About 140 women who already share a commitment to community got to share a beyond-the-runway peek at the dynamic world of high fashion.
Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, provided that insider’s perspective at the annual Main Event program of the Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. Held May 10 at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick, the gathering gave the guests the opportunity to shop, nosh, and celebrate that their efforts on behalf of Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County have helped Jews locally and around the world.
“We are thrilled that we were able to raise an additional
$10,000 for our Jewish community,” said Women’s Philanthropy director Audrey Napchen. “It was casual and fun. Most importantly, we came together to support those who need our help and to continue a tradition of caring and giving as we pave the way for our community’s vibrant future.”
Nancy Asher-Shultz of South Brunswick was attending her first Main Event after becoming a 2012 Marion and Norman Tanzman Leadership Fellow. Through the fellowship, she said, she interacted with “people from different backgrounds working toward the same goals and mission.” She also joined the other fellows representing synagogues and agencies supported by federation on a recent mission to Israel.
With her children getting older, the idea of becoming involved in federation was appealing, said Asher-Shultz. “It was bashert.”
As the youngest person in attendance, 19-year-old Aviva Korbman of Highland Park said she has always been aware of the crucial work of federation through her father, Jeffrey, who serves as assistant executive vice president at United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, based in Whippany.
“I also want to be involved locally with our federation,” she said. “It’s a great cause.”
‘Like a community’
Speaking to the women from the bima, her royal blue blouse matching her high-heeled slides, Mallis told of a life immersed in the fashion world. She grew up in Jewish Brooklyn with a father “in the industry” as a seller of women’s scarves.
She said she would go with him to Seventh Avenue in Manhattan “any time I could,” reveling in the hub of the fashion district, where workers rolled racks of clothes through the street amid a constant whirl of activity.
The fashion district “was like a community back then,” said Mallis. “Everyone knew everyone else.”
Her career took off after she snagged a prestigious guest editorship at Mademoiselle magazine while in college, working on its “back to school” edition, a big deal back then, “although now everyone just packs an extra pair of jeans to go back to college,” she said.
The only one of the 20 guest editors who went on to be hired by the magazine, Mallis soon moved up the fashion ladder, directing merchandising for stores of a bygone era and eventually starting her own public relations firm.
Mallis eventually became executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, where she found herself sitting in meetings with such design luminaries as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger — and “everyone whose clothes or fragrance you have ever worn.”
In 1993, Mallis launched Fashion Week and for the next 17 years was in charge of the tents in Bryant Park that drew the world’s leading fashionistas to New York, leaving just as the event was to move to Lincoln Center.
“I knew it was the end of the line for me,” she said. “This was my baby.”
Mallis went on to travel the world as senior vice president for IMG Fashion. She now hosts “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis,” a conversation series at the 92nd Street Y, and Fashion Insiders with Fern Mallis, a show on Sirius XM Radio, and in February, QVC network launched Fern Finds, her globally inspired jewelry line.