by Karen Alberg Grossman

All of us at MR are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Peerless Chairman Alvin Segal, who died peacefully on November 4th in his 90th year. A passionate business and community leader and philanthropist, he will be long remembered as a visionary entrepreneur, a family man, and an outstanding spokesperson for the apparel industry in Canada and beyond. He devoted a lifetime to Peerless Clothing Inc. which, under his leadership, grew to be the largest supplier of men’s tailored clothing in North America.

Incredibly proud of his Peerless teams in NYC, Montreal and Vermont, Mr. Segal was adored and respected by his colleagues. Those who knew him best speak of his intelligence, vision, inquisitive nature, joie de vivre, and extreme generosity. Here, a few thoughts from his Peerless team.

Ron Wurtzburger, President and Chairman Emeritus, Peerless Clothing International:

“Alvin Segal was a courageous leader, always ready to gamble big if he believed in something. You couldn’t challenge him once he made up his mind, but his instincts were amazing: he was almost always right! And always a risk-taker: who else would carry $30 million worth of in-stock inventory? Once he believed strongly in something, you couldn’t change his mind. He was never a pushover.

“When I joined Peerless, it was a private label company. I negotiated the first licensing deal with Kasper and from then on, Alvin gave me carte blanche to invest in brands. That, in itself, was a bold and brilliant move. But as smart as he was, Alvin always wanted his people to shine, never taking the glory for himself. He included everyone at all levels in important meetings, filling them in on impending deals so they felt part of the company.

“When I first met Alvin, he was not particularly social, but he became very comfortable, and gracious, with all types of people. At our weekly meetings, he recognized everyone equally, regardless of their positions. He was an excellent listener, truly caring about his people and always seeking their opinions. If he had to let someone go for whatever reason, it came with such a generous severance package that people would joke that they couldn’t wait to get fired…

“But beyond business, Alvin was a great philanthropist, giving so much to cancer research and Yiddish theater. He loved Israel and would travel there every year to study. He never did anything half-way: once he committed to something, he was in 100 percent! And his personal generosity allowed Peerless to generously donate to many fashion industry charities. A truly great man. I miss him already.”

Dan Orwig, President, Peerless Clothing International:

“Mr. Segal was an amazing man who influenced and touched so many. It was an honor to have known him for the last 20 years and I’m very proud that I was able to work for him and his great company. He challenged, supported and most importantly cared deeply for his team. He’s had a very big impact on me, more than he will ever know. He assembled a great team to continue his legacy and make him proud. We plan to do just that.”

Raffi Ajamian, President of Global Sourcing:

“I met Mr. Segal 35 years ago, first as a vendor to Peerless, and for the last 20 years as a member of his management team. Without a doubt, Alvin Segal was the greatest self-taught industrial engineer ever. We would travel together and visit factories in Europe and Asia; he was especially intrigued by the precision of German companies. So while the team would be studying sleeves and collars and buttonholes, Mr. Segal would be pulling out his tape measure to check the height of the cutting room table. Then he’d call our team in Montreal and ask why our tables are 46 inches when these are 48 inches? Maybe if we make ours higher, more ergonomically correct, our workers would be more comfortable and more productive? Or he’d ask questions about their lighting system and then suggest we change our lighting to improve visibility for our workers. He was always asking questions, always searching for ways to make things better.

“But perhaps his most notable trait was his simple humility. Most big companies have executive dining rooms; Alvin was happiest sitting in the cafeteria with his employees, eating whatever food was served that day and schmoozing with the employees. I will always admire how genuinely he’d chat with the janitor! There he was, chairman of the largest suit maker in North America, and he never forgot where he came from.

“A favorite anecdote about Mr. Segal: when I first met him, he was already hard of hearing and back then, hearing aids did not have the technology they do today. So in the middle of a meeting, he’d sometimes stand up, raise his hands and yell ‘wait, wait, wait,’ taking a few minutes to change the batteries, letting us know that this is an important topic so we’d better pay close attention!

“Once on a trip with him to Asia, we arrived jet-lagged and had to go right into a long boring meeting, the speaker going on and on and on about nothing. When we finally left the meeting, Mr. Segal said to me in the car, ‘Raffi, if God comes to you and says you must choose one ailment to live with for the rest of your life, choose to be hard of hearing. At least then you can shut out all the annoying people.’

“Most notably, Alvin Segal was a most brilliant industrial engineer. He knew every detail about how everything worked but he’d inevitably ask you questions to find out how much you knew. But trust me, he already knew it all…”

Tony Nardi, Chief Financial Officer:

“Quite simply, Mr. Segal was one of a kind, and a truly great visionary.”

Pat Caruso, Senior VP, Quality and Design:

“It all started 23 years ago for me. I was fortunate to work for Mr. Alvin Segal whose passion for men’s clothing and compassion for his people were always his top priorities. It was a blessing to share his passion for his Montreal factory; I will forever be grateful for my working experience with him.

I will truly miss our fittings where he would come in excitedly to ask what’s new and suggest changes. Keep the jackets soft and make sure the collar hugs the neck. Is the back blade clean? Are the pant pockets opening? What should we change for next season?

His legacy will live on as his team moves forward to keep his passion for men’s clothing alive. Through all our efforts, we will continue to make him proud.

Claire Saad, Chief Operating Officer:

“The minute I met Mr. Segal at our first interview 33 years ago, there was immediate chemistry! He was my mentor, and a most compassionate, generous, amazing leader. He was fearless, never afraid of making mistakes. He taught me the basic rules, letting me know it was up to me to sink or swim!

“As part of the executive team, I had a very privileged relationship with Mr. Segal, who often told me that he’d accomplished his goal and, with no worries whatsoever, he’d let us run the business. He felt he could walk away at any time, knowing Peerless Clothing was in good hands.

How I miss his daily phone calls; how I wish he could have lived forever! He touched the lives of countless people and will be missed dearly by all who knew him.”

Douglas Raicek, Executive Vice President (and Alvin’s grandson):

“Alvin overcame great challenges. He lost his parents very young, he grew up with a stutter, and he never finished high-school. He really had an underdog mentality that turned into a major strength, as he grew accustomed to being underestimated and ended up surprising a lot of people.

“He remained humble about his own story. The book he wrote about his life a few years ago opened with “No one is more surprised than I am by the events that have taken place during my life. He really enjoyed the business profoundly. He started as a regular employee in his stepfather’s business and often said he never planned to run the company: he just wanted to keep his job and keep the company going. One thing just led to another…

“A couple of Alvin’s famous lines were ‘I have a long-range plan that changes every day,’ and ‘You should never look back – it only puts a kink in your neck.’ He always stayed focused on the future, never satisfied with the status quo and always believing there was room for improvement and opportunity.

“When the quota system was first developed in the early days of free trade, it was based on export volume. This was before Alvin met Ronny, when Peerless had few U.S. customers or sales. But Alvin had such faith in his product that he ramped up production and shipped many thousands of unsold suits across the border to capture all the quota, having faith that sales would come later. A gutsy move that really spoke to how decisive and unflinching he could be when he saw an opportunity.

“Alvin used to say he liked to manage by asking questions. He didn’t like to dictate or tell someone what to do. He preferred to ask, what do you think we should do? What could we be doing better? And hear how people answered. His leadership style was to empower others. He liked to delegate and was happy to stay out of the limelight. He took great pride in the team he built and over the last few years, in ‘not being needed’ for any key decisions the company was making.

“Alvin celebrated 71 years at Peerless this past September and still loved to call his team every day and hear what was going on. He used to laugh that despite the many ways the world had changed, at its core, the business was still the same as when he started, when the official Peerless motto was ‘Canada’s Best Value in Clothing.’

“Alvin left us an incredible legacy that his family and his Peerless family are all energized to uphold and build upon.”


  1. Alvin Segal was a fabulous merchant and a wonderful person.
    I am so happy I had a chance to meet him.
    Every time I went to visit the showroom he always took the time to say hi and see how I was doing.
    Alvin will be missed dearly but never forgotten.
    RIP my dear friend

    1. Yes he did! As a most generous donor to so many wonderful causes, Alvin Segal did more than his share to create a better world. 💙🙏💙

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