Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Retail is a relatively small world, so it’s not surprising that many of the guests at Thursday night’s benefit for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries came up through the ranks together.
“Ron Frasch is an old friend of mine, and I would go anywhere to support him,” said Terry Lundgren, now president of Federated Department stores, who met Frasch during their days at Neiman Marcus. Frasch, one of the night’s two honorees, is now chairman and chief executive officer at Neiman’s Bergdorf Goodman division. “He is very detail oriented, and he is totally customer focused,” said Lundgren. “He is always on the selling floor, and he will follow through to get the customer whatever she wants.”
Of the night’s second honoree, Hearst Magazine president Cathleen Black, Lundgren said: “She is so accomplished in so many things. She is a wonderful friend. It’s a real double-header.”
Philip Miller, now chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue, declared he would put on a tuxedo for Frasch any time — provided Frasch returned the favor in kind. “It’s a matter of reciprocity. Ron very nicely is coming to the New York Botanical Garden’s orchid dinner later this month, where I’m hosting,” Miller said, just before bear-hugging Frasch’s boss, Burt Tansky, president and chief operating officer of the Neiman Marcus Group.
“You never call, you never write,” Tansky said accusingly to Miller.
But get a group of retailers together and the old rivalries are bound to show up sooner or later — even among alums.
“I have known Ron Frasch since he was at Neiman Marcus and I was at I. Magnin and let me tell you, he was a fierce competitor when we were after the same lines,” said Burberry’s Rose Marie Bravo. In an era when buyers would do their best to beat each other to a showroom early in the morning, said Bravo, Frasch took another tack: “He went late into the night. So we would arrive at a showroom in the morning thinking we had the account sewn up and find out that Frasch had taken them out the night before. He was my nemesis!”
The annual benefit, held this year at the New York Hilton, had about 800 guests and raised $1 million for the Educational Foundation, which provides financial aid to FIT students.
Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT, greeted the guests at dinner with a few success stories about students who struggled through school and are now making it in fashion and media.
“FIT is the one educational institution in New York City with the most direct impact on New York life,” said Brown during her remarks. “When we see these students’ success, we are yet again reminded of the transforming power of affordable, accessible quality education.”
As he accepted his award, Frasch used industry lingo to let the guests know he appreciated their generosity.
“At a time when retailers are asking for everything under the sun — for markdowns and chargebacks — you have been very, very generous,” he said. Frasch also thanked Tansky for giving him “the best job in the industry,” and closed by mentioning Anne Ball, the industry executive who died Jan. 19, “for inspiring me and for proving to me that you should reach out for your dreams.”