There is a resounding chorus when one sits down in the stock room of a Harry Rosen store with it’s founder and Executive Chairman. “Watch the youth in their environment, at clubs, beaches, in the streets, hang on to good staff, and be committed to quality standards.” These three tenants he maintains but otherwise Mr. Rosen advocates a philosophy of change and risk: “Success breeds smugness, you get comfortable and stay with the proven. That will eventually erode under your feet. You must take risks.” Sometimes the recipe for success follows a more unorthodox method.
Fifty years into the process, his passion against complacency is evident: “At 72 I’m working more than ever before—you can’t rest on your laurels.” Laurels become outdated and much has changed since the day he opened in 1954 when suits cost $60. He now whispers references to US expansion, or even better, expansion into women’s wear. All part of the process of updating those laurels.
He does hope to pass on the benefits of said laurels to others with the launch of an autobiography this fall (published by McClelland & Stewart). But the insights may not exactly be a pro forma business guide to success. He attributes much to the intangible; “Fashion is a statement about life, lifestyles, and attitudes. To be good at it you must be aware of social change.” Moreover, Rosen Senior isn’t one to mince words. He has a crisp vantage point on the culture of dressing, be it male or female. He posits that “being interested in clothes presumably adds quality to life.” But this he qualifies or defines within a cultural context. He muses, “On a bright day on Sunday in Florence you’ll see families dressed up, men dressing for the street. There exists a culture of the promenade, of Sunday best for Church. The man is permitted to be the peacock.” He’s not as complimentary of Europe’s island neighbour, commenting on a certain lack of adventure and stagnation in British fashion today, “The British rest on the reputation of Saville Row.”
Fortunately, “Canadians are far greater influenced by the Italians, although this is still limited and by no means radical.” I guess you can’t have everything, but you can read more about it once the autobiography hits the bookstores.
Photo courtesy of Gaetano Fasciana.