Byline: Janet Ozzard / Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — It might not be the most glamorous retailer in America, but Sears, Roebuck & Co. has always been a destination for the fashion crowd. And when its chairman and chief executive officer, Arthur Martinez, was honored at the 2000 Parsons Fashion Critics Awards Benefit dinner Tuesday night, guests were chatting about their Sears purchases.
“I bought a coffee maker for my brother for Christmas four years ago,” said Steven Di Geronimo. “Of course it’s still working.”
Bill Blass designer Steven Slowik said his last purchase at Sears was a passport photo.
“I remember it was at a mall somewhere, but that’s all I remember,” he said.
Council of Fashion Designers of America president Stan Herman was clearer in his recollection of a Sears shopping experience, one about 10 years ago in Riverhead, N.Y., where he bought a refrigerator.
“It still works,” he said. “I think Sears has deprived New York [by not] being in the city. I had to buy it way out on Long Island.”
James Mischka, of the design team Badgley Mischka, also made his last Sears purchase at a Long Island location, having bought a dog cage about 10 years ago. He still has it.
“They sure don’t make them like they used to,” he said.
The dinner, which included the annual fashion show of works by graduating Parsons fashion design students, raised $1.5 million for the school, according to Arnold H. Aronson, managing director of Kurt Salmon and chairman of the Parsons board of governors. He introduced the guest of honor, prefacing his remarks with a very condensed history of Sears.
“I will take the next 90 seconds to summarize 113 years of retail history, so listen very carefully,” he said.
During the acceptance speech, Martinez told the crowd of fashion executives and students that a good grip on the basics is still the most important asset in any career.
“Education lets you challenge the status quo,” he said. “Success in today’s incredibly volatile world of retailing is possible only with a good education.”
Chanel Inc.’s president and chief operating officer, Arie Kopelman, has known Martinez for years, since the honoree left a career as a music executive to go to Saks Fifth Avenue. “And let me tell you,” Kopelman said, “In business, I’ve never seen the softer side.”