NEW YORK — Alan B. Larkin, a pioneer of apparel trade shows, died Sunday morning at Boca Raton Community Hospital of heart failure. He was 80.
This story first appeared in the December 4, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Reached Wednesday in Boca Raton, David Larkin, his eldest son, said, “My dad had just finished eating lunch with a friend at a bar. When the check arrived, both tried to reach into their pockets to see who could pay the bill the fastest. My father fell off the stool, broke some bones, developed pneumonia and later died of complications.”
Larkin was one of the trade show and exposition industry’s founders and innovators, a well as a philanthropist and a longtime contributor and senior vice president of B‘Nai Brith International, where he was particularly interested in Hillel, its affiliated youth organization.
His dedication to business as well as community service was nurtured as a child in Maine by his late father and mother, Joseph and Bessie Larkin. Larkin would drive his father, an apparel salesman who became blind, throughout New England to sell merchandise.
After co-founding Larkin Publications with his brother, Harold, in Boston in 1945, he published trade magazines related to a once-thriving New England fashion industry. It was after the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, when political, cultural and fashion influences began to reflect a new breed of free-spirited consumers, that the late Larkin “sensed an opportunity to start a trade show for the Woodstock generation’s emerging fashion sensibility,” said David Larkin.
“The first National Fashion & Boutique show in September 1969 catered to this sensibility and it became the first mass-market trade show for fashion,” he said.
Larkin Publications was later renamed The Larkin Group and continued as one of the leading fashion trade shows in the U.S., focusing on women’s fashion apparel and accessories and children’s fashion apparel and textiles. In addition to the International Fashion & Boutique show, other fairs produced by the Larkin family included the International Kid’s Fashion Show, the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition and Style Works. The company also published trade publications on fashion and, later, musical instruments.
In 1999, The Larkin Group was sold to Boston-based Advanstar Publications.
“My dad grew up during the Depression and he was thankful everyday of his life for his family and success,” David Larkin said. “In 1996 when there was the big snow storm, a lot of visitors had spent a lot of money with us. My dad said, ‘You have to do the best thing, the right thing,’ and we sent them back their money immediately.”
In addition to his son, Larkin is survived by his wife, Charna; a brother, Harold, and two sons, Jonathan and A.J.