by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR magazine is saddened to report the passing of Michael Isaacson, talented designer, fashion icon, and wonderful friend to so many of us in the menswear industry. He died of a massive heart attack on July 4th at a very young age 80. The backdrop, very appropriately, was fireworks.

For undeniably, so much about Michael, founder of L.A.-based Tulliano/Sky High Unlimited, was pure explosive energy. He loved creating, entertaining, and traveling the globe for inspiration and fresh ideas. With his exceptional taste level and intuitive knack for predicting trends (and knowing which ones were worth knocking off), Tulliano became a backbone resource in many great stores. Notes his good friend Dana Katz of Miltons in Massachusetts, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the irony: Michael was an impressive businessman and a great copier yet he was also the most genuine person in the apparel business. He will be greatly missed.”

Lenny Rothschild, another close retailer friend for 40 years, agrees. “Michael lived a great life. He loved the menswear business, especially his customers who ultimately became his friends. He told wonderful stories of his travels, so many years spent exploring Paris, Florence, Barcelona, London, Hong Kong, and mainland China for the latest fashions and production. He had a passion for developing the best products for his retail friends. He did it all: sourcing, finance, marketing, sales. He loved entertaining his friends; I’m grateful to have been one of them. I will always remember his boyish smile, wonderful sense of humor, and golden heart.”

And it’s surely his ‘golden heart’ that friends remember most about him. Says Millie Simic Keller, wife of Michael’s longtime friend Roger Keller, “I didn’t know him long but I will never forget him. He was such a reliable friend: when we recently had a break-in, Michael got there before the police. He was so authentic: there was no pretense, no way he’d take someone to dinner who he didn’t like… With Michael, you always knew who you were dealing with.”

Adds Roger, “We went to dinner twice a week, Tuesday and Friday nights, and Michael would love to stop at tables and have people guess his age. (They never got it right: they’d most often say 60…) Another amazing thing about my good friend Michael: he had a very philosophical view of his dementia; he’d take it in stride saying that since he could no longer remember his problems, life is good…”

And who could forget the many years of MAGIC shows in Vegas, with the Tulliano booth front and center, Michael’s salesmen dressed in tuxedoes and red bowties, a dozen or so gorgeous scantily-clad showgirls working the crowd, with Michael directing it all in his Gucci glasses and colorful sneakers (long before guys started wearing funky eyewear and cool footwear…)

“His life was the business,” said Richard Binder, who worked with him for many years at Tulliano. “Whether in Europe, Vegas, New York, or L.A., there was never a dull moment with Michael. He loved doing crazy things but deep down, he truly cared about people. He was a terrific guy.”

Adds good friend Stewart Golden, “He was so talented, and way ahead of his time. He had a real flair for finding ‘the next big thing’ and was unafraid to carry inventory. He loved organizing fun dinners for 12-15 people. He was always smiling, always happy; I’ll always picture him with a beautiful girl on each arm…”

Houston retailer Gary Dante was a longtime friend. “We lost a terrific guy: creative, great taste level, unafraid to try new things. Yes, he was a ladies’ man and he loved to have fun but there was no one more generous. For every charity event we ever did, he’d ask ‘how much do you need?’ He never turned us down; he was a very special guy.”

“I’ve known Michael my whole life: he was at my Bar Mitzvah, and at my wedding,” says Memphis retailer Hal Lansky. “I was always in awe of how the girls loved him; he was always the coolest guy, a great marketer before social media, and a great influencer before influencers. Quick story: in Michael’s early days on the road, my dad would send a car to pick him up at the airport, keep him in the store all day and then have his driver drop him back at the airport. Unbeknownst to Michael, my dad did this so there’d be no time for Michael to sell other Memphis stores. When Michael finally caught on, he’d come to town a few days earlier than plan, sell the competition, then go back to the airport where our driver would pick him up, bring him to the store, then drop him back. My dad ultimately caught on but they remained great friends!”

Irwin Peters was another close friend. “Michael lived for quite a while in Detroit in the 1970s. I traveled that state for Petrocelli Clothes and Mike and I always got together when I was in town. We never failed to have a great time and stayed in touch for many years after. He was a super seller, a great businessman, and a truly good guy; I am tremendously saddened by the loss.”

Stan Katz was Michael’s neighbor, friend, and CPA for 40 years. “We had breakfast weekly and I could not have asked for a better friend. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, he was a wonderful loving father and a pioneer in his industry. He will be greatly missed.”

Michael is survived by his beloved daughters Andrea and Tanya, his grandchildren Sofia and Cameron, his ex-wife Ingrid, and countless friends. A memorial service will take place in Philadelphia at a date to be announced.

RIP Michael. Your talent, passion, generosity, and joie de vivre will continue to inspire us.


  1. I will miss you my friend, and somehow I can actually see and hear you at the pearly gates telling Saint Michael “Yo Saint Mike, you need to loose that shirt my brother..!!” “Let me work with ya” 🥰
    Watching Michael work a trade show was a true thing of beauty. You may be gone Michael but you’ll never be forgotten 🙏💔. Rest In Peace my Brother…

    1. There will never be another Michael. He was one of the very best! The mold was broken. No one ever came close to his generosity. I never flew in to LA when he picked me up in the Mercedes Convertible. We lost one of a kind.😢😢

    2. I am very saddened to hear of Michael’s passing ! I knew Michial dormant
      any years – our paths crossing mostly at Magic- acknowledging each other in a smiling caring way -truly a contemporary – hard to believe 80 -with his boyish glowing smile

      RiP Michael

  2. Michael was the PT Barnum of men’s industry. A showman and seller par excellence. He was just a wonderful guy. I know, as I represented Tulliano many years ago. He was one of a kind in my 50 years in the business.
    David Katz

    1. Micheal,
      I had the pleasure a meeting Micheal in the mid 80’s. My father, Stan Katz introduced us when I was a young boy.
      He was such a handsome and charismatic man. He really made me feel like I was one of the guys.
      The world has lost a wonderful, creative and all around giant in the fashionl industry. .
      You always made me smile and laugh
      I thank you for your kind demeanor, not many people have such a incredible presence. I will miss your infectious smile and quit wit. I will miss you 🙏

  3. Michael you will be missed dearly but never forgotten
    RIP my dear friend 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  4. i loved listening with big open ears ,the truth about the industry ,the ideas that flowed , i was extremely proud to know MICHAEL as a friend !!!! he cared RIP

  5. Michael was a good guy. I knew Michael from the Detroit days. He will be missed.

  6. Michael, his beautiful smile and big personality will be missed by the industry and the many people that called him friend…including me. Rest In Peace my friend…

    1. What I loved was his coolness he created swag before it became popular today. He was groomed by his old school peers he simply added his own twist of what the old timers shared with him coming up in the ranks of the menswear industry. RIP THX 🙏

  7. Michael was a wonderful, talented and unique friend. Talented as a designer who knew style, color, fabric. Talented as a manufacturer who knew and knew how to support his suppliers, employees and customers. A real friend to any person he called a friend, willing to unquestionably and unlimited help at a moment’s notice, whose heart was larger than his body. And unique because his mission was to turn every customer, every resource, every employee into a friend, and he did. We all will miss his warm enticing smile, humor and friendship.

  8. I met Michael in the era of Nik Nik shirts. He remained that same cocky, funny, irreverent guy the whole time I worked with him through the years. Very sad….but heck, what a legacy. Indeed, a showman par excellence.

    1. Thank you Karen So much for this beautiful article about my father We will miss him very much and I also want to thank all of his friends and coworkers who have been so loving to him as well.
      Andrea Isaacson

  9. One of a kind. That was Michael.I met him in the early 1980’s and bought from him through the mid ought’s.
    He was loyal,generous,and kind hearted. When my business went through a rough period he was there extending credit and support.
    Coincidentally he was in my thoughts earlier this month.
    Rest in peace.

  10. I had the pleasure of working for Michael traveling the Mid Atlantic territory for Tulliano and he referred to me as Steady Eddie.
    He was demanding at times but he was a fair,honest and sincere person with a talent for spotting new trends.
    Michael was a leader in our industry and he will be greatly missed.

  11. Thank you Karen So much for this beautiful article about my father We will miss him very much and I also want to thank all of his friends and coworkers who have been so loving to him as well.
    And now I’m going to talk about my father .What a wonderful man he was and he did have a heart of gold, the best father a daughter could ever ask for. I will miss him very very much and he did make An exit with fireworks!

  12. Dear Micheal,
    I hope you’re ‘up there’ somewhere meeting up with old friends reminiscing. I met you after you retired when we would meet at Starbucks in the evening. Reading all the kind remarks written here about you just reinforces my belief that you truly were a good person with not a bad word for anyone. The world you left behind is certainly a much emptier place without you and your cheery smile and warm greeting. I will miss your humor and the countless stories of your adventures around the world.
    I am glad that when the end came, it came quickly. I saw you the day before you left this world and you were the same person I have known for the past six or seven years. I am glad that I’ll remember you that way; asking me how I’m doing, asking me where you parked your car, telling me that you need to get your old MG running again, and inviting me to join you for a bite at Fabs or the Deli. Some people get you down when you see them, others lift you up. You were definitely in the latter category. I will miss you.

  13. I first met Michael in 1990 at the old “Collective” in NYC. I placed a small order. He always greeted me with smile and a hug. Always the real ‘mensch’.

  14. Michael’s big personality hid a big heart. He was a friend who loved to have fun.
    R.I.P. my friend.

    1. Michael was generous, always ready to help He was not always easy but always sincere: he will be dearly missed.

      1. My brother ,
        he left us with great memories from happy times we spent together. He was always there for me and I was very welcome to his house when ever I was in LA he took great care of me and that I will never forget.
        Miguel siempre estarás en mi corazón.
        Descansa en paz mi amigo querido.

  15. Michael was always Michael!!! I met Michael in January of 1976. We became friends, then years later Michael asked me to join his company as a sales rep. Then he became a mentor. We became business partners in 1998 and I could not have had a better business partner if God would have sent him to me personally. We attended countless trade shows together. We made many trips together, domestically and internationally, until Michael retired. I have great memories of how much fun it all was! We worked hard but it never felt like work. It was just great! Michael, wherever you are next you will have stories to tell…. RIP My Friend.
    Ross Veltri

    1. Michael, you went with a bang, just like your personality. I am sure we will meet later on in life, in the meantime……I send you a big kiss and a kick in the ass, like always. You will be missed, but just for a while. Muchos besos a ti.

  16. I first met Michael in 1968 when I moved to Detroit from Baltimore with my company Well Made Pants co. At the first local men’s show in Detroit i attended Michael came over and introduced himself to me. We immediately became friends. He showed me around the city and the state telling me who to call on and who to see. We had similar tastes especially fishing. I joined Michael when we went to Mexico fishing soon after he married Ingrid. And we continued fishing down at Boca Paila 3 times a year until I moved back to Baltimore in 1978. We continued to talk several times a month until about 2 weeks ago. He would always say you want to go fishing?? He would always tell me how great he looked with a full head of hair.
    Our friendship spanned over 50 years and he was just that a true friend. I will miss him very much. So Rest In Peace my friend

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