Ira Neimark, Bergdorf Executive Who Put Fashion First, Dies at 97

Ira Neimark, Bergdorf Executive Who Put Fashion First, Dies at 97


Ira Neimark, who began in retail as a division retailer pageboy and went on to construct Bergdorf Goodman into the standard-bearer for luxurious procuring, died on April 18 at his dwelling in Harrison, N.Y. He was 97.

His loss of life was confirmed by his daughter, Robin Neimark Seegal.

Because the chief of Bergdorf Goodman for greater than 17 years, beginning in 1975, Mr. Neimark (pronounced NEE-mark) helped rework it into an arbiter of excessive vogue that catered to the richest New Yorkers and rich guests from world wide

Underneath Mr. Neimark’s watch, Bergdorf helped begin the careers of young designers like Michael Kors, whose clothes was given coveted house on the gross sales flooring.

In New York’s crowded retail panorama, Bergdorf — which was based in 1899 as a tailor store and has been in the identical Fifth Avenue location since 1928 — has continued to face out at the same time as its parent company, Neiman Marcus, struggles with a big debt load ensuing from a personal fairness buyout.

Relatively than increasing the Bergdorf model broadly across the nation, as department shops like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor have completed, Mr. Neimark largely focused on the shop’s New York presence, catering to ladies searching for $200,000 furs and bankers in search of suede sneakers and opulent fits.

Even with the rise of on-line procuring, many luxurious retailers have come to comprehend, as Mr. Neimark did, the significance of investing in a marquee retailer.

“Ira had a robust standpoint about how Bergdorf must be distinctive and totally different than the businesses he competed with,” Terry Lundgren, a former chief govt of Macy’s, mentioned in an interview. “He set the tone for the Bergdorf that you just see in the present day.”

Although Mr. Neimark projected a eager sense for a way the rich lived and dressed, he confronted monetary challenges rising up in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Ira Neimark was born on Dec. 12, 1921, to Eugene Neimark, a lawyer, and Lillian (Braude) Neimark. His father died when Ira was 11, leaving his mom to boost him and his two brothers. To help her sons, she labored as a division retailer saleswoman.

At age 16, Ira left highschool and received a job at Bonwit Teller, the luxury department store on Fifth Avenue. (It was ultimately torn all the way down to make manner for Trump Tower.)

He later attended evening lessons at Columbia College, however he mentioned it was the numerous totally different jobs he held in retailing that taught him essentially the most about enterprise.

His first job at Bonwit Teller was as a pageboy, greeting businessmen who visited a membership inside the shop. He quickly had one other job, opening the shop door for patrons, who typically pulled up in limousines and accompanied by footmen.

In his e-book “Crossing Fifth Avenue to Bergdorf Goodman: An Insider’s Account on the Rise of Luxurious Retailing” (2006), Mr. Neimark recalled that after, whereas working as a door boy, he witnessed Salvador Dalí pushing a tub via a show window that Dalí had designed. The artist, he mentioned, was sad {that a} fur coat had been faraway from a model within the show and bought to a buyer.

“I heard a deafening crash as a fur-lined bathtub pushed via a plate-glass window,’’ Mr. Neimark wrote.

Mr. Neimark went on to work within the purse division of Bonwit Teller; later, as an workplace assistant, his job was to focus on crucial articles in Ladies’s Put on Every day and present them to the corporate’s prime govt.

He left the shop to hitch the Military Air Forces. He was educated as a pilot and served within the Pacific throughout World Warfare II.

However even within the navy, he remained centered on retailing. Throughout flight coaching he would go to massive shops across the nation and ship his observations again to the executives at Bonwit Teller.

After the struggle, Mr. Neimark went to work for the Gladdings division retailer in Windfall, R.I., the place he met Jacqueline Myers, who labored as a purchaser for her household’s leather-based items shops. They had been married in 1953.

Mr. Neimark had been working as govt vp and basic merchandise supervisor of B. Altman, one other retailer, when he was recruited to be Bergdorf’s president in January 1975. It was at Bergdorf Goodman that he made his largest mark.

He set about increasing the shop’s vogue credentials, which he believed had been lagging behind these of Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. To town’s socialites, Bergdorf’s choices appeared secure, uninteresting and costly. Mr. Neimark wished to carry extra pleasure to the shop.

In his opinion, he wrote, the best Bergdorf prospects ought to be “the ladies who went to the most effective eating places; the ladies who stayed in the most effective inns; the ladies who belonged to the most effective golf equipment; the ladies who went to the most effective resorts.”

To assist him attain these prospects, he employed Daybreak Mello to revamp Bergdorf’s vogue choices.

Within the early 1980s, Ms. Mello stumbled upon Mr. Kors organising a clothes show in a window of a specialty retailer on Fifth Avenue. She requested him who the designer was; Mr. Kors mentioned that he was.

“I organized to see him in my workplace days later,” Ms. Mello recalled in an e-mail. “He arrived with an armful of garments. Ira and I gave him slightly house within the retailer, and the remaining is historical past.”

Mr. Neimark was additionally a director of Hermès in Paris and an adjunct professor at Columbia Enterprise Faculty. He retired from Bergdorf in 1992.

Along with his spouse and daughter, he’s survived by 5 grandchildren and a great-grandson. An older daughter, Eugenie Neimark Lewis, often known as Janie, died in 2016.



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