by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR is saddened to learn of the passing on January 16th of Richard Derwin who, with his wife Andrea, ran two tasteful R.Derwin stores in Litchfield, Connecticut. Derwin died peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones, according to Andrea, who notes that he celebrated life ‘til the end, listening to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet throughout his final days, holding her hand and squeezing it during “I Did It My Way…”  

Derwin, who was 85, was known for his exceptional taste level, storytelling, and larger-than-life personality. Says menswear industry exec Joe Barrato, “We were good friends over the years. Richard was quite talented and always a kind friend. He was a powerhouse at Bloomingdale’s and an industry visionary.”

“Richard was the truest of gentlemen,” recalls accessories designer Ruth Graves. “When I first began selling to retailers after years of behind-the-scenes creating for designers, Richard stopped in my booth at my very first trade show, studied my collection, and, sensing that I was terrified, gave me my first order! From that moment I became part of his family, creating exclusive designs with his beautiful wife Andrea who still guides me! Richard always had fabulous stories to share; his kindness and generous heart will be missed by many.”

As editor of MR, I was fortunate to have been regaled with a few of Derwin’s tales when we met at his store a few years ago. His retail career started in the 1950s, working at a college clothing shop while attending Syracuse University. From there, he took a job selling space for a directory in Harlem. “I sold only full-page ads,” he boasted, “but only because the girl I was dating was the credit manager and she cleared everyone. I was the company’s leading salesman until nobody paid their bills.”

Next, Derwin headed west to Los Angeles and worked for a small independent chain of upscale menswear stores that wardrobed Hollywood film and TV stars. He was 25 and quickly became the top seller, ultimately buying into the business. His customers included Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Rock Hudson, and the stories are priceless. For example, when he was wardrobing the TV show It Takes a Thief, he worked with Fred Astaire (then in his 70s and playing the father of Wagner’s character). “Astaire had more taste than I did, more than anyone ever, and we developed a friendship. He called me one day and wanted to take me to lunch. So he pulls up in his Rolls Royce convertible and we go to Chasen’s for a wonderful meal. He told me I reminded him of himself at my age (then 30-ish) and asked if there was anything he could do for me. All I could come up with was ‘dancing lessons’ and so he gave me one, right in the middle of this crowded restaurant. The whole place stood up and applauded.”

Years later, Derwin was shopping at Ralph Lauren’s NYC townhouse and recognized a guy who’d been a customer a good 20 years previously: Robert Wagner. “He’s looking at me and I could tell he was trying to place me. He was wearing a blue blazer with no pocket square so I reached down, grabbed a pocket square from the display table, and put it in his pocket, saying ‘Wagner, how many times do I have to tell you?’ Then Wagner yelled ‘Derwin!’ and we hugged.”

R Derwin
Jonathan, Andrea and Richard in the store

After his stint in L.A., Derwin got offered a big job at Bloomingdale’s; his first claim to fame was convincing Marvin Traub to bring in Ralph’s ties under the Polo label, because Ralph refused to do private label. “I told Marvin that this is a really talented designer and he agreed that we should support him, even paying him in advance and all sorts of crazy things. It was the beginning of the designer era.”

Another story involves Cartier, a brand Bloomingdale’s had been trying to get for ages, to no avail. “I thought it would be great to have a Cartier shop in the store but Cartier didn’t do shops in stores. So I sat down with Marvin, who suggested I meet with them in Paris. So I flew to Paris for a 10 a.m. appointment which did not go well: they simply weren’t interested. But they invited me to stay for lunch and over a very elegant meal, I tried to convince the CEO how much it would help their business to be in Bloomingdale’s. After the meal, this guy comes around with cigars and offers to light mine with this giant Cartier lighter. I declined, pulled out my 98-cent Bic lighter, and proceeded to light my cigar. Well, the CEO just stared at me and burst out laughing, ultimately telling me that I got the deal. ‘Anyone with that kind of balls, I’m happy to work with,’ he declared.”

Menswear designer Alexander Julian expresses the feelings of many. “Richard was a legend, a giant, a tastemaker’s tastemaker, a true visionary, and a great friend. He was a quick study, a ‘take charge’ guy…in business, in life, even at the very end. I truly cherished every minute we shared, and will always think of him whenever good taste and creativity merge.”

Derwin is survived by his wife Andrea, the love of his life; sons William (Jolie) and Jim; stepsons Jonathan (Diane) and Michael (Sara); his brother Arnold (Aileane); and grandchildren Josh, Myles, Ayla, Samuel, Henry and Lee. He was predeceased by his son Andrew. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be a private family gathering at this time; a celebration of Richard’s life will be planned for an appropriate time. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Greenwoods Counseling:


  1. A giant of a gentleman. This world is missing a most loving, kind, creative, generous, good soul here. Yet, can see him dancing and creating more havoc up in the heavens with Fred Astaire..
    Much love and strong hugs to Andrea and family xxo

    1. A great friend of my boss Herb Aronson, Dick was always in our office looking for ties as he was a fashion mavin.

    2. “A man for all Seasons”! A talent with wonderful taste, ballsy, clever and a smart merchant. RIP Dick!

  2. What a legend in the industry, although i did not know Dick i got to know Jonathan quite well and what they did in Litchfield for the specialty shop business was terrific. I love the sensibility of the stores.

    What a loss to the industry.

  3. Everything I know about clothes and style I learned from Richard when I worked for him at Lund’s when I was at Syracuse University in the ’60s.
    I emulated his style every way I could. Imagine my delight when I moved to Litchfield CT and there was R.Derwin Clothier. He truly was one of the most elegant men I ever knew.

  4. What an amazing article for a remarkable man. I am lucky enough to be Richard’s son and reading the comments has filled me with joy of his life. Since we are unable to extend invitation to all those who want to pay respects to this great man I have created a site to honor Richard. Please leave a Richard story, memory, anecdote or something nice for the family to read. My dad lived quite a life and I would love to hear from those I may not have got a chance to meet. Feel free to visit to just read more nice things or see some more beautiful pictures.

  5. Richard, May you Rest In Peace and upgrade the Lords and those other folks in heavens wardrobe…….I will never forget how you held my hand when I began as an assistant buyer at Bloomies! Thank you and bless you and yours…ps, I hope not to see you soon!!

  6. Thank you for the article. I appreciate that so many of you have stories, and remember Richard, in your own mind’s eye to share with all of us.
    There is one major part missing, I must add. Richard’s time at FDS. I have those stories for the record.

Comments are closed.