Ten Questions: RSF designer digs cashmere

Fashion designer Lena Evans was born in Saigon, Vietnam, to parents of French and Vietnamese descent.

Using her birth-given Vietnamese name (Phueng Ngoc translated to English is Jade Phoenix) as the label’s moniker, Evans custom-designs 100 percent cashmere sweaters for women, girls, men and boys. They are adorned with precious and semiprecious jewels that beautify the garments and serve as functional buttons.

The Jade Phoenix line of sweaters was born from Evans’ love of cashmere and her frustration with the low-quality buttons (typically plastic or shell) that were used on them.

A successful early career as a film finance and production executive sealed Evans’ relationships with celebrity clientele. With a desire to indulge her passion for fashion and luxury, she cultivated the symbiosis of the celebrity-driven fashion and film industries to pave the way for a natural transition as an insider in the high-fashion world.

In addition to her passion for fashion, food and adventure, Evans serves the community by being on the boards of directors for several local arts organizations. She cherishes family time with her two sons and her real estate entrepreneur husband, and also enjoys golf, yoga, tennis and travel.

What brought you to Rancho Santa Fe?

I came to Rancho Santa Fe from Beverly Hills to be with the love of my life. We decided that Rancho Santa Fe would be a better place to raise the children than Los Angeles. We have a 2-year-old son, and I have a 15-year-old son.

What keeps you there?

The quality of life in the Ranch is lovely. Rancho Santa Fe is a nice place to be an adult with a family, whereas Los Angeles is a great place to be young and single. Rancho Santa Fe is a much slower-paced existence and the antithesis of frenetic L.A.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Ranch, what would it be?

I would love if Rancho Santa Fe were more hip and dynamic. The lifestyle in the Ranch and San Diego is so laid back that one typically feels the need to travel elsewhere for excitement, culture, fine food and diversity.

Having said that, I do feel that San Diego is growing up and slowly becoming a more cosmopolitan destination. Fashion, cultural offerings and fine food are very important to me, and I am trying on many different levels to help these areas of San Diego reach a higher level of significance.

Who or what inspires you?

Brilliant minds inspire me. Brilliance takes many different forms - an artist, a musician, a great storyteller - anyone expert at their craft. I have always had a strong desire to be exposed to knowledge. I love to learn and expand my intellect. My children inspire me on the heart level.

If you were hosting a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Coco Chanel, Sigmund Freud, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon, Tiger Woods, Graydon Carter, William Shakespeare and James Bond (OK, fictional, but love the idea of having him there!).

San Diego County has risen in the ranks in the fashion world in the last 10 years. What do you think was the catalyst?

I grew up in Los Angeles, and traveling the world, which exposed me to a very international view of style. San Diegans tend toward a more laid-back style, but I personally prefer a more polished look. Even just in the last few years since living here, I have noticed that fashion in San Diego is maturing nicely.

I am happy to see that men and women are dressing up more. I think the foundation for the reason that San Diego has risen in the fashion ranks is simply due to the fact that it is such a wonderful place to live. Because people want to live here, the city has begun to attract a very fashionable subculture who will work hard and fight for San Diego to get on the fashion map. San Diego is maturing!

What is your most prized article of clothing?

I don’t have one piece that is important. For me, I need the combinations that exist within a full closet that makes the whole a prized lot. A beautiful cashmere sweater - but I must also have a great-fitting pair of slacks, comfy loafers, a knockout dress and fabulous handbag.

I would rather see anyone be the best-dressed person in the room than the least-dressed! If you dress in a classic style, you will feel comfortable in any environment.

My personal style is “understated elegance.” I do not do anything “over the top.” I like to feel good, in quality textiles. I like to look put together, but never fussy or too deliberate. I have a very tailored look. I like to buy high-quality pieces that will last through the years, and not go out of style in one season.

Is there a fashion tip that you live by?

The most important tip regarding fashion is: You must have an expert tailor. One of my major pet peeves is when people wear clothes that do not fit properly. Everything I buy must be tailored in order to fit perfectly.

A great tailor can make an inexpensive item of clothing look like a couture piece and enhance your assets or disguise your flaws. Also, people--please look at yourself in the mirror, front and back--before you walk out the door!

What do you do for fun?

I love to spend time with my family. I love to travel and see the world and learn about other people, food, art, architecture and cultures. I truly enjoy charitable work. I play golf and tennis and do yoga. I love classical music and ballet.

What is your motto?

A very prominent corporate executive taught me early in my career to “walk softly and carry a big stick.”

For more information about Jade Phoenix Designs, visit