Sidney A. Mayer, a longtime merchant at Saks Fifth Avenue who was a mentor and friend to many of the industry’s most prominent names, including Roger Farah and Burt Tansky, died suddenly at his New York home on June 21, according to his wife, Eve Mayer.
Mayer was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and started as a trainee at Saks right after completing the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University. He spent his entire career at the store, becoming the first vice president named for men’s clothing at the company and ultimately rising to senior vice president.
Following his retirement in 1990, Mayer served as consultant to Saks for its Off Fifth stores.
During his time at the retailer, Mayer was the first to give Ralph Lauren a shop at Saks at a time when designer boutiques were few and far between. He traveled the world buying fabrics for the company’s private-label offerings and helped build the store’s men’s and boys’ departments as well as its men’s shoe area.
At 6-feet, 3-inches, Mayer was a big man in stature and industry standing. Over the course of his career, he befriended Mara Urshel, cofounder of Kleinfeld Bridal, as well as Elin Saltzman, a corporate vice president of Saks. When Tansky joined Neiman’s as chief executive officer of the Neiman Marcus Group, Mayer acted as an adviser in men’s merchandising for the company’s off-price division.
Wayne Meichner, the former chief men’s merchant for Saks, said: “Sid Mayer, or Mr. Mayer as I called him, was a larger-than-life senior executive at Saks Fifth Avenue when I began my career there as an executive trainee in 1979. He was a kind, gentle man, very approachable and took a genuine interest in people and their development. Over the years, he became an early mentor of mine and someone I could always go to for advice and counsel. Sid possessed a wealth of retail knowledge, much of which was intuitive. He also had a great, dry sarcastic sense of humor that made him fun to be around. Truly one of the greats. He will be missed.”
Tansky remembered Mayer as “a very tall, good-looking guy” who was “truly a gentleman. He had a very strong personality and was an excellent merchant. He knew style and fashion and did a good job his entire career. He saw a lot and grew up with the company.”
Stan Tucker, the former men’s fashion director at Saks, also remembered Mayer as “a man with a very large presence, always friendly and very well respected in the men’s wear market. He was a personality that you could not forget.”
Roger Farah, former president and chief operating officer of Ralph Lauren Corp. and current chairman of the board at Tiffany & Co., recalled: “I had the pleasure of working with Sidney for more than a decade. He was a cultured, elegant and stylish leader who personified the Saks Fifth Avenue brand. Sidney will surely leave a lasting legacy within the organization and across the industry.”
When not working, Mayer relished books, theater, classical music, jazz and bridge.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, as well as his children, Marc and Jonathan, president of apparel brand Flow Society, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.