NEW YORK — At the end of a long receiving line, Joan Kaner greeted friends, colleagues and business associates, all jostling to congratulate the former senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus on her retirement.
“This is why I’m doing this,” Kaner told the well-wishers, pointing to a nine-year-old dressed in pink standing at her side — her granddaughter, Gabrielle. “It’s very bittersweet.”
The turnout for Monday evening’s celebration at the Carlton Hotel here was impressive: Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, Nanette Lepore, Ralph Rucci, Josie Natori, Mark Badgley, James Mischka, Diane von Furstenberg, Rose Marie Bravo, Yoehlee, Charles Chang-Lima, Dawn Mello, Gemma Kahng, Derek Lam, Cynthia Steffe, Tommy Tune and furriers Gilles Mendel, Jerry Sorbara and Nick Pologeorgis.
Although the guest list was large, the party had a warm vibe, perhaps because of Kaner’s family contingent. Her husband, Sonny, and sons Paul and Mark Fenaroli and their wives were there, along with two more grandchildren, Serena and Christopher.
Kaner, who began her career as a buyer at Henri Bendel in 1966, was known for championing young designers. “Joan helped everyone,” Mizrahi said.
“She’s incredibly supportive of designers,” Natori said. “I’ve known Joan for 28 years. She is a genuine good person.”
Kaner’s 38-year career included two stints at Macy’s, in 1977 as fashion director for accessories and shoes and 1984 as vice president and women’s ready-to-wear fashion director. In between there was a five-year stretch when Kaner was vice president and divisional merchandise manager for accessories, fine jewelry and shoes at Bergdorf Goodman.
“We worked together at Macy’s both times,” said Bravo, chief executive officer of Burberry, who will leave the company in July. “She’s a great friend. She’s one of a kind.”
Lauren’s appearance caused a stir. Even Burton Tansky, chairman and ceo of the Neiman Marcus Group, was impressed. “Did you see Ralph?” he asked excitedly. “Isn’t it amazing? Everyone is here. What a tribute.”
For his part, Lauren said, “I’ve known [Joan] for years and always liked her very much. She’s a very lovely woman.”
Perhaps designers are fond of Kaner because she always tries to be positive. Karen Katz, president of Neiman Marcus Stores, said she once asked Kaner what to say to a designer backstage after a disappointing runway show. “‘Be honest,'” Katz quoted Kaner as saying. “‘Put a smile on your face and say, You’ve done it again!'”
Kaner received the requisite retirement gift of a watch, but it wasn’t just any watch. The Verdura timepiece came from sister company Bergdorf Goodman because Neiman’s doesn’t carry the brand.
Kaner also received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, which has typically gone to a designer. It was last given in 1995 to Miuccia Prada. “We felt she deserved it,” said Ann Stordahl, executive vice president of women’s apparel for Neiman Marcus Stores.