take on gun control, or as she puts it: “gun sense”, as her pet issue. In particular, Evans would like to see more stringency when it comes to background checks and gun licenses. “It’s like your driver’s license; you need to have a license before you get behind the wheel of a car. It’s just one of these things where you think, shouldn’t there be some precautions to owning a gun as well?”

And she has found two very powerful partners for her endeavor: Michael Bloomberg and Donna Karan have both signed on as partners of the campaign. Gun sense has long-since been a major focus for the former mayor—who has made it his post-mayoral mission to solve social issues that are not receiving massive funding or attention. Karan, a close friend of Evans, also feels passionately about the issue; she signed on and agreed to help with production and to sell the bracelets at Urban Zen (Karan’s socially conscious storefronts and foundation, of which Evans is the board chair).

The trio then partnered with the gun safety activist group Everytown for Gun Safety and adopted the slogan “Not One More”—the powerful words of Richard Martinez, the father of one of the victims of last year’s Santa Barbara shooting. The slogan is seared into double and single wrap, black leather bracelets. Gabby and Mark Giffords and their group, Americans For Responsible Solutions, are also backers. “I have to say that the support I have gotten from friends and people I worked with earlier . . . it’s just amazing how many people really say ‘Oh my god, yeah, we should do something about gun violence. This is ridiculous,’” say Evans.

Friends like Hugh Jackman and Arianna Huffington have posed in their bracelets—helping to move the message with their star power. The bracelets sold at Urban Zen are made through Karan’s Haiti Artisan Project—an Urban Zen initiative to support the Hatian economy and market local artisans. Due to high product demand, the rest of the supply (sold on everytown.org) is made in certified fair labor factories in China. Fifty percent of all proceeds go to Everytown for Gun Safety’s efforts to pass common-sense public safety measures to put an end to gun violence.

The group is receiving some pushback from the NRA, but Evans refuses to falter. “I come from a country where we hunt and we eat everything we hunt,” says Evans in response. “I am not saying people shouldn’t do all that. I am saying that it’s all about background checks.”

And Evans’ sights are set on more bracelets, more causes and more awareness. Her next collaboration will be with Nicole Jon Sievers, an antibullying author and activist. They will be
creating a white wrap bracelet in support of Sievers’ campaign. Karan is on board and Evans is excited to be able to promote this topic because of her own experience with bullying as a child.

“I was actually bullied very, very much in third and fourth grade,” says the blond beauty, of whom one would never guess had any personal experience in this realm. “I was working as a model, and there were two twin boys in my class who made my life hell. They would cut out pictures of me from the paper or magazines, and draw on them and write nasty stuff, and they would post them all around,” recalls Evans. Nicole’s teachings are all about character stemming from the way that we treat others, a message that Evans desperately wants to scream from the rooftops. “If you have to be so mean and so horrible, you’re probably struggling with some serious problems.”

Evans’ definition of “philanthropy” is intertwined with “hands-on.” She puts her personal touch and injects her experience and perspective into every cause and institution that she and her husband support. Her teaching days were spent in Harlem, so the betterment of the neighborhood—particularly access to education, healthcare and healthy food—is a huge focus for her. As a Whitney trustee, she focuses on community outreach and educational access. New Yorkers for Children—an organization that helps children in foster care with things like the college application process and much more—is a particularly meaningful charity for Evans: “In a strange, roundabout way I now have custody of my little granddaughter, who’s the same age as my daughter; they’re both seven,” explains Evans. “We have taken Ava in: if we hadn’t she would have been in foster care.”

A big, blended family is not a novelty for Evans. Her modeling career brought her to New York in the late ’80s. Modeling gave way to school—NYU—to study journalism, and there, Evans met her first husband, got married and had two kids by the time she had graduated from college. The young family moved to Hong Kong, had a third child, and then moved on to London. During that time, Evans got divorced from her first husband and met and married J.
Michael Evans—the financier who retired from Goldman Sachs as a vice chairman and head of global growth markets in 2013.

Michael’s job—based in London when they met—eventually took the couple back to New York. Eleven years, two more kids, and a master’s degree and successful career in teaching later, Evans is happily focusing on her bracelet campaigns and the nine kids to whom she is either a mother, stepmother or custodial mother.

Meanwhile, the Evanses will be taking the next year away from the city. Lise will remain active in her endeavors, but will do so from Southampton from now through the fall, then Aspen. If anything, she will probably find more influential supporters and stockists for her bracelets. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might see the blond beauty biking through Southampton Village, fluttering through a party, walking the beach or playing tennis. But much of her time out East is spent with her kids—nine of them between her and her husband—and taking in the calmness of the country.

 

photographed by Keith Major01
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