By  on May 2, 2007

NEW YORK — Bill Clinton and Oscar de la Renta have more in common than being sharp dressers. They also play cards together.

"Oscar is a wonderfully competitive card player," Clinton said at the 59th annual Parsons Benefit and Fashion Show Monday night at the Grand Hyatt hotel here. Then, metaphorically, the former president added, "All his life he's won fair and square."

Clinton spoke of his friendship with the designer, from his trip to the Dominican Republic to visit de la Renta and his wife, Annette, during Easter, to their mutual love for card games. De la Renta returned the accolades, saying Clinton "decides who is going to win the night. That's his way to make us feel good."

The benefit was filled with industry executives, politicians and emerging talent, and there were multiple introductions before dinner. Bob Kerrey, president of The New School, introduced Clinton, who brought out de la Renta, who then announced the evening's honoree, Susan Kronick, vice chairman of Federated Department Stores. This was Clinton's return engagement to the event, having presented de la Renta with the big honor last year.

Looking statuesque in a flowing Bob Mackie gown, Kronick, in a heartfelt speech, thanked de la Renta for his intro. "He's so important, not only because of his exclusive line [O Oscar de la Renta] to Macy's, but because of what he means to the industry," she said.

Then, she characterized Parsons as a "critical artery in the design and business lifeblood of our industry."

Kronick later told WWD that the evening drew 1,300 guests and was a record breaker, raising $3.4 million for Parsons, surpassing the former record of $3.2 million. She said she was flabbergasted that Clinton remembered her from the mid-Nineties, when they met when she was president of Rich's in Atlanta.

Others at the Parsons event included Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc., and Ron Frasch, Saks Fifth Avenue's president and chief merchant; Terry Lundgren, ceo of Federated; Ron Klein, ceo of Macy's East; Donna Karan; Kenneth Cole; Bill Taubman, president of Taubman Centers; Jane Elfers, ceo of Lord & Taylor; Yeohlee Teng; Stan Herman; Marvin Traub, president of Marvin Traub Associates; Kate Spade; Gil Harrison, chairman of Financo Inc.; Joe Gromek, ceo of Warnaco Group, and Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA.

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