A record $1.3 million in scholarships was given to participating students from more than 50 colleges and universities. For the first time in the organization’s history, a $35,000 scholarship was awarded – to Vivian Cooper of Philadelphia University. Three other finalists received $30,000 scholarships, and four finalists received $10,000 scholarships. Actor Kellan Lutz, the new brand ambassador for the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, helped make the presentations along with Marc Mastronardi, an EVP of Macy’s. A special scholarship was also given out for the first time in honor of Tailored Brands’ Doug Ewert. Special guests at the dinner included Martha Stewart, Fern Mallis, Tom and Mara Hutton, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan, Sammi Giancola, Iman Oubou and Tom Murro.
Three fashion luminaries were honored at the event: John Tighe, EVP and Chief Merchant of JC Penney was named Retailer of the Year (presentation by Liz Sweeney); Judy Person, EVP and Group President at Randa Accessories was named Wholesaler of the Year (presentation by Jeff Spiegel), and Michael Strahan was given the Future of Fashion Award (presentation by Constance Schwartz-Morini).
Speaking exclusively to MR before the event, Strahan, who launched a successful clothing line at JC Penney in fall 2015, expressed his delight in being part of this prestigious gathering. “I have been surprised by all my successes, I didn’t think I would be doing what I do now (which includes hosting ABC’s Good Morning America and The $100,000 Pyramid) after being on the football field. I am excited by all of it, happy about all of it, and so honored to be here with this group of great people who have been in this industry for a long time and led the way for younger guys like me.” As for why his clothing line has caught on, Strahan said: “I think the clothing is not only classic, it’s authentic. I go over every lapel, every cuff link, every piece of fabric. I just don’t throw it out there and put my name on it; I am not a believer in that. I’ve put in the work and built a collection I would wear every day and feel proud of. And thankfully, the response has been great.”
Tighe, who has helped turn around J.C Penney’s struggling fortunes, commented to MR: “When it comes to apparel, I think it’s most important to have the right assortment. But there’s no questioning that teaming up with the right celebrity is also important and Michael is the right celebrity for us.”
For her part, Person told MR that she felt the men’s accessory business was performing very well and that she saw a lot of newness in categories in ties and belts, especially those using stretch fabrics. “We’re giving men reason to buy something new. All the consumer research we’ve been doing recently indicates that men are willing to dress differently. Plus, today’s man is willing to choose a lot on his own. That’s a big change from even 10 years ago.”
As for being part of the evening, she said. “I am thrilled to be honored along John and Michael, and I am so excited that so many of retail partners are here to join me.” Asked what advice she might give the evening’s scholarship winners, Person told MR. “Always know who you are, be passionate about what you do, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I wouldn’t be here – and I have been in the business over 30 years – without relying on my mentors.”