NEW YORK — Max J. Garelick, a former president and chief executive officer of Perry Ellis International, died Saturday. He was 65.

The cause of death was prostate cancer, according to his family.

Garelick was ceo of PEI from 1994 until 1999, the year Supreme International acquired the company from the estate of Perry Ellis, who died in 1986.

Upon joining PEI, where the number one item on Garelick’s to-do list was getting Perry Ellis back into women’s sportswear, he displayed some of his business philosophy when he told WWD, “Nothing in this business is easy. I always think there’s room for another major player, if the point of view is not redundant with what’s already out there.”

Since then, women’s sportswear under the name has gone through several incarnations, including a license with Kellwood Co. and, currently, a better-priced line licensed to Public Clothing Co. and a higher-priced collection to be produced by PEI.

“He had a real ‘up’ personality; he was a happy guy,” said Joseph Gromek, ceo of Warnaco Group, who reported to Garelick for a time when they both worked at Saks Fifth Avenue. “He loved fashion, he loved product and he loved to gossip about the industry. His last exposure at Perry Ellis was just the icing on the cake for him.”

Prior to joining PEI, Garelick was president and ceo of the North American retail business of the French knitwear company Rodier Paris, and vice president of operations and administration at Ellen Tracy.

He also had an extensive retail background, working at Saks and Thimbles Specialty Stores, each part of the then Batus Retail Group, before being named senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Batus Retail, which was shuttered in the early Nineties after its British parent company sold its retail holdings.

Garelick began his career in the training program at Filene’s, then part of Federated Department Stores, before moving on to Celanese Fibers Marketing Co., Dayton Hudson Corp. and Associated Dry Goods Corp.

He is survived by his mother, Sophie; two brothers, Frank and Jon; two sons, Bruce and Jeffrey, and a granddaughter. A memorial service is planned for Monday.

This story first appeared in the October 12, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

— Evan Clark