Lester Kronfeld, founder of the Lester’s specialty stores in New York and New Jersey, died Saturday at age 87 of natural causes.
Kronfeld and his wife of 65 years, Lillian, who survives him, built Lester’s from a single, 300-square-foot discount children’s wear store in Brooklyn to a group of six expansive, contemporary stores that offer trendy apparel in babies, kids, juniors and women’s wear. More than 1,000 people attended services for Kronfeld on Sunday in Woodbury, Long Island, N.Y., including about 200 Lester’s employees, said his nephew, Barry Cohen.
“They catered to a mostly Jewish and Italian Brooklyn community in the beginning and grew a very loyal customer base. Back in those days, they used to shop in the showrooms and factories that were right on Seventh Avenue and bring back merchandise to the store and sell it on the same day,” said Cohen, who now owns and manages the Lester’s stores with the Kronfelds’ daughter, Sheri, and her husband, Perry Schorr.
The company encompasses the original Brooklyn store — now greatly enlarged via annexations of neighboring buildings — as well as locations in Manhattan’s Upper East Side; Greenvale, N.Y.; Huntington Station, N.Y.; Rye, N.Y., and Deal, N.J. The Brooklyn store is the largest at about 18,000 square feet, followed by the Huntington Station store at about 15,000 square feet. The Manhattan store is about 10,000 square feet, as are the Greenvale and Rye units, while the Deal store is 5,000 square feet.
“He was a great businessman and a great promoter. He was a born salesman and his wife was a tremendous buyer and his customers loved him,” recalled Cohen.
The Kronfelds, who were longtime Brooklyn residents who later moved to the gated community of North Shore Towers in Queens, were active in running Lester’s well into their seventies.
Kronfeld was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on May 7, 1925, to Esther and Leo Kronfeld. He joined the U.S. Navy at 18 during World War II, serving from 1943 to 1946. Kronfeld was posted to the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Quincy and saw action during the invasion of Normandy. He also accompanied President Roosevelt when the ship transported him to the Yalta Conference in 1945.
Kronfeld and his wife opened their first store near Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood in 1948 and called it the Little Miss Dress Shop, before changing its name to Lester’s. Today, the six stores carry an array of contemporary, denim and children’s brands, such as J Brand, DKNY, Paige Denim, Seven For All Mankind, Theory, Current/Elliott, Equipment, Superga and Sam Edelman. In February, the company launched an e-commerce site.
Apart from his wife, Cohen and the Schorrs, Kronfeld is survived by his sons, Stanley and Gary; his brother, Donald, and five grandchildren.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye