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DYNAMIC DUO: Philip Miller, the Great Gatsby? Burt Tansky, a modern-day John Adams?
This story first appeared in the October 10, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Those were among the tributes paid to the two American retail legends Wednesday night as they were decorated as Chevaliers of the Legion of Honor by Nicole Fontaine, France’s ministry of industry. Hundreds of friends, colleagues and customers gathered at the Carrousel du Louvre for the joint presentation, a rarity in France but a natural for Miller and Tansky, who have been friends for 35 years and who are known for their senses of humor.
To wit: Tanksy, chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus, couldn’t resist ribbing Miller, former chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue, about his “sartorial splendor,” then adding, “although as a competitor, I’ve always had the upper hand.” Tansky also got laughs for poking fun at Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale and organizer of Paris Fashion Week, for the tardiness of the shows. “Although he has solved the problem by declaring that one hour late is on time,” Tansky said.
The crowd was a veritable who’s who of French fashion executives, with a sprinkling of designers, including Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Ungaro. Ungaro was the one who called Miller the Great Gatsby. “He’s so American, in a very good way: warm, generous,” he said. “They’re both fantastic.”
Fontaine lauded Miller and Tansky for bringing French culture to America. And how. She noted that Neiman’s and Saks together buy some 10 percent of all French designer exports. Cardin said that France “owes so much [to Tanksy and Miller]. They helped wake up America to French fashion.”
Hermès chairman Jean-Louis Dumas said Miller and Tansky were “foremost great friends. They have been as integral to the construction of the French fashion industry as a good gardener who cultivates his flowers.” Donald Potard, president of Jean Paul Gaultier, noted: “They have done formidable work. They have been more than commercial partners. They have been ambassadors of French fashion.” François Lesage called the two men “truly the type of Americans that the French like. They are men of culture.”
But not necessarily men of language. Besides saying “merci beaucoup,” they made their speeches in English.
POWER LUNCH: The lunch crowd at the Four Seasons on Wednesday was typically stellar, with former New York mayor David Dinkins, former Texas governor Ann Richards, Leonard Lauder, Andrea Jung and Brooke Astor posted throughout the restaurant. Perhaps it was the return of fragrant white truffles this week that made it feel like something was in the air. Or maybe it was that something smelled fishy in the corner, where bitter publishing rivals Steve Florio, president of Condé Nast, and Cathleen Black, president of Hearst Magazines, were seated in neighboring booths. The placement wasn’t intentional, however. Black was the guest of Calvin Klein, just back from his Paris store opening, who had reserved the table without naming his date.