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Despite the down economy and an uncertain market week, 500 retail and industry executives partied at the annual Femmy Awards on Feb. 3 at Cipriani at 42nd Street in New York.

Hosted by Melissa Rivers and staged by The Underfashion Club, the cocktail and dinner gala is held to honor executives who have contributed their support to the innerwear industry. The event also raises funds for scholarships for lingerie design students at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

This story first appeared in the February 16, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Accepting awards on behalf of their companies were Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and vice president of merchandising at Nordstrom Inc.; Jockey International Inc.’s president and chief executive officer Ed Emma, and Mahesh Amalean of Mas Holdings.

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx Inc., picked up the Innovation Award, and Ann Deal, ceo of Fashion Forms Inc., was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award.

As Nordstrom accepted his award, he reminisced over his first encounter with the family store’s lingerie department.

“I was a store manager in the late Eighties and I remember very clearly advice from my boss who was not my dad, ‘If you’ve got to go into the lingerie department, make sure you’re specific and focused, and get out. Otherwise, people will think you’re a pervert,’” he said.

Rivers interjected, “Men and lingerie do have a very interesting relationship. Some buy for girlfriends, wives and boyfriends. The truth of the matter is it all looks the same bundled up at the bottom of the bed.”

Deal remembered her first job as a buyer of intimates at Rich’s in Atlanta in the early Eighties.

“I was on the selling floor and a man came in looking for a nice nightgown for his wife for Christmas,” she said. “So I took him to what I thought were the most beautiful satin gowns in the department and the most expensive. He bought one, and I thought he’s going to have a nice Christmas. But the next day, his wife came in looking for me and she was furious. She wanted to know who the woman was who was trying to give her a message and sold her husband a burial shroud. Burial shrouds are a Southern tradition.”

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