“Does anyone in this audience not speak Yiddish?” So Simon Doonan opened the proceedings at the UJA-Federation of New York‘s Fashion Division Annual Luncheon this week. The question was a pertinent one, as Doonan continued with his Yiddish-sprinkled introduction to the ceremony, which gathered together members of both the fashion and Jewish communities to honor the philanthropic work of three industry luminaries: Andrew Rosen, Yehuda Shmidman, and Barneys’ COO and SEVP, Daniella Vitale.
Doonan kicked things off by pointing out the many ties between the fashion industry and the Jewish community and sharing stories of those who have helped him along his own career in fashion. “I’ve been a major mitzvah recipient over the years,” Doonan told the crowd, noting that all of his major roles came his way thanks to higher-ups taking a chance on him, many of them Jewish. He also gave a shout-out to his husband, Jonathan Adler, and joked that he loves his adopted Jewish family so much that he’s a “matzo queen.”
The afternoon continued as Doonan segued seamlessly into Kenneth Cole introducing honoree Andrew Rosen, Founder and CEO of Theory, whose career Cole summed up as “doing well by doing good.” Up next was Martha Stewart—yes, THAT Martha Stewart—who welcomed to the stage Yehuda Shmidman, CEO of management company Sequential Brands, which counts Stewart’s own lines under its portfolio. Stewart teased her boss, claiming she needed a raise due to the fact that she had to buy a second set of dishes for each of her homes so that she can be prepared to serve kosher meals to Shmidman and his wife.
The biggest crowd-pleasing moment of the day came when Daniella Vitale was introduced not by an industry insider, but by her twin 13-year-old sons, Daniel and Luca Biro. (Vitale tipped us off that Daniel had actually given her fashion advice when dressing for the event. Her Dries Van Noten dress looked great!) The duo shared with the audience that their mother is one of the “most charitable, kindhearted, and gracious” people they know, before recounting a two-week trip to Israel they took with her and the experience of working with an absorption center there for Ethiopian immigrants.
Vitale herself also recalled this experience in her speech, drawing attention to the amazing work done by UJA-Federation for people around the world, regardless of faith. She also shared her efforts closer to home, which have included working with UJA-Federation at a Washington Heights community center.
Scroll on for a closer look at the luncheon’s festivities, and keep an eye peeled for familiar faces: in addition to the Barneys team, designers Victor Alfaro, Lisa Perry, Nili Lotan, Anthony Thomas Melillo, Sharon Khazzam, and Ileana Makri were all in attendance, among others.