Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — Monday’s early spring snowstorm and tough day on Wall Street failed to put a damper on Lord & Taylor’s 10th Annual Dress Design Scholarship Awards ceremony.
“The weather stinks, the stock market was awful today, but the good news is the dress business is terrific,” said a jubilant Marshall Hilsberg, L&T’s chairman and chief executive officer, in what has become his annual address on the state of the store’s dress business.
“I can’t remember a period of time when I’ve seen as much positive action in dresses as we’ve been experiencing in the last 60 to 90 days,” Hilsberg told the 150 or so vendors and store personnel in attendance.
L&T’s dress business is up more than 14 percent for the season, he said. Noting that the average department store in America does about 4 percent of its volume in dresses, Hilsberg said L&T, which calls itself “America’s Dress Address,” realized 12.2 percent, or $207 million, of its $1.7 billion volume in dresses in 1996.
The increase represents gains in the daytime dress business as well as special occasion.
“It just goes to show that with everybody talking about casualization… the customer is kind of bored for the moment with some of that and clearly migrating back to wanting to feel good about themselves and wanting to dress up a little more,” Hilsberg said.
Hilsberg also said that with an annual growth rate of 12 to 14 percent, L&T is one of the fastest-growing department stores in the country. It has opened six stores in the last year and plans to open three more in the fall, each ranging from 120,000 to 130,000 square feet.
Openings are planned in the Center City section of Philadelphia, and in the Palisades Center mall in West Nyack, N.Y. L&T’s Denver store is moving to a new location this fall as well, said an L&T spokeswoman.
The design ceremonies and scholarships were part of L&T’s 10-day dress promotion, including a catalog mailed to one million homes and extensive newspaper ads.
Ten students from design schools in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis were awarded scholarships totaling $21,000. Winners from New York honored Monday were Parsons School of Design students Clarice Kniazzeh, Ted Kim and Vanessa Stokes and Fashion Institute of Technology students Kelly McAlee and Hyun Jeong Chang. Viviane Ascher, also from FIT, was awarded a scholarship, but was unable to attend the ceremony.
Other winners were Ana Mena-Goncalves, Marymount University; Jennifer Reale, Massachusetts College of Art; Anju Rajashekar, Washington University, and Alicia Lee, School of the Art Institute.
More than 50 students submitted designs in the competition. Judges included designers Donald Deal, Andrea Jovine, Donna Ricco and Kay Unger. On top of their scholarships, the winners will be offered job interviews with the participating judges.

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