Our MR Awards Dinner journal is in the mail, and we hope you’ll all be as excited to read it as we were to put together this inspiring issue. We’ll be sharing the profiles of this year’s honorees on MR-Mag.com throughout this week, but if you can’t wait, feel free to browse the issue online here. Hard copies will also be distributed at the Society for International Menswear event in New York on July 17th and 18th, as well as at the MR Awards dinner. To kick things off, here is Karen Alberg Grossman’s energizing Editor’s Letter.
After a three-year hiatus, all of us at MR are delighted to reinstate our MR Awards Dinner, this our 15th edition with a theme of Resilience & Reinvention. Our 2022 honorees truly epitomize these traits, as their profiles in this journal clearly indicate.
While many industry executives retrenched during the pandemic, Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and CEO of Authentic Brands Group (a near-$22 billion business) made some major investments in menswear, buying up heritage brands including Reebok, Izod, Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, Hart Schaffner Marx, and others. Thank you, Jamie, for your confidence in menswear and the investments you’re making to elevate so many legacy brands.
Louis DiGiacomo, Saks Fifth Avenue’s highly respected VP/GMM, is spearheading a complete reinvention of Saks’ menswear business, with a new emphasis on designer ready-to-wear, luxury streetwear, accessories, footwear and made-to-measure. A central staircase connecting the flagship’s two menswear floors has created a comprehensive menswear world, encouraging men to explore and show off their style.
At Harry Rosen, Chief Product Officer Shannon Stewart used the precarious pandemic years to test new concepts. Although extensive government shutdowns in Canada could have decimated their business (14 full-price stores and 3 outlets, with a fourth soon to open), Shannon and team used this time to launch an extensive new custom clothing program, an off-price online division, and to build e-commerce, already 20 percent of total volume and growing fast.
While many independent menswear merchants were closing stores, Jeff Halberstadt was opening new ones, now totaling seven locations in four different states. His vision is to bring to secondary markets all the fashion excitement of major metropolitan cities, and to introduce a new generation to the joys of dressing well. “Affluent shoppers know what’s happening in fashion; if we don’t give it to them, they can easily buy it somewhere else.”
For Gary Williams, building a successful showroom business was no piece of cake, but with his exceptional taste level, strong relationships with retailers and brands, and pure perseverance, he made it happen. When COVID hit, he had the foresight to predict how business would change, closing his high-rent physical showroom to focus on virtual selling and trade shows.
For Sharifa Murdock, who started selling at Atrium as a teenager, then returned after college as store manager, then co-launched with mentor Sam Ben-Avraham two innovative trade shows (Project and Liberty), it’s now about giving back. Working with Ronnie Fieg at Kith, their foundation’s mission is to fortify the culture that helped them build their business, a worthy goal indeed.
Anyone who knows Hall of Fame honorees Fred, Lee and Virginia of DLS Apparel, will confirm there are no harder workers anywhere. Pounding the pavement for the past 42 years to service their 100+ specialty store clients, these menswear aficionados do whatever it takes to get their retail clients whatever they need: from exclusive product to discounted prices to marketing materials to life-affirming trips to Pitti Uomo. Ask them about anything menswear, they have the answers.
Finally, our Lifetime Achievement winner, JL Shaia (his namesake store in Homewood, Alabama just celebrated a century in business) epitomizes what it takes to create a future while respecting the past. A master at relationship-building through his 65 years working at the store, JL has recently passed the torch to his son Ken, even though the two are complete opposites. Ken quotes John C. Maxwell: “A successful person finds the right place for himself; a successful leader finds the right place for others. My dad models this philosophy for me every day. I’m trying to master it but I’m not there yet.”
Humility, drive, passion, curiosity, creativity, resilience, and the courage to reinvent, these are the traits we celebrate at this year’s MR Awards Dinner. Thanks to all our wonderful retailer and vendor friends for helping us reach MR’s 32nd year and 15th Awards Dinner. We could never have done it without you!