Michael Litvack, chief executive officer of Bagatelle International Inc., the New York-based manufacturer of contemporary ready-to-wear, outerwear, leather and faux leather clothing, died Monday at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 68.
Litvack died after a three-year battle with cancer, according to his son, Jamie Litvack, president of Bagatelle.
Born and raised in Montreal, Michael Litvack didn’t attend college and instead started his career working for companies such as Algo Group Inc., before joining Bagatelle in 1988 as sales manager.
Begun in 1968, Bagatelle made woven fabric sportswear and leather and suede clothing and had its own factory, selling mostly Canadian retailers. During the ’90s, the company’s women’s fashions were featured in the Victoria’s Secret and Spiegel mail order catalogues, and were carried by retailers such as Casual Corner, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
Litvack started buying shares of the company, and after some difficult financial times and various investors, eventually purchased Bagatelle in 2013 and became the sole owner. “When times were tough, he’d go so long without taking a salary,” said his son, Jamie.
In 2002, Bagatelle began expanding beyond leather outerwear into new product categories becoming a full-service apparel resource, including doing private label for retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Ann Taylor, Chico’s and Urban Outfitters.
Under his leadership, Litvack quickly built a strong U.S. presence while establishing a worldwide network of design, sourcing and manufacturing experts between the U.S., Canada, Asia and Europe. He worked closely with his sons, Adam, executive vice president, marketing and e-commerce, and Jamie, who in January 2022, was promoted to president from executive vice president of sales and merchandising.
In 2022, Bagatelle signed a multiyear licensing agreement with Kathy Ireland for outerwear, dresses and denim.
At the time, Ireland told WWD, “The clothes are everything we imagined. Michael [Litvack] and Jamie [Litvack] are gentlemen of quality, taste and an authentic understanding of our design dreams.”
Today, Bagatelle designs and manufactures outerwear, sportswear, denim and dresses, specializing in genuine and vegan leather clothing. In addition to Kathy Ireland, the company’s two halo brands are Avec Les Filles and Bagatelle Collection. Since 2021, Bagatelle’s business has more than quadrupled.
According to Jamie Litvack, his father was well respected in both the retail and vendor communities. “It brings great comfort how he’s influenced them and impacted all parts of the industry,” said Jamie Litvack. “Anyone who has been lucky enough to have business dealings with him saw that his principles flowed from his personal life to his professional life. When those principles were applied, he always seemed to do the right thing in every situation. That’s his legacy. He was always called a mensch and he was very fair.”
During his career, Litvack moved manufacturing from Canada to overseas locations.
“All of Bagatelle was [originally] local and domestic. In the early to mid-1990s, my father pioneered overseas manufacturing. He spent a lot of time in China and India, and was one of the first manufacturers in China,” said his other son, Adam Litvack.
Adam Litvack recalled that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, his father drove down from Canada, where he worked, to the U.S. with his wife, and visited many of his customers to see them face-to-face and offer his condolences. That included a visit to TJ Maxx in Framingham, Massachusetts, where the company had lost several employees who were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11.
“He always did the right thing — people first,” said Adam Litvack.
In addition to his sons, Adam and Jamie, Litvack is survived by his wife, Joanne Bromberg, his daughter-in-law Cassidy and grandchildren Chloe, Jonah, Eloise and Georgie.
Michael Litvack and his wife established the Joanne and Michael Litvack Endowment Fund for Hope & Cope, a nonprofit organization comprised of 400 volunteers managed and guided by a professional staff to support cancer patients and their caregivers. Michael Litvack was also a dedicated supporter of the Avec Les Filles Foundation, whose mission is to impact change with an emphasis on positivity, inclusivity and community though meaningful partnerships and donations.
Litvack was also an avid golfer. “He loved his golf,” added Jamie Litvack.
About seven years ago, Litvack bought a home in Boca Raton on a golf course so he could pursue his passion and set up a dedicated home office there so he could work full time during the winter. He still maintained a home in Montreal.
Funeral services will be held Friday at noon at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Rue Jean-Talon O, in Montreal.