By  on March 22, 2005

NEW YORK — Move over, TV survivors, the industry paid tribute to one of its own last week at the Rainbow Room here, where the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising honored ENK founder and president Elyse Kroll.

Kroll raised the bar for trade shows in 1979 when she launched the Designers’ Collective, and introduced the women’s version, Fashion Coterie, in 1986. Starting with 30 vendors at the Plaza Hotel, the Coterie has grown into a twice-yearly event featuring 1,000 vendors at the West Side piers.

Among those who turned out for the LIM event were Collective pioneers like Allan Ellinger, Joe Barrato and Sal Cesarani; Mark Mendelson, group president of Jones Apparel Group; Barbara Friedman, president of L.C.I. Licensing Inc., a division of Liz Claiborne Inc.; current exhibitors and ENK employees, and Elyse’s mom. (“Does she take care of you?” comedian Tom Papa asked during his stand-up act. “You don’t sleep on a cot in the back of Pier 94, do you?”)

Gabriella Forte, the departing president of Dolce & Gabbana’s U.S. operation and Kroll’s first boss, recalled her former assistant as an extremely quick study. “Imagine,” she said, “Elyse had the nerve to leave me! But now, I thank her for our partnership.”

Kroll later thanked the crowd. “I’m grateful to have found love and loyalty in this tough business,” she said.

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