Memorial services for Melvin T. Matsui will be held Saturday, May 4, at the Seattle Buddhist Church.
Matsui, the founder of Code Bleu and Simply Blue, died at his home in Seattle on April 12 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 68.
This story first appeared in the April 29, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A member of the brain trust that propelled Brittania to dominance in the young men’s jeans category in the Seventies, Matsui was drawn to the fashion business after working at Seattle’s Bon Marche during his college years. He spent four years in key merchandising and sourcing roles for the company in Hong Kong before returning to Seattle in 1979.
Following his years at Brittania, Matsui founded Code Bleu, a men’s jeans firm known for its innovative design approach and often cited as a precursor of the premium denim business. He sold the name to Cherokee Group in 1987 and later started Simply Blue and its Christopher Blue brother division, which were sold to Hartmarx Corp. prior to its first bankruptcy. He remained with Simply Blue for several years after its sale.
“The essence of Mel was creativity,” said Alan Bobin, the former president and chief executive officer of Generra who now heads Bobin Consulting Group. “He was truly a creative genius when it came to the jeans business, especially men’s jeans, at Brittania, at Quiksilver, wherever he brought his talent. So many things that would later become important — top stitching in jeans, stretch jeans — started with Mel, and when he ventured into tops he brought the same level of creativity to them. And his presence in Hong Kong was a key to Brittania’s success, one of the main reasons they were able to produce what they did before anyone else had figured it out. Mel was the one who was willing to ride the plane.”
Although strong-willed and competitive, he was remembered for his sense of humor and positive outlook, which Bobin said served him well in his final days.
He is survived by four sons, Brent, Marc, Christopher and Colin; two daughters, Melissa and Carly; his sister, Carol Wells, and two granddaughters.