By  on April 21, 2005

NEW YORK — The question is familiar in fashion circles: “What becomes a legend most?”

According to the Pratt Institute, it is people who are role models to their students. And so, at this year’s Pratt Legends awards, the school honored sportswear designer Cathy Hardwick, costume jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane, theater director Robert Wilson, artist James Rosenquist and architect Helmut Jahn.

“We recognize people who become legends in fields that we teach,” said Marc A. Rosen, the packaging designer who co-chaired the gala benefit dinner with fellow Pratt alumnus Juliana Curran Terian, chief executive officer of the Rallye Group. “They serve as role models to our students.”

The Pratt Legends program was created in 1999 to raise money for student scholarships. This year’s event at Gotham Hall raised $500,000.

“I don’t know why they gave me this award,” Hardwick said. “There are so many people who deserve it. I thought, as a legend, you’d have to be dead like Chanel or bigger than life like my friend Tom Ford.”

Hardwick is credited with giving Ford his first job out of college and he was scheduled to present her with the award, but was said to be stuck in Los Angeles in negotiations to clinch the first movie deal for his Fade to Black Productions. Instead, Ford sent a video in which he recalled how he went about getting his first job with Hardwick. Brimming with ambition, Ford went to a bank and got a bag of quarters, which he then used to call Hardwick from her lobby every few minutes. She finally took his call, and asked him when she could see him. He said immediately, since he was just downstairs.

“I have known Cathy for many years, and it’s about time she was being honored,” said Bill Blass creative director Michael Vollbracht. “She is an unsung hero of Seventh Avenue. She can take an inexpensive fabric and make it look expensive. Now that’s real talent.”

Asked about the possible sale of Bill Blass, Vollbracht said: “I got two words: Stay tuned.”

Pratt junior Blaise Kavanagh received the 2005 Mados Patrons Scholar Award of one year’s tuition, courtesy of Suzanne Mados. That night, his white bias-cut silk evening gown was on display, and Kavanagh explained that he aspires to have his own couture business. He is studying fashion design at Pratt, and interning with Lucy Sykes Baby and Thom Browne, who lent him a tuxedo for the night.“My mother encouraged me to get into fashion,” he said. “When I was four years old, I was in A&S with her, and I picked her an outfit that she wore for years.”

Arlene Dahl accepted the award for Wilson, who was in a hospital in Berlin with an ulcer. Lane, when accepting his award, credited  Diana Vreeland and Fulco Verdura for inspiring him in his career, and recalled how he started as a cobbler before turning to costume jewelry — something he never regretted.

“Jewelry doesn’t hurt, but shoes can hurt,” he quipped. “I have always been a legend, and it was hard on my parents when I decided that at the age of eight.”

So much for legendary behavior.

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