By  on January 9, 2009

NEW YORK — Although business is dismal, the fashion industry is looking toward the future.

The annual YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund dinner filled a ballroom at the Marriott Marquis here on Wednesday and raised $1 million. It marked the fifth consecutive year the organization had hit the $1 million mark. The funds will allow YMA to provide 80 scholarships, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, to students pursuing careers in fashion.

“Our investment here can have a direct payback to our industry,” said Paul Rosengard, YMA chairman and Perry Ellis executive. “Education is the one investment that is holding its value in this chaotic environment.”

The dinner honored designer Zac Posen, HSN chief executive officer Mindy Grossman and Macy’s Central’s Les Steiger, the division’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear.

Posen, accompanied by his parents, was introduced by Patricia Field, who called him the “Cary Grant of fashion” and said he has brought “glamour and panache” back to the business. In accepting his YMA award, Posen delivered an upbeat message, encouraging the students to take risks, saying this is the time to reinvigorate and reinvent. “There are no rules, the game has changed,” Posen said.

Steiger urged the industry to “identify and nurture” new talent so the future of fashion remains vital, and Grossman said now, more than ever, “we have to be sure to provide the opportunities to inspire the next generation of designers and business leaders.”

The dinner, sponsored by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, awarded four $25,000 scholarships to students during the dinner: Heber Martinez of Cornell University; Jessica Steele of Philadelphia University; Christine Wu from Parsons The New School for Design, and Danielle Sponder of Iowa State University.

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