MR is saddened to report the passing last week of menswear industry icon Critt Rawlings. Beyond his design talent and exceptional taste level, Critt was known for his kindness, compassion, and humanity. He was that rare guy who, when he asked how are you, truly wanted to know, always open to listen and eager to help lift your spirits.
Critt grew up on a farm in central Kentucky and attributed his love for fine clothing to watching his father meticulously dress each morning. He started designing clothes as a teenager and then spent his career in design and merchandising. From Norman Hilton, H. Freeman, and Country Britches to Polo Ralph Lauren and president of Oxxford, Critt ultimately retired to his farm in Mercer County, a retirement that proved short-lived as, annoyed by some absurd pricetags on tailored clothing, he decided to launch his own collection as well as a little store.
From the beginning, Crittenden & Company has offered distinguished wardrobes at fair prices to discerning customers. The brand’s focus is classic American style, lightly constructed, in fine natural fabrics (linen, silk, wool, cashmere, camel hair) and in a broad range of colors. The compelling tagline is brilliant: “Wear Something Worth It.” Among Critt’s celebrity clients: basketball coach John Calipari and NFL quarterbacks Brett Favre and Tim Tebow. While few merchants can manage to juggle retail and wholesale, Critt never missed a trade show, personally presenting his collections around the country to many loyal and admiring retailer friends.
Designer Alex Julian knew Critt well. “The passing of an icon, a Superman, an incredible contributor, the most earnest and honest Torchbearer, the heart and soul of our industry. Everyone who knew him loved him. We all ache for another dinner with our best buddy Critt. He was, using his own words and inimitable pronunciation, ‘Fabb-uh-luss!’ And never to be replaced.”
Neckwear designer Randy Hanauer knew Critt for 50+ years and worked closely with him for many of those. “We started together at Norman Hilton and I was lucky to follow him as Southeast rep through his next few moves. Critt was such a genuine person: no pretense, very comfortable in his own skin, and so tasteful in his sense of color and design. Another great thing about Critt: he mentored so many young people; he took the time to teach. And he loved to have fun, maybe too much fun sometimes but I loved travelling with him. We’d work hard and play hard. He was just who he was: always the quintessential gentleman.”
Adds good friend and fellow retailer Matthew McClellan, “We first met in January 1968 at the Norman Hilton offices. Our friendship would continue with Critt’s tenures at Country Britches, Polo, Oxxford Clothes, and Crittendon & Company. Critt’s love for our industry was the inspiration for founding The Old Friends Society, of which he proudly served as its first chairman. His wit, taste and organization will be missed by all. He was a true gentleman of the South, and more than a friend to me for over 50 years.”
“Critt was the ultimate salesman, friend and mentor to whom I am forever grateful,” says Scott Ruerup, President of Peter Millar, “His wisdom and passion for this business continue to guide me today. Critt had the ability to light up a room with his amazing storytelling that touched so many of us and will continue to make us laugh when we think of him. As Critt always acknowledged, he had a wonderful family, wonderful friends, and a wonderful career. He will be greatly missed.”
From designer Ruth Graves, who collaborated with Critt over the years to create unique printed silk neckwear and accessories, “Critt was an icon who will be greatly missed but never forgotten. I will always appreciate his extensive knowledge of just about everything, his impeccable manners and elegant, tasteful, timeless style. His passion for our industry was infallible; I can only hope to retain some of the prodigious guidance he offered me. An exceptional and kind gentleman.”
Agrees Joe Barrato, another friend for 50+ years, “Simply put, the ultimate gentleman.”
Critt is survived by his beloved wife Judy, cherished daughters Allison, Annie and Caroline, and many adoring grandchildren, to whom we say: Thanks for sharing this wonderful man with us. So many of us have been touched by his kindness and generous spirit; the menswear industry will not be the same without him.