Fashion and retail leaders know they need talent and are eager to nurture more of it.
That was evident Tuesday night, when 1,100 store veterans, Seventh Avenue executives past and present, models, celebrities and various VIPs came to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and raised $1.4 million for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund.
“There is no other organization that supports our industry by creating 250 dreams [coming] true through scholarships, mentorships and internships each year. In the last five years, YMA has given away over $7 million to more than 1,000 future industry leaders,” said William Susman, managing director of Threadstone and president of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund.
“There is a perceptual question,” said former Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and chief executive officer Steve Sadove, who, just before being honored with YMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, suggested that while many students are interested in retail and fashion, the industry must convey its scope of career options. “There’s marketing, technology, supply chain, stores, products. An enormous amount of students want to go into start-ups. Retailing, defined broadly, accounts for one out of every four jobs in America,” Sadove said. “We are a business of people, driven by people and ideas. Leaders must be teachers.”
During the event, designer Christian Siriano was honored as fashion innovator of the year and received his award from Coco Rocha. “He’s my favorite designer. As a model, I am not allowed to say that.”
Siriano advised the students receiving the YMA scholarships that “Staying true to yourself is really important. Find your voice. Create things you love and make you feel good.” His was a message of inclusiveness. “My mom was a size 16 and my sister was a size 2. That was my normal life. I want to represent all of that.” And he’s carried that respect for people of all sizes and types in his work by designing for Lane Bryant, Disney and Victoria’s Secret, among other brands.
Katia Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox, who was honored as “Entrepreneur of the Year” emphasized education. “It all started when I was 19 with an internship at Estée Lauder. I formed a love affair with beauty.” Years later, at business school, “I learned about entrepreneurship.” YMA, she said, is an “opportunity so early in your career to fight for something, an opportunity to learn what drives you, what motivates you. Self-awareness frees you and give you the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
Also honored was Kenneth J. Wyse, president of licensing and public relations at Phillips Van Heusen, who received YMA’s “Wholesaler of the Year.” Wyse, soon to be retired, was recognized by Manny Chirico, ceo of PVH, for his philanthropy, generosity and business acumen.
Other celebrities, VIPs and industry vets who came to support the cause included Martha Stewart, Danielle Brooks, Candice Huffine, Brad Walsh, YMA chairman Peter Sachse, John Tighe, Tim Baxter, Abbey Doneger and Jay Margolis.
The gala celebrated the 2018 Fashion Scholarship Fund class, selected from a variety of top programs at universities and colleges nationwide, and spotlighted eight National Merit Scholarship finalists, who were awarded grants for either $10,000 or $30,000 to further their education and career goals.