NEW YORK — Irwin Alfin, a former executive at Chanel and Revlon who began his own fragrance distribution business in the Eighties called Alfin Fragrances Inc., died Thursday at Presbyterian Hospital here, said his son, David. He was 77.
Alfin, a Rutgers University graduate, was an Army second lieutenant during the Korean War and then got his first job in the fashion industry as a salesman in the Southeast for Sacony, an early producer of women's suits. He relocated to New York when Sacony promoted him to sales manager.
Alfin's entry into the beauty business came when Revlon, then led by Charles Revson, appointed him as vice president. Several years later, Chanel approached Alfin and subsequently named him president. After about two years at Chanel, Alfin moved to the West Coast to become president of Max Factor.
He founded his namesake fragrance distribution firm as the exclusive distributor of Bal à Versailles.
"It was our family business," David Alfin said. "We also distributed Jean Patou's Joy, Madame Grès, Fracas and Jaguar. Alfin Fragrances Inc. was his career."
Alfin Fragrances, which was publicly traded, owned the Adrian Arpel skin care business and its biggest brand was Ombre Rose, a fragrance by French milliner and accessories designer Jean-Charles Brosseau. Ombre Rose was distributed to Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
While running the firm, Irwin Alfin also served as president of the Fragrance Foundation. He retired after about 15 years at the helm of Alfin Fragrances.
In addition to his son, Alfin is survived by his wife of 55 years, Betsy; a daughter, Susan, and six grandchildren.
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