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Two powerhouse families of industry — the Dillards of retailing and the Lauders of beauty — pulled together Thursday night to serve up a nearly $2 million payday for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s 25th annual gala.

Held at Cipriani 42nd Street, the event honored William Dillard 3rd, vice president of Dillard’s Inc., and William Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos., presented the award to Dillard 3rd, while William Dillard 2nd, chairman and chief executive officer of Dillard’s, presented William Lauder’s award.

This story first appeared in the March 19, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Before presenting young Dillard with his award, the elder Lauder joked about his son, “I work for William. So when he comes up here give him a big round of applause.”

“Dillard’s has been a great retail partner — and both Bills great friends of the Lauders — for more than 31 years. Together, we’ve built a fabulous business and friendship,” said William Lauder before the awards ceremony. “And FIT is one of the most important educational institutions in our industry.”

When the elder Dillard was asked why he was participating in the fund-raiser, he quickly replied with a broad Southern smile, “William Lauder asked me. It’s one of the great pleasures of my life to be friends with the Lauders.”

“Your generosity will help us renovate classrooms, expand our faculty and provide scholarships for needy students,” said Dr. Joyce Brown, president of FIT. “About 65 percent of our students receive some type of financial aid and we are grateful for your support.”

Her plea was not lost on Dillard 3rd, who described FIT as “a treasure. Its creativity is the lifeblood of our industry. We could not survive without it.”

The evening was a particularly proud moment for the elder Lauder, who was a driving force in the creation of FIT’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management master’s degree program 12 years ago.

For the first time this year, FIT Packaging Design majors were challenged to design a package for Lauder’s Pleasures scent, the best-selling fragrance from Estée Lauder. “At our company, we have always believed in the importance of creativity and innovation, especially in products and packaging,” said Jane Hertzmark Hudis, global brand president of Estée Lauder and a board member of the FIT Foundation for the past 12 years, who helped judge the competition. “I have to say, the talent was just extraordinary.” As the grand prize winner, Ning Juang received a $5,000 educational grant, while runners-up Alicia Tagliasacchi and Rob Stevens each received $1,500 grants. “Your fresh thinking is exactly what our industry needs,” added Hudis.

Singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield provided the evening’s entertainment.

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