NEW YORK — The Fashion Center Business Improvement District inducted its final group of designers into its Fashion Walk of Fame on Wednesday. It also set them a bit of a challenge: Actually going to see the plaques.
Most of the four living honorees said they had never seen the existing 16 plaques, all on the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 34th and 41st Streets.
“I’ve never seen them,” admitted designer Norma Kamali, referring to the existing plaques that honor Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Bonnie Cashin, Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, James Galanos, Rudi Gernreich, Halston, Charles James, Donna Karan, Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Claire McCardell, Norman Norell and Pauline Trigère.
She also acknowledged that she wasn’t entirely sure where the new plaques will be going. For the record, they’re filling in eight slots on the blocks between West 37th and 38th Streets, and between West 40th and 41st Streets.
The induction ceremony, held at Ilo restaurant at the Bryant Park Hotel, prompted some of the honorees to make at least tentative plans to go see their new 30-inch, bronze plaques, which are to be laid into the sidewalk by the end of the month.
“I’ll probably take my mother,” said Stephen Burrows. “I’ll take my whole family. Maybe in the fall.”
Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, who accepted the award on behalf of the designer, had less clear plans: “I’ll be going to see them.”
True to character, the most wildly enthusiastic member of the group was Betsey Johnson.
“I’ve been walking over them for years. I’ve been walking over Giorgio every day to get my coffee,” she said. When she unveiled her plaque, she whipped the white cloth that had covered it over her head and exclaimed: “I’m just so happy that people are going to walk over me.”
Four deceased American designers were also inducted into the Walk of Fame, which is now closed to all but its 24 members. The four other new inductees were Lilly Dache, Perry Ellis, Mainbocher and Willi Smith.
The members of the Hall of Fame were selected on three criteria: They had to have a clear and significant presence in New York, to have owned their businesses at least 10 years and to have been a moving force in the fashion industry.
Kal Ruttenstein, who presented Kamali’s award, described her as an almost unstoppable force in design.
“The sleeping-bag coat, we couldn’t kill. We tried to kill it,” the Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction said, reminiscing about one of Kamali’s signature designs.
While he was impressed by that coat style, he admitted there was another long-gone Kamali design to which that he felt more personally attached.
“The sweats,” he said. “Who did them first? Who did them best?”
While he didn’t say it, it was clear that he intended “Kamali” as the answer to that rhetorical question. But he answered his next question himself.
“Who misses them now?” he asked. “Me.””