A tribute to menswear exec mel goldfeder

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Mel Goldfeder with Stu Nifoussi

The menswear industry mourns the loss last week of our beloved Mel Goldfeder, icon and friend to so many. A Brooklyn native who resided in Manhattan and Long Island, Mel had a difficult childhood, dealing at a young age with both polio and the loss of his mom. Surely these challenges reinforced his passion for life, for family and friends, and for helping those in need. Mel raised untold dollars for UJA Federation and other industry charities. In addition to his legendary kindness and generosity, Mel was known for his work ethic (most notably his half-century at Swank, where he built profitable men’s accessory businesses for numerous top store buyers), his joie de vivre, his enjoyment of good food (what a treat to dine with him at Bamonte’s in Brooklyn!) and his devotion to his beloved wife Barbara, their cherished children Susan and Richard, and their adored grandchildren.

Says Rick Luft, who worked with Mel for many years at Swank, “Above all else, when I think of Mel, I think of someone who loved to help anyone he could. His willingness to support others seemed like a higher calling. His favorite phrase “How can I help?” had real meaning behind the words. His extraordinary relationships and friendships within the industry went well beyond just business partnerships–they were enduring, personal and lifelong. What a most wonderful man, with an enormous heart, who will be missed by so many!”

Ronald Wurtzburger from Peerless agrees, “Mel was a very nice man, who gave of himself to try to help people. When you mention his name people will always say ‘what a nice guy!’”

Adds Stu Nifoussi, former MR publisher, “Mel was always so generous with his time and assistance, a great friend to all. His relationships were genuine and caring; his presence is already missed.”

Recalls Barbara Blank at JS Blank neckwear: “For many years, Mel and I worked together for the men’s neckwear and accessory division of the UJA Federation. His unwavering dedication to this cause was so impressive and a real inspiration to me. His sense of humor made the meetings much more fun.”

Harold Master was a good friend, also in the belt business. “I knew Mel for more than 20 years and although we were competitors, we’d always turn to each other for advice: whether considering a new job or selling a company, I’d always discuss it first with Mel. We’d even share buyer contacts, with no jealousy. Mel loved his work and with his amazing ability to connect with people, his buyers became good friends. Everyone loved Mel.”

Stewart Golden describes Mel as “the real deal. He was unbelievably generous and kind, always giving you his full attention. I especially remember his dinners in Las Vegas at The Palm on the last night of MAGIC—it was always a fun group with lots of laughter, great food and drinks (except for Mel who didn’t drink…) He’d sometimes leave the group before his guests in order to catch the Red Eye home but he’d keep the check open so his friends could continue partying. I really loved him, as did everyone who knew him.”

Ben Swaab, a longtime buyer at Nordstrom Rack from 1987 to 2016, was a huge Goldfeder fan. “Mel built our belt business, giving us many years of great increases. Back in the day, accessories business at off-price stores was always ‘assorted…’ Mel was the first to suggest that we merchandise by size, by color. Plus he made sure that all goods we received were perfect. Any problems, he’d call the warehouse and they’d immediately fix things. They loved him and would do anything for him.

“More importantly, Mel was a great friend; I could talk to him about anything. When I first met him, before Seattle had a football team, I was a Jets fan. Mel learned this and a week later, I received a genuine Joe Namath jersey. He somehow knew everyone and had the most amazing connections: from restaurant owners to police chiefs to sports stars, everyone loved Mel. He was a sweetheart, not a bit phony, and a friend for life. After I retired, when I could no longer give him business, he still called regularly just to catch up. I loved the guy!”

Joel Cohen also knew Mel from the apparel business. “Mel was much more than a friend: he was a confidant and a voice of reason. He was a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor and a heart of gold.”

Sums up industry colleague David Katz, “Mel Goldfeder was a constant in a world of change. He was a constant friend and optimistic business partner. And, he was constantly in the office early, sharing the day’s news and cups of bad coffee. (He did not share his morning bagel.)

“I’ve known Mel for nearly three decades. He was one of my first business acquaintances. Mel was introduced to me as an industry icon as we worked together on the Pierre Cardin brand as licensees; he for accessories and me for luggage. Many years later, when Randa acquired Swank, Inc., I saw Mel often at New York City offices, sharing news, gossip and what he called coffee, early each morning.

“Mel knew everyone and was happy to share facts, figures, and his philosophy. I join the industry, his friends from Swank and Randa, his family, and particularly Mel’s wife Barbara (who is essentially the mayor of Rockville Center, Long Island) in mourning this loss. There was only one Mel, and he will be missed.”

5 Replies to “A TRIBUTE TO MENSWEAR EXEC MEL GOLDFEDER”

    1. Mel was a true gentleman and part of our family for my whole life! My Dad worked with Mel at Swank from the day he was hired in 1967, and I had the great pleasure to work with Mel for my entire career at Swank. His positive influence, and sense of humor will be greatly missed!

      1. Mel was one of the very first vendors I was able to work with once being promoted to a Buyer at TJX. Mel was honest, genuine, kind and showed me the ropes. Trust is not always a word you are able to use in business, however Mel was a glowing exception the the stereotype He allowed me learn and grow in business all while asking how my dating life was. Mel you are missed.

  1. That was a moving tribute to my Uncle and godfather, Mel Goldfeder. He was a very loving and generous man who exemplified the meaning of family. I’ll always remember visiting him in Rockville Centre as a child and he’d always get us Sunday breakfast from the deli. Great memories, great man!

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