NEW YORK — Rena Franklin, president of Alvin Valley, a young designer sportswear company in SoHo, died Friday at Mt. Sinai Medical Center here.
The cause of death was breast cancer, according to her husband, Alan. She was 45.
Working up until her death, Franklin is credited with establishing Alvin Valley’s business, opening such accounts as Kirna Zabête, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Fred Segal, Traffic, Searle and Planet Blue.
“She made the whole difference in our business,” said Alvin Valley from his offices Monday. “We went from having five accounts to having 500 accounts in six months. She ran our business. She basically took me and directed me and put the whole business together from merchandising the collection to getting the press. She got every store from Saks to Neiman’s to Barneys and Bendel’s. She would say to them, ‘You need to buy this.’”
“She [would tell accounts], ‘You buy this, or you’ll miss out on something.’” said Valley.
Valley recalled that when they met in Los Angeles last September, Franklin said she saw potential in his company.
“She said to me, ‘I want to help you. I need to clean you up and merchandise you a little bit. You’re the real thing,’ ” he said.
With a high energy and vivacious personality, Franklin continued to travel to Europe and Asia despite her illness. In fact, this past winter she traveled to Japan and opened Barneys Japan as an Alvin Valley account. She even conducted a six-hour sales seminar at Neiman Marcus in New York the Saturday before she died.
David Lazar, director of retail at Searle, said he had admired a pair of pants Franklin was wearing one day —”she was always so elegantly dressed” —and she said they were Alvin Valley’s. “She wasn’t even working there, but she said, ‘You have to buy them,’ and the next day, we took a cab down there and we became Alvin’s first account in New York.
“She was one of the nicest, warmest, truest people. She never complained, she never wanted sympathy. She lived life and really enjoyed everything,” said Lazar.
Beth Buccini, co-owner of Kirna Zabête, said, “She had so much style. She had a wonderful spirit and grace, and was one of the most dynamic women I’ve ever come across. She was so full of life and vitality.”
Born in Perth Amboy, N.J., Franklin grew up in Havertown, Pa., outside Philadelphia. She came to New York after graduating from Northwestern University and joined Rogers & Cowan, the public relations firm. She worked her way up from public relations manager to corporate vice president, working for such clients as Pantone, Redken and Mattel.
She then switched from public relations to the fashion business. She opened her own accessories and antique fabric business with Leisa Holland Nelson. For the past six years, Franklin also served as the U.S. representative for Bow Well Antiques, an antique shop in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before joining Valley, Franklin was head of sales at Caryn Vallon, a designer knitwear firm, where she worked for three years.
A resident of Manhattan, Franklin spent her spare time with her family, enjoying cultural pursuits such as theater, museums, movies and travel.
Besides her husband, Franklin is survived by her son, Ian; mother, Anne Holt, and sisters Nina Neer and Myra Rattner.