FIT: SHEA’S STADIUM

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — John Shea, president, chief executive officer and vice chairman of Spiegel Inc. since 1989, was cited for his contributions to catalog retailing by the Fashion Industry of Technology at a dinner-dance attended by some 1,300 top Seventh Avenue executives.
The annual event, held Thursday at the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, also celebrated the $2.17 million raised through the efforts of Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries, the industry support body for FIT. The amount was the second largest raised by the group in the 13 years the campaign has been under way, noted Richard Streiter, EFFI’s executive director, with a record $3.9 million raised last year.
Innovations for which Spiegel and Shea were honored included a launch this year of a CD-ROM version of its spring/summer catalog, one of the first comprehensive multimedia catalogs issued by direct marketers. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based firm, founded in 1865, was also cited for being the first to shop the Paris shows for fashion, to offer payment via credit cards and to produce a Christmas book.
“Over my 36 years in the business, I’ve learned that you’re only as good as the relationships you build,” Shea said, after receiving FIT’s crystal mirror award from Bernie Olsoff, president of Frederick Atkins. “I must say I owe my good fortune in life to my wife Jeanette. She understood the demands of retailing 36 years ago, and she understands today.”
Shea related how his wife was willing to cut their honeymoon short by a few days so that he could return in time to set up a Christmas toy department at Wanamaker’s, where he worked back then. The anecdote drew thunderous applause.
Also honored during the evening were two FIT students. Ivy Archer, president of the FIT student association, thanked the group for making a difference in her college education. “I hope I can make a difference in the future as I become a productive member of your industry,” Archer said. And Veronica Ruiz — who has studied in Japan and this year founded a group to assist students with AIDS — was given a $15,000 Spiegel Honor Scholarship by Shea. “It is an honor to be in a room full of people who have inspired me all of my life,” Ruiz said.
John Pomerantz, Leslie Fay president and ceo, was presented with the Distinguished Industry Advocate Award by Streiter, who said, “John’s personal contributions and fund-raising efforts have exceeded all other individual efforts.”

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