NEW YORK — “This has turned into one of the great years for the U.S. cotton industry, as we look to have the largest cotton crop in history, about 19.5 million bales.”

That was the greeting from J. Nicholas Hahn, president and chief executive officer of Cotton Incorporated, as more than 375 industry guests gathered Thursday evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here, to pay tribute to the leading natural fiber.

“On an annualized basis, U.S. mills are buying 11.5 million bales, and we are exporting about 7.5 million bales,” said Hahn. “Not only is it the biggest crop, but it’s also the strongest and longest cotton fiber we’ve produced.”

The event marked the seventh consecutive year that Cotton Inc., the research and promotion arm of 30,000 U.S. cotton growers, has hosted the museum gala.

The evening, dubbed “A Celebration of American Style,” said Hahn, “is for all of you out there who help make cotton what it is today.”

The night also coincided with the Senate vote on GATT, which was passed by an overwhelming margin of 76-24, and one guest not in a celebratory mood was Roger Milliken, chairman of Milliken & Co.

One of the textile industry’s most vigorous opponents of the accord, Milliken’s unhappiness with GATT was unwavering, as he called it “an agreement between unequals.”

In a livelier mood was George Henderson 3rd, making one of his first appearances at an industry gathering since the news of his promotion to ceo of Burlington Industries. Henderson, who continues as president of the firm, will take over the ceo title from Frank Greenberg, who remains chairman.

“It’s going to be a challenging and exciting year for both Burlington and the Industry,” said Henderson, who will assume his added post on Jan. 1. “I’m looking forward to getting started. I do want to say, though, that Frank has done an outstanding job, and I’m going to be turning to him for guidance and advice often.

And in a nod to his host, Henderson pointed out, “We’re also big users of cotton, and, despite the higher cotton prices, I’m happy that this year’s crop turned out so well.”

The party’s guest list touched all bases — mill and converter executives, apparel manufacturers, designers and retailers. Those on hand included Daniel Frierson, chairman and ceo of Dixie Yarns; Bernard Olsoff, president and chief executive officer, Frederick Atkins Inc.; Carlos Moore, executive director of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, and Walter Y. Elisha, chairman, Springs Industries.

Other partygoers included Duke Kimbrell, chairman, Parkdale Mills; Robert Kaplan, president, Greenwood’s denim division; James Raleigh, president, Clinton Mills sales; Carl Rosen, president, JPS Converter and Industrial Corp.; Lawrence Pugh, chairman and ceo of VF Corp., and Paul Charron, vice chairman and chief operating officer, Liz Claiborne Inc.

The evening began with a private showing of the museum’s featured exhibit, “Origins of Impressionism,” and ended several hours later with the lighting of the Christmas tree and a champagne and cookie party.

In between, guests had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Caroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court before viewing a fashion show of primarily cotton apparel that included the styles of Calvin Klein, Victor Alfaro, Robert Massimo Freda, Donna Karan and, for the seventh straight year, Isaac Mizrahi.

Following the fashions, dinner was served in the museum’s Temple of Dendur.


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