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“He’s the real deal. He’s young — too young. And talented — very talented, and accomplished — so far.”

That’s how Burt Tansky, president and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Group Inc., introduced Brendan Hoffman, the 41-year-old ceo of Lord & Taylor, at the Women in Need annual benefit dinner Wednesday night at the Waldorf Astoria, which was filled with fashion executives, retailers and designers, festooned with gold and white balloons marking donations made that night, and larger-than-life portraits of children from WIN shelters photographed by Monica Rich Kosann.

This story first appeared in the April 9, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Hoffman, one of the evening’s two honorees, has long been mentored by Tansky. “With all his accomplishments, he’s a proverbial kid at heart,” Tansky said.

Hoffman started his career at L&T before joining the Neiman’s organization. “It was his first time selling merchandise at full-price,” Tansky said. “He did not know it was possible. It changed his life.”

Hoffman thanked Tansky for “his mostly kind words” then spoke of how visiting a WIN shelter for the homeless with his wife Abby was a moving experience. “I realized the odds they were facing and how lucky it is that WIN is on their side,” he said.

The other honoree, Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, also visited a WIN shelter. It was an equally uplifting experience for her and somewhat of a revelation. Shelters generally evoke images of overpacked rooms with cots one on top of the other, she said. But WIN shelters, she added, “provide privacy, dignity, units with kitchens and bathrooms and all the things you need to feel human.” Leive and Hoffman were presented with dioramas of the WIN day care center and had closets at WIN named in their honor. “I don’t even have my own closet at my house,” Hoffman joked.

WIN has been getting strong support from the fashion and retail industries, as Saks Inc. ceo and dinner co-chair Stephen I. Sadove noted. “There are 1,100 people here tonight. That’s twice as many as a year ago. People are coming of out their shells, and the spirit is translating to the retail scene as well,” he said. A record $1.76 million was raised. Stephen and Karin Sadove matched $25,000 of the $145,000 in balloon sales, which are earmarked for WIN’s Children’s Services, and Massimo and Chiara Ferragamo donated a stay for two at the Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany, Italy, which was auctioned off. With their $23,000 bid, Amy and Roger Heumann won the prize.

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