Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

PHILADELPHIA — With fanfare, confetti and an ensemble, Jones Apparel Group Inc. celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia Friday night.
The party, which included informal modeling during cocktails, a slide show tracing the company’s roots and a sit-down dinner, was also a celebration of the company’s endurance and success, despite an apparel slump that has claimed many casualties.
“Somebody up there has really been looking out for us,” chairman and co-founder Sidney Kimmel told the 350 guests, 200 of them employees. “When I first started out, there were 90 sportswear firms in our category in the directory; now, there are only 20.”
The company, based in nearby Bristol, Pa., got its beginnings on March 3, 1970, when Kimmel, who had left Villager as president, moved over to W.R. Grace & Co. to launch a new line called Jones New York. He brought his designer, Rena Rowan, with him. Rowan is now executive vice president and supervises pattern making, production fittings and design for all Jones Apparel Group labels. Kimmel bought out the division in January 1975.
Kimmel and Rowan — whose relationship is personal as well as professional — said the initial success of the label, whose European sportswear flair helped define the contemporary market, might have had more to do with serendipity than intention.
“In July 1970, we designed a blouse with a printed border down the front,” Kimmel said. “But the thing was that when it got manufactured, the border was inside the sleeve…The blouse was still a huge success.”
“I remember we did this really tight-fitting jacket when we first launched the line; Bloomingdale’s called us and said they’re selling like crazy,” Rowan said. “They told me that their customers who usually take size 8 wanted a size 14.”
In addition to Jones executives, party-goers included employees who have been with the firm at least 13 years. Other guests included such friends as Carol Saline, author of “Sisters,” Laurence C. Leeds Jr. and Pearl and Alpert Nipon.