Herbert R. Aronson, a men’s wear industry legend who had served as president of the Manhattan Menswear Group and executive vice president of Salant Corp., died at his home in Connecticut Monday night after a long illness. He was 88.
Aronson, who was also an active member and past president of the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council, had most recently acted as an industry consultant through his company, HR Aronson Associates.
Born in Philadelphia, Aronson served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II. Following his service, he returned to Philadelphia and went to night school at the University of Pennsylvania while working at a local shoe store. After getting married in 1951, he became a traveling salesman in Philadelphia before moving to New York City, where he joined his father-in-law’s business, Berkeley Cravats. That business was sold to Manhattan Industries in the Seventies and became part of the company’s accessories group. Aronson ran the accessories part of the business for Manhattan, and is credited with bringing Liberty of London and Yves Saint Laurent licenses to the company, along with Perry Ellis and Henry Grethel. He is also believed to have introduced the English rugby shirt to the States.
Manhattan Industries was purchased by Salant Corp. in 1988 in a hostile takeover, and Aronson remained with the company. Salant filed bankruptcy for a third time in 1997 and the company was subsequently broken off and sold in pieces. After leaving Salant, Aronson worked as a consultant until his retirement about five years ago.
Michael Setola, former chairman of Salant and now president and chief executive officer of Greg Norman Collection, called Aronson “a dear friend and great advocate of the business. He was always there to help, provide direction and make introductions. He taught me so much.”
Larry Leeds, former chairman of Manhattan Industries and now chairman of Buckingham Capital Management, said: “Herb was a legendary seller. He took a $3 million business and built it into a $75 million accessories juggernaut. He was one of the most popular and acclaimed executives in the men’s industry. He probably attended more than 100 consecutive MAGIC shows, was one of the best dressed men’s executives and could get in to see any chief executive of any department store in the country, in the days when there were over 500 department stores. He was known for his knowledge, wit, charm and personality.”
Joe Rivers, executive director of the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council, called Aronson “an industry legend” who contributed greatly to the “wonderful success” the organization now enjoys.
Aronson is survived by his wife of 59 years, Connie, as well as his children, Gigi Kotler and Peter Aronson, their spouses and four grandchildren.
Services will be held Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home at 81st Street and Madison Avenue.
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