Friday, April 29, 2011


Grand Hyatt, NYC

Words/Images Judith Ecochard

The American Apparel & Footwear Association's annual American Image Awards ceremony is always an industry draw...with designers, retailers, media and business heavyweights coming together this year--- for an evening of a lot of laughs...
Mark Weber, Donna Karan,Whoopi Goldberg

Kevin Burke (l)

AND of course, to pay tribute to honorees:

The set by Ruben Toledo---should be donated to the Smithsonian

Mark Weber-CEO of LMVH, Chaiman & CEO of Donna Karan
Man of Year

Neiman Marcus
Retailer of the Year

Ruben and Isabel Toledo
Fashion Maverick

William Rast
Brand of the Year

UGG Australia
Footwear Brand of the Year

David Koch
Humanitarian Award

AND to also donate 40% of the net proceeds from the evening to the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Julia Koch and Robert Verdi

Robert Verdi was a very quick witted host---full of wise/sly comments laced with well-timed comedic doses of humility. We can see why he is a M of C in demand although he referred to himself as the ultimate last minute fill-in.

Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke, President & CEO of AAFA opened with remarks about the state of the industry with comments, we thought interesting---like the "fundamental shift in consumer patterns" (post recession)... and the rising costs of production and raw goods as challenging well as embracing sustainability (eco alert) and new technology to benefit the industry-at large.

David Koch ---a giant in many industries ---including INVISTA™-part of the privately held Koch Industries,  ---made a heartfelt speech about his own personal experience battling prostate cancer ---and how now- thanks to a new drug---the disease is being treated more like a chronic disease then a life sentence.

Hopeful words---as Koch relayed how his doctor was "certain he will live a great many more years and die of something else."
David and Julia Koch

Major Point: Koch also made mention that "those of us who are well off should have a deep feeling of responsibility to help the less well off."

Whoopi Goldberg's trials with menopausal symptoms served as the launch pad for jokes in which she introduced her pals the "real people"  Isabel and Ruben Toledo. Goldberg's comment --- on when she sneezes, she's "wet on top and on the bottom," as a reason why the glam  custom made Toledo coat- was on her arm, got a lot of laughs. The actress/author/tv-host--- added how the couple have a natural glow..."without the botox."
Isabel and Reuben Toledo

In thanking the AAFA for the award...we liked how Isabel Toledo  made special mention of their "friends at Nordstom's in their bravery...and Payless for allowing me to express my vision of the mass market."

And her husband concluded: "...innovation and motivation work very well together." Agreed.

Fitting--- that George Malkemus of the luxury shoe brand Manolo Blahnik, introduced Retailer of the Year, Neiman Marcus...accepted by Jonathan Joselove. Acknowledging the principles set forth by the founders, the Marcus family, Joselove honed in on the retail giant's commitment to "outstanding customer service and product...(whereby) no sale is a good sale for Neiman Marcus unless it is a good buy for the customer."

Vogue's Susan Plagemann introduced that mega bestselling UGG Australia brand with a tribute to the "high quality" and "passion" of the label and "the people behind it  and what they chose to do with it...beyond what a flat sheepskin boot could be" As in that amazing selling genius collab with Jimmy Choo where... "you wouldn't have them in the same bouquet if they were flowers."

Connie Rishwain, in turn, accepting for her UGGS team--- gave them all a big helping her position the brand in that luxury, comfort fashion niche...that btw, has experienced annual double digit growth for the past 12 years.

Nordstrom's Loretta Soffe presented William Rast with the Brand of the Year Award...noting co-founder's Justin Timberlake's passion for clothes---and willingness to really get behind the now lifestyle brand, in a meaningful way that helps retailers sell the apparel.

Colin Dyne, who accepted the award remarked on the label's youthfulness, commitment to authenticity, and consistent message...and how for this "new American lifestyle brand...(it has been) an incredible and painful."

LMVH is a European based conglomerate that we admire for what we consider to be, it's very American-like entrepreneurial gambles on smaller labels. Antonio Belloni ---who was introduced by Robert Verdi with the MC's confession that instead of counting sheep, he downs Ambien and Moet-a LMVH brand...

...touched down from the French based mothership to warmly thank Mark Weber for his inspiration for the entire LMVH family and "his steady hand and ability to energize an organization through a recession." The executive also quoted Weber's comment that  the " pays me for my mind and I throw in my heart for free..."  ---adding that "...we're (LMVH) glad he threw in his heart cause his mind was expensive enough..."

We thought hey---being paid in the sinking US dollar---should carry a premium.

Mark Weber's acceptance speech followed an amazing fast-paced video of Donna Karan brands---(produced by Patty Cohen- deservedly-- profusely thanked).


Remarking how "Tony is so smart it is scary," he then noted that "...our industry is often maligned but it is one of the five essentials of life... and employs millions of people all over the world...we don't cure disease but we are one of the most benevolent industries." AMEN.
Mrs. and Mr. Weber-all smiles

He then recounted his personal history in the biz...and how his motivation to excel is not about the "money, title or power...or politics."

"I would have worked for free."

Weber thanked his team many times--- and acknowledged how as an American in a European company, there was a different culture to work with--- and a lot to learn. But like he figured out how to get an AAFA award since he was a 26 year old, attending his first American Image Awards dinner...

"I did okay for a kid from Brooklyn."

Very cool.