NEW YORK — Gus Goodman, who built a healthy fur business by hitching his name to those of well-known designers, died June 20 at the age of 82.
The cause of death was accidental, according to his son and business partner, David, who declined to elaborate.
Born in New York City, Goodman spent most of his childhood in Queens. During a four-year run in the U.S. Army in World War II, Goodman rose the ranks to sergeant. Afterward, he joined L.I. Goodman, the fur business started by his late father, Isador, and his uncle, Louis, and attended Queens College at night to earn his business degree.
In the late Forties, the younger Goodman made his first pitch to work with a designer, by approaching Pauline Trigere. She agreed to have Goodman design fur trims for her ready-to-wear collection. Their collaboration continued for decades, with Goodman producing her signature licensed fur collection in the Seventies and Eighties.
Over the years, the company’s name changed several times. In the early Seventies, it was renamed Gus Goodman and stayed that way until 2003, when the father-son team switched it to Goodman Couture.
During his lengthy career, Gus Goodman designed fur items for designers such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Arnold Scaasi, Norman Norell, Mollie Parnis and Adele Simpson. More recently, he teamed up with Zang Toi, Heidi Weisel and Derek Lam.
He also dealt with his share of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace, Ginger Rogers and Carol Burnett. David Goodman recalled once seeing Rogers running around the company showroom in a girdle when she was being fitted for a fur skirt.
“He was happy to have them as clients, but celebrity status never impressed him. He was really impressed by talent and their ideas,” David Goodman said Tuesday. “That’s why he was so good at what he did.”
The elder Goodman dealt with designers the same way. His gentle and even-keeled manner appealed to them, even the hot-tempered ones, his son said.
Being innovative was one of the ways Gus Goodman built such a stable of designers. In the Forties, he started dyeing furs in fashion colors. In the Fifties, he broke into fur accessories. During the Sixties, he broke ground by making fur and leather jackets and coats, and in the early Seventies, he made a name for himself by designing fur-lined outerwear and reversible fur raincoats, which were a hit in the U.S. as well as in Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.
In addition to his son, David, Goodman is survived by his wife, Harriet; a daughter, Karen Stefano, and sons Clifford and Mark.