NEW YORK — Ruth Finley, founder and publisher of the Fashion Calendar, was honored for being a lifelong mentor to members of the fashion industry, most notably Diane Von Furstenberg, whom Finley began helping just as the designer was trying to get her career off the ground.

A fixture in the fashion business for more than 40 years, Finley also publishes a monthly newsletter, "Fashion International."

Von Furstenberg presented Finley with a mentoring award at the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity’s (SEO) Esteem Teams Mentor Awards Wednesday night at the Altman Building, here. The event raised about $50,000 for the Esteem Teams’ program, which is focused on helping New York City public school children achieve their dreams. Finley has been active with the program’s committee since its inception in 1994.

Von Furstenberg recalled that as a young woman new to Manhattan some 30 years ago, she was introduced to the Fashion Calendar through an assistant to Diana Vreeland, the late legendary Vogue editor.

"I met Mrs. Vreeland and she looked at my clothes," Von Furstenberg told the audience. "She had models put on my dresses and said,‘Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.’"

Then, Vreeland quickly disappeared, leaving a slightly bewildered Von Furstenberg to pick up her dresses and pack them away into a suitcase.

"What am I going to do now?" the designer asked Vreeland’s assistant, who advised her to show her line to buyers during market week. "And how will I do that?" Von Furstenberg recalled asking. The assistant told Von Furstenberg to list herself in the Fashion Calendar.

"That day, I made the call to Ruth Finley and to the Fashion Calendar and listed myself," Von Furstenberg said. "The rest is history. For me, Ruth Finley and the Fashion Calendar are the absolute beginning of my career. It’s the one thing that made me legitimate."

In accepting the honor, Finley said she actually started her mentoring program at age seven when she decided to teach her three-year-old brother how to read. After she started her business she helped fashion designers publicize their events.

"Over the years, I found myself mentoring young designers, many of whom are now the leaders of the industry," Finley said. "Several times a week, designers, reporters and public relations directors will call me and the query is the same: ‘I wonder if you can help me?’ My answer is always ‘I certainly will try.’"When I realized there was no central coordination for scheduling fashion shows I decided there was an opportunity to solve a real business problem," Finley added. "I would coordinate and schedule these shows and openings. I was determined to achieve my goals."

Finley is active in other organizations including Citymeals-On-Wheels, Lighthouse for the Blind and the Roundtable for Fashion Executives.

Others receiving awards on Wednesday were Reverend Virginia Goodman, the first African-American woman to be ordained by the Moravian Church, and Jeanne Parnell, an educator for more than 20 years, who founded the Performing Arts Network.

Alicia Keys, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis presented Parnell’s award. "She’s my oldest teacher," Keys said of Parnell, who taught kindergarten. "She’s had the biggest impact on my life. She’s an exuberant, vibrant, giving individual and I’m so happy to be here to present her with what she deserves."

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