FEUERSTEIN FETED: Aaron Feuerstein, president of Malden Mills, was honored as the Knitted Textile Association’s first “Man of the Year.”
After Malden’s Lawrence, Mass., factory burned down in December, Feuerstein elected to rebuild the facility, and kept his workers on the payroll. Peter Frank, president of the KTA, in presenting the award at the KTA’s annual meeting early this month in Aventura, Fla., said Feuerstein “is an example to all business executives, on caring more about his employees than the balance sheet.”
In accepting the award, Feuerstein said, “Forty or 50 years ago, it was normal that when a man lost his factory, he would rebuild. He worried about his employees, and the community. I think that in the last several years, the country has pulled in the wrong direction.” He said he considered “my workers my finest asset.”
Feuerstein noted he had more than a fiduciary trust. “I think that the ceo has a responsibility above and beyond his shareholders, to his people. I think the city of Lawrence would have closed down, if we elected not to rebuild. It has lost so much other industry.”
Another speaker at the KTA meeting was Barger Tygart, president and chief operating officer of J.C. Penney, who spoke of the changing retail landscape. “We are only in the mid-Nineties, and all these changes have happened. There are much more coming. A lot of players will change in the retail business.”
But, he said, as long as companies concentrate on the consumer and what he will need, “and get there before he does with innovate products, you will survive.
“We are no longer selling just product, we are selling groups of products. Examples of this are Stafford suits, which is the number one men’s suit sold in the U.S. for under $200. With these are sold a group of related products. Arizona Jeans, and all of the related jeans products, are a $1 billion dollar business for us now.” Stafford and Arizona are Penney’s private labels.
Asked if Penney’s sees a future of retailing in cyberspace, Tygart said, “We have tried it twice, and failed both times. We are not discouraged and we continue to work with this. We haven’t yet found a way that will work. I don’t think it will happen in the Nineties.”
On the other hand, he said, Penney’s found the World Wide Web very important for domestic sourcing. “We use our own system, and try to get everyone hooked up to us. You can’t wait for it to happen. That’s why we set up our own.” He said he didn’t know if the Web would work for overseas sourcing. “But you do need the communications network.”
WELLMAN’S MASTER PLAN: Katie Couric, co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, will present the Wellman Scholarship check to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Scholarship Fund during the upcoming Master/Apprentice Program Collection, according to a spokesman for the event. The show will be presented in the tents at 7th on Sixth, April 2 at 3 p.m.
Sponsored by Wellman Inc., the Master/Apprentice Program, as reported, pairs a series of designers and students, who each create a garment using Wellman’s EcoSpun recycled polyester fiber. In all, 26 designers have participated in the program, including Carolina Herrera, Tommy Hilfiger, Nicole Miller, Anna Sui, Cynthia Rowley, Cynthia Steffe, Bryon Lars, Betsey Johnson, Josie Natori, Tom and Linda Platt, Mark Eisen and David Chu.
Adding to the runway presentations, an electronic “zipper” sign will impart information as the collection is shown.
In other Wellman news, the fiber producer was named a winner of the first President’s Award on Sustainable Development.
Vice President Al Gore presented the award to Wellman president and chief executive officer Thomas Duff at a White House ceremony earlier this month.
Gore cited Wellman for its commitment to the environment and its longtime leadership role in the commercial utilization of recycled materials that led to the development of EcoSpun fiber, among other products. EcoSpun is made from recycled soft drink bottles.
Wellman was one of 15 organizations honored by the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.