By  on May 12, 2008

NEW YORK — Industry insiders donned baubles and black ties Thursday night for the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball at Pier 60 here.

The event, founded and chaired by Reenie Brown, had a "green" theme, raising more than $12 million for Defenders of Wildlife, EarthJustice, Riverkeeper and the Wildlife Land Trust. The organizations are focused on environmental preservation.

"It's nice to be part of an industry and an event that gives back," said Abe Chehebar, chairman and chief executive officer of Accessories Network Group and member of the FABB board.

The evening's honorees included J.C. Penney, recipient of the Fame Award for fashion accessories merchandising excellence, and Kathy Van Zeeland, who was awarded designer of the year.

Van Zeeland's four-year-old handbag brand is available at some 1,300 stores nationwide and in 50 freestanding stores in Europe and Asia.

"All I wanted to do when I was a young girl in California was to get to New York and work in fashion," Van Zeeland said. "I got to Saks and my fate was sealed."

Rico Trevino, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for accessories at Macy's East, presented the award to Van Zeeland. "Rico was the first retailer to give me a break [in 2004] and I'll never forget that," she said.

Cindy O'Connor, Penney's senior vice president and general merchandise manager, accepted the award on behalf of the retailer. "Our philosophy that 'every day matters' is not just a marketing philosophy, but applies to the way we view our customers," O'Connor said.

The evening concluded with dinner and dancing to the Starlight Orchestra.

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