Robert Friedman, 82, a longtime May Co. executive who served as president and chief executive officer of both L.S. Ayres and Famous-Barr Co., died Thursday at Horizon Hospice at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
The cause of death was cancer, according to his son Dan, president of global sourcing and international at Brown Shoe Co.
Friedman was born in Brooklyn in 1931 and received a bachelor of science degree in business/merchandising from City College. After graduation, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
After serving two years, Friedman became an assistant buyer at the Boston Store in Milwaukee, where he worked for four years and met his wife, Carole, a cosmetics sales clerk who was attending Marquette University. They were married in 1958.
Friedman rose through the retail ranks, buying women’s apparel for such stores as Davison’s in Atlanta, Wallace’s Department Store in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Pomeroy’s in Harrisburg, Pa., before joining Lit Bros. in Philadelphia as general merchandise manager. David Mullen, then president of Washington-based Woodward & Lothrop, recruited him to join W&L as a general merchandise manager. Friedman later moved to Washington-based Hecht Co., a division of The May Co., which launched his May Co. career. He worked for May Co.-Cleveland, returned to Hecht as executive vice president in 1987 and, when May bought Associated Dry Goods, became president and ceo of L.S. Ayres, based in Indianapolis. He later became president and ceo of Famous-Barr in St. Louis until 1991. He then consulted for several apparel firms, including Kasper and Tahari ASL before retiring in 2002.
“He was very well-liked and very aggressive. If he believed in something, he went for it. He made things happen,” said Arthur S. Levine, owner and partner of Tahari ASL.
“He was a great, driving merchant,” said John Henderson, an industry consultant. “He really built the footwear and women’s suit business at May Co.”
In addition to his wife and his son Dan, Friedman is survived by two other children, Ellen Ruble and another son, Michael, and seven grandchildren.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast