Fashion Group International’s former president and chief executive officer Margaret Hayes was remembered as a straight-to-the-chase individual who was dedicated to strengthening the fashion industry at a memorial Monday night at the LVMH Tower in New York.
Hayes, who led the group for 25 years, died Feb. 28 at the age of 79, following a long battle with breast cancer. Her daughter Alexandra Adame welcomed guests to the Magic Room, where the shades were drawn to keep attendees’ attention on the oversize projected image of Hayes smiling broadly.
FGI’s managing director of events and operations Maryanne Grisz opened the event, which featured remarks by Jason Wu, John Demsey, Efraim Grinberg, Stan Herman, Don Loftus, Ken Downing and others. Hayes’ no-nonsense approach to business, her championing of young designers and networking skills were recurring themes, as well as her generous heart.
Grinberg, chairman and ceo of Movado, said, “In life when you are no longer here, you don’t want to be remembered as much for what you did in your business, but for what you did in your relationships. She will be remembered by all of us as a devoted wife, a loving mother and a truly loyal friend.”
Steven Kolb, Maria Cornejo, Gary Wassner, James LaForce, Fern Mallis and Diane Clehane were among the guests at the memorial.
After relaying recollections from FGI’s longtime creative director for its trend presentations Marylou Luther, designer and former CFDA president Herman, said of Hayes, “She was a study in prose — always attacking the heart of the matter with complete, almost blunt honesty. When she asked a question, she expected an answer. And the questions were never frivolous. She could easily fill the room with her handsome presence and for me she was a reassuring partner on the bumpy road that our industry often takes.”
He added, “We are a diverse group in our very competitive industry. Sometimes the route taken can be very devious — not for Margaret. She was a constant reminder that there were goals to be reached. And she would be there with you, when you reached them. Margaret, you were an original. And you will be missed.”
Loftus, FGI’s chairman of the board emeritus, recalled how Hayes made the annual FGI’s Night of Stars look like it was the work of 1,000 with multimillion dollar budget, when in fact it was a team of five. Ken Downing said, “Margaret might not have been good at technology, but boy could she e-mail. ‘Do you know this one? Do you know that one? Can we attach your name to a letter?” He later encouraged the crowd to get on their feet to look upward and they broke out into a round of applause.
Describing Hayes as “the original power woman,” Nancy Berger, senior vice president, publishing director and chief revenue officer of Cosmopolitan as well as Seventeen and Women’s Health, said, “When Margaret called you, you always took the call. You knew she was going to be asking for something and you also knew that you would agree to whatever that was.“
Noting how Hayes never took no for an answer, Berger said, “I’m a salesperson and I wish that I had that talent that she said. One year she said, ‘You know Nancy, Hearst should really sponsor Night of Stars.’ I thought that was a suggestion. It was really a command. Two days later she said, ‘You know Nancy, Hearst should actually sponsor all of our events. Like just write one check and make it happen.’ Then she called me two days later to ask if I got approval for that. I did and as you know Hearst now sponsors every FGI event.”
Berger, a longtime FGI board member, added, “She really believed in mentoring the next generation…She always made us a little bit better. She was also very passionate about the industry and that never wavered. No matter how difficult the problems were that we faced, she always had that big smile. She always made us feel good that this was the career that we chose.”
James D’Adamo, FGI’s chairman of the board, described how Hayes would turn up when his band performed and dance the night away. Her zeal only went so far though. Hayes would routinely ask why he hadn’t played more Blondie or David Bowie. D’Adamo then sang the latter’s “Life on Mars” in her honor with help from Michael Fredo.
As a finale, there was a brief clip of Hayes discussing her 28 years at Saks Fifth Avenue and FGI career. The quality was slightly grainy and the camera angle was a little shaky, but Hayes’ comments were understated and matter-of-fact. With that, a video montage of Hayes with various designers like Marc Jacobs, Wes Gordon and Isabel and Ruben Toledo, and celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Kerry Washington played to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”