By  on June 28, 1994

NEW YORK -- "When people ask me what we do, I say, 'He builds ships and I sell dresses,"' Syd Shaw says with a giggle as she glances at her husband, Gerald Shaw.

Syd Shaw, known by many in the industry as the "trunk-show queen" at Oscar de la Renta Ltd., has been in sales at the company since 1972.

Gerald Shaw, who prefers to be called Jerry, is president of Oscar de la Renta and a partner with the designer. He's also an avid model ship builder, specializing in large, working replicas of naval vessels.

Although Jerry Shaw has been a partner at Oscar de la Renta for most of the three decades he's been there, recent developments have left questions about the Shaws' future with the company. In an interview at Oscar de la Renta's offices at 550 Seventh Ave., however, they say they have no intention of slowing down or stepping aside.

On the contrary, Jerry notes that while he's seen many other companies go out of business and partnerships break up, his company has thrived and the partnership has endured.

"Oscar and I have had a fabulous relationship, much more than a business relationship," Jerry says. "We have a terrific personal relationship. We're like family. It's been almost 30 years. We grew up together in this business and have always had a wonderful rapport. We've been able to solve problems and discuss everything and anything."

But there are changes afoot at the company, developments that Jerry calls a "natural evolution of growth."

He mentions three key additions -- Carmine Porcelli, hired last year as design director of licensing, and Jeffry Aronsson and Hank Waeckerle, named in March as chief executive officer and director of sales, respectively. Porcelli and Aronsson report directly to de la Renta, who is chairman of the company, while Waeckerle reports to de la Renta and Aronsson. None of the three reports directly to Jerry Shaw.

As for the Shaws, Jerry will continue to concentrate on operating the ready-to-wear portion of the business, while Syd will step back from managing overall sales to oversee trunk shows.

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