HUNTER HONORS HELPERN: About 200 people turned up last Monday night at the Pierre Hotel in New York to honor footwear and apparel designer Joan Helpern. She was the recipient of Hunter College’s Athena Award, given for outstanding personal and professional achievement. This year also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Helpern’s graduation from the college.
Hal Kahn, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s East, and David Caputo, president of Hunter College, both lauded Helpern for her “astonishing energy,” and “passionate, prolific and positive attitude” as well as her business, which includes 82 Joan & David boutiques worldwide. Helpern’s first career was as a psychologist and teacher at New York’s Yeshiva University and in public schools in New York and Lexington, Mass.
Harvey Klein — a friend of Helpern’s as well as her physician — offered a mini-roast of the designer and pointed to her diminutive stature as part of the reason for her shift from education to fashion.
“Joan’s diminished line of sight led to a natural proclivity to focus on shoes,” Klein said.
Helpern received a bust replicating the head of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts, and was particularly touched when she was presented with a copy of a Hunter College yearbook from 1912, the year her mother graduated from the college.

SWAROVSKI VISION: Daniel Swarovski, the Austrian firm known for its use of colorful crystal, has added another accessories category — eyewear. It has signed a worldwide licensing deal with Silhouette, a firm based in Linz, Austria, to produce and market sunglasses and optical eyewear.
The line was previewed at the recent Paris eyewear show, Silmo. It will be launched in the U.S. next spring at the eyewear trade show Vision Expo East in New York.

SERETA SHOWROOM: Michael Stevens Ltd., a New York-based handbag firm, has opened a separate showroom for its Sereta line, on the 65th floor of the Empire State Building, where the established Michael Stevens showroom is located. The new space has 1,200 square feet and is designed to enhance the Sereta brand’s image in the moderate market, according to Bob Chavez, president of Michael Stevens.