by Christopher Blomquist

It was like Oscar night for the menswear business. The MR Awards were bestowed last night during an elaborate dinner and ceremony that drew 425 attendees to the stunning Gotham Hall in midtown, making it the largest gathering of upscale menswear retailers in the country

The awards honored the Game Changers this year and were presented to stars in the business by fellow stars. After a sociable cocktail hour, the ceremony began with a surprise award:  MR co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Karen Alberg Grossman announced that Publisher Emeritus and MR co-founder Stu Nifoussi had been inducted into the MR Hall of Fame, an honor he didn’t see coming, much to the delight of the room.

The first of the four preannounced Game Changers Awards went to Brunello Cucinelli, who won for Most Inspirational Designer. Jim Gold, president and chief merchandising officer of Neiman Marcus, praised the brand in his introduction and happily presented it to Massimo Caronna, who heads Cucinelli’s U.S. business and operates by the same values of respect and dignity as his mentor.

The second winner was also Italian: Ermenegildo Zegna, which presenter Bob Mitchell of Mitchells Family of Stores reminded the audience is the biggest better menswear brand in the world. President Paolo Zegna accepted on his company’s behalf, and spoke beautifully of the values and legacy of his grandfather who started the company.

Esquire magazine’s fashion director Nick Sullivan took to the podium after dinner to give John Varvatos The Most Innovative Award, praising the designer’s creations, success and love of rock music. In his acceptance speech, Varvatos said he felt lucky that he can “crank up the stereo at work” and combine his two greatest passions, fashion design and music, in his career.

The final award, Retailer of the Decade, went to Nordstrom. The company’s South Coast store manager, Barbara Kirk, who has been with Nordstrom for 35 years, did the presentation honors and seemed genuinely delighted to hand the award to co-president Pete Nordstrom.  She spoke of the customer-centric culture that permeates the organization, and Pete Nordstrom praised his exceptional team of 67,000 employees.