Sportswear Designer Robert Krugman Dies at 72

Robert Krugman, who designed casual women’s sportswear under his name and for the Ilya label, died on Aug. 9 at his home.

Robert Krugman, who designed casual women’s sportswear under his name and for the Ilya label, died of multiple myeloma on Aug. 9 at his home in West Hollywood, Calif. He was 72.


Krugman coined the phrase “country club casual” to refer to his aesthetic, said Doris Pittell, owner of the women’s clothing store Brown House in Sacramento, Calif., a customer of Krugman’s for 30 years. “He was of an era where women were dressed well with well-fitting clothes,” she said.


Krugman didn’t set out to be in the apparel industry. He left his native Chicago for New York to pursue a theatrical career and picked up the odd apparel job to pay the bills. He discovered he had a talent for fashion and began designing for the maternity line Dan Howard. “He had an innate sense of fabric and color from the very beginning,” said his wife, Mary Krugman.


He became a partner with Walter Holmes in the apparel company Robert Walters Inc. and started his own label in New York around 1978, concentrating on women’s blouses and jackets, Mary Krugman said. The line was initially available in major department stores, including Lord & Taylor and Macy’s, but ultimately Krugman left those stores and stuck to selling to specialty stores such as Brown House, The Alley, Jami’s and Barbara Katz.


In the Eighties, Krugman developed the Ilya label with cotton knit pieces for women’s casualwear wardrobes. “There were incredibly comfortable things that could take you from day to night,” Mary Krugman said.


Krugman moved his family and business to Southern California in 1989. As recently as last spring, he was putting on trunk shows at stores to showcase his latest collection. Ruffled jackets were among Krugman’s signature pieces.


“He was never trendy; he was on top of what was out there, but he never followed strictly,” Mary Krugman said.


Pittell said Krugman “was a benchmark for honesty, friendliness, decency, and we don’t see that very much in this business.”


A memorial is planned for 1 p.m. Thursday at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township, N.J. In addition to his wife, Krugman is survived by a sister, two daughters and two grandchildren.