by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR is saddened to report the passing of Al Arden, menswear rep, talented designer, entrepreneur, and impresario, who at age 82 lost his battle with prostate cancer. He died on March 13th at his NYC home with his beautiful wife Helen at this side.

Friend and colleague Frank Schipani called him “the best salesman I ever knew and always a mensch… Al was a wonderful guy with Hollywood looks and an innate ability to forecast fashion. He created a huge business for Zanella pants in the U.S. by re-engineering the fit so it worked for American men. These were the most expensive pants in the market but everyone wanted them. (Al and Helen were models for the early Zanella ads in the States!)

“Al then started repping more advanced, directional collections, and somehow everything he carried sold out in top stores. He was cutting-edge (I remember him looking amazing wearing a black cape) and he could spot fashion from miles away. I’m grateful I got to spend time with him shortly before he died.”

Another business friend, David Rubenstein of Rubenstein’s in New Orleans, called Arden the consummate showman. “When you were shopping a collection in his showroom, it wasn’t about draping the pants and sportcoats across a table. Al would leave the room, put on the pants and sportcoat, add a scarf, and then dramatically re-enter the room looking fabulous.  It didn’t hurt that he was movie-star handsome and always happy. He was the easiest guy to get along with, and he could sell you anything. His collections performed so well that of course you’d come back, and bring your friends!”

Few knew Arden better than Kjell Wikenstam, who relates that in addition to his well-known success with Zanella, Al once owned a record shop in Vegas, was friends with Sammy Davis Jr., outfitted Michael Jackson for his TV appearances, and much more. He brought many new European brands to America, had a store in Soho featuring avant-garde Japanese designers, and ultimately decided to freelance with the Trybus group. Says Gary Trybus, who worked closely with Al for many years, “Al was a super salesman and talented designer with a dynamic personality.  It was a pleasure traveling with him to France and especially to Italy since he spoke fluent Italian and knew the country well. He was a tremendous asset to us at Trybus; I’m grateful to have spent quality time with him.”

Al with his adored wife Helen

No one would argue that the love of Arden’s life was his elegant wife Helen, who shares how they met. “It was at a trade show and I was modeling for one of his friends. Al saw me at the booth and asked his friend for my number, but since I had a date with that friend that evening, he didn’t provide it. But I tracked Al down and we had dinner that night, bonding immediately (despite standing up his friend). We got married a year or so later; this was 42 years ago…”

According to Helen, her parents were born-again Christians who were not too thrilled about her marrying someone Jewish. “My mother was worried because he didn’t believe in Jesus. But Al, in his inimitable way, quickly won her over, spending much time with her in the kitchen, teaching her to cook Mexican food, always helping her clean up after. They became great friends.”

Helen describes her husband as “very intense but incredibly generous and kind. I’m now hearing all these stories from neighbors in the building about the many ways Al helped them over the years. And such nice feedback from his retail clients about how Al was always so honest, always doing the right thing. He truly connected with his customers: from Barney Pressman and Murry Pearlstein to the NBA players for whom he made B&T clothing. From celebrities to ordinary types, Al loved people. He was a born salesman and adored fashion, designing, importing. His determination when he believed in something was incredible: he went back to Italy five times before Zanella let him rep the line. When Zanella refused to make their pants in black (the fashion in Italy was navy, even the mills eschewed black), Al approached Loro Piana (who made black cloth only for the Vatican) and convinced them to produce black fabric for Zanella. When he believed in something, Al made it happen; he never took no for an answer.”

For those so inclined, Helen suggests that a donation to a prostate cancer organization would be a wonderful way to help conquer this terrible disease.

RIP Al Arden: you will be greatly missed.


  1. Al was a fantastic merchant and a wonderful person
    May he RIP

    1. Rest In Peace my friend. 🙏🥰. I know God already has just updated his wardrobe … ♥️

    2. Al Arden was truly one of a kind. An inspirational and inspired larger than life personality who breathed and lived Fashion at the highest level. He will be deeply missed.

      1. My wife and I worked with Al when he was producing the Royal Canadian brand and had many interactions with him. He had so much foresight in fashion and was not shy to share with others. Al advised us to seek out women’s fabric suppliers for colour and excitement to make men’s sport jackets. A huge character in the industry, Al will truly be missed.

  2. AL was a good guy who understood and appreciated fashion. May he rest in peace.

  3. Al was so much more than an innovative designer, a terrific rep. He excited everyone around him to appreciate the beauty of clothing, architecture, food, jewelry. He inspired me, opened my eyes to much and was a true friend. I know he is in God’s Hands.

  4. Al & I traveled all over France & Italy each season buying fabric, samples, eating, & drinking a lot of wine. One time we spent two weeks in Mongolia getting our line perfected. We had more fun then you can imagine. Al will be truly missed my me and many others.

  5. I will miss you forever, you been a very special person a real FRIEND and please…
    leave the angels alone they are not like those of Victoria’s Secret.
    Thank you for have me part of your life. Love you e Grazie amico mio

  6. We remember Al fondly. Those were the great days of men’s wear specialist. We opened our business in 1922 . In 1976 women’s wear was added to our store. As Italian fashion was making a big impression in America it was a perfect avenue for Zanella pants. Al taught us that you learned through osmosis in a fun way. May his memory be for a blessing.
    With admiration,
    Pat Brousseau, Sam & Sharon Anapolsky
    Julius Clothing Sacramemto,California

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