Tag Archives: Murray Pearlstein

Massimo Bizzocchi – A Louis Legend

As I continue to make preparations to close our doors this summer, I can’t help but reflect on the people that have had an impact on Louis, and ultimately some of the best fashion Boston has ever seen.

When it comes to our vendors, one man, Massimo Bizzocchi, has always stood out to me as being “The best of the best.” The founder of his namesake company, Massimo produces the best ties and pocket squares in Italy, and truly embodies everything that is wonderful about Italian manufacturing – and Italians period. Like Louis Sales Consultant, Arthur Jordan, Massimo is one of the great romancers of our industry. It saddens me to think that his presence will be diminished in Boston.

When I first began to travel to Italy to buy for Louis I was always met by a warm, welcoming committee. The Italian manufacturers would invite you to “…come in, sit, and have a drink.” They would invite you to dinner and take the time to get to know you and see if you were like-minded in our goals. They weren’t just selling me “something,” because they understood that if you only talk in dollars and cents, you eliminate the soul and beauty and romance that come from buying a beautifully made product.

One thing I love about Massimo is his ability to tell a wonderful story. He is very passionate about what he does. He lives and breathes his work and gives his product a personality, and character, and integrity. He truly makes you believe.

I can only liken it to when you go to an Italian restaurant (in Italy). Your not just given a list of specials, you are told what’s fresh and how it can be prepared and then you are asked, “What can we do for you?” and there are no limits. When it comes to clothes, Italian manufacturers ask how you want to see it and they make it for you that way. And when you succeed they don’t take any credit, they say, “You were so smart to do it…and we’ll do it that way now, with everyone…and thank you for the information.”

This is what it’s like to work with Massimo. It gives him great pleasure to present what he has and deliver it to you exactly how you want it. This makes him happy.

It’s becoming a lost art.

I’m so glad my daughter, Sam, got to meet and know Massimo. She knows him well -and has experienced and now possesses his gift. While I know she uses Snapchat like the rest of her generation, I also know that as she enters the world on her own she also understands how important romancing something is. She knows how to make something rise up and off of the page, and for that I am grateful.

Once again, I asked my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn, to speak to Massimo so he could share his relationship with Louis, with all of you…

 

By Jamie Kohn

I can’t take much of the credit here I can only confirm that what Debi says it true. Massimo is a wonderful, passionate storyteller, and it was with pleasure and ease that we spoke about his relationship with Murray and Debi, and all of his experiences with Louis. I spoke with him on a Saturday, and from the moment he began to speak I was mesmerized. As you read, the nuances of his native language are apparent and contribute tremendously to the charm of this decades long relationship.

 

Jamie Kohn:

Massimo, It’s wonderful to speak with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today…

Massimo Bizzocchi:

Thank you, Jamie. It is nice to speak with you too. I look forward to telling you about 40 years of my beautiful adventure with Louis.

In 1974-75, Louis was my first customer in the United States. It was known as the #1 store in the United States, not only for the size of the store but the precise direction and unique way that they bought the line and communicated with the manufacturer. I had the pleasure to meet Murray for the first time in New York, at the Waldorf Astoria. I was working with a small company called Berto Modes from Biella, Italy, and had traveled to New York to show previews of the fabric for the season. I selected the fabric for the American market and it was there that my education with Murray began. He was open and sincere in giving me advice and making me understand what I needed to do for the American market. Slowly I understood that it was not the “American” market, but the “Louis” market, because his direction was advanced with color palettes and everything that was related to style. He was always quite a few seasons earlier than the rest of the market would accept or understand. And that was the beginning of my relationship with Murray.

After that I traveled to Boston to better understand the market and the store. At the time Louis was an incredible new source of ideas and also experiences with the sales consultants and young generation that that worked there. I remember they had a jeans parlor downstairs which at the time was quite a new idea. Having the jeans and the music and the ambiance made everything so incredibly young and attractive. The windows were decorated impeccably – I remember once they were decorated with the influence of the Broadway show Les Miserables – and it was fantastic. Everything Louis did was a message of how to show and how to make people part of the style that Murray was promoting and selling.

 

JK:

I have heard a lot about Murray Pearlstein, but didn’t have the honor of meeting him. For someone who knew him for so long, can you tell me, what was Murray Pearlstein like?

Massimo:

Murray was unique. But he was not only unique, he was a leader in the industry and he had a vision. He was a visionary of elegance and an interpreter of designer lines with the sophistication of someone who wanted to adapt fashion to daily life – not only the runway.

I used to travel to Como with Arthur Jordan and woman named Mrs. Lupini who owned a company called “Personality.” Together we would travel from place to place to choose fabric for the ties for Louis. Everything that was shiny or loud made Murray very upset to the point where he said, “I will teach you for a couple of seasons, but then you need to prepare what you know I want to see.” He told me, “I don’t have much time and I want you to do it fast.” He was like a tornado coming into the manufacturers. They would have 3-4,000 designs he would grab 5 in 5 different colors. His major request always reflected the kind of finishing on the silk he wanted to make the color soft. And the fabric would have a touch of cashmere – something that took 30 years to develop – but he had the sensibility to request it already.

The school that he presented to us, and the vision he had for colors and product made myself and the company develop a sensibility that in the end, many times, we made just for Murray and his store. Others were not mirroring his direction, and I know this made him very happy. We had many interesting adventures in Italy and Milano and after 5 or 6 years he thought I knew enough (but never really enough) to go by my self and do research for my own line of ties that he helped me to promote. He helped me start my own brand, Massimo Bizzochi.

Murray and Debi were extreme supporters of my tie line. When Mrs. Lupini passed away, the small factory that she owned was going to close, but Murray helped me transition and take over the company and helped me build my business. He encouraged me to use my own label along with Louis of Boston label.

 

JK:

What is your relationship with Kiton?

Massimo:

I started to work with Kiton in 1984, almost 10 years after I met Murray, and I dedicated my attention to the American market more than any other. I remember going straight to Murray with the owner of Kiton, who Murray knew through the fabric trade show in Italy – Luciano Barbera – Kiton was producing some of his garments under that name. I remember Murray bought a pin strip suit, double breasted, in pure cashmere. It was the first thing he bought from Kiton through me. After that the experience of the selection of fabric and the way to style the product was absolutely unique – and that tradition has been brought to this day through Debi. This developed over all these years, a special and unique model for Louis, with a lot of success. Kiton dedicating time and effort and took risks that they would only take for Louis, and Debi always knew exactly what she was looking for. Debi always respected our quality product, in fabric and workmanship, and she always tried to help us continue to have the Louis of Boston image on the product and give the consumer a the kind of experience that only Louis of Boston would bring to them. She would buy a different silhouette and have different measurements of the lapel and shoulder – taking a major risk, like she always did, because it was going to be unique in the market, and very early in the market.

 

JK:

What was it like working with Debi once she took over?

Massimo:

It has been a phenomenal, fantastic experience. I went from having a professor (Murray) telling me what and how to do something to somebody (Debi) who tired to help me understand the reason. She was generous in her ability to share information. It has been a friendly journey more than a business relationship. With Murray I would listen and take notes and then hopefully translate the notes properly to deliver what he wanted. With Debi she always asked me to try, she asked me if I understood, she asked me to discuss with her what she was looking for. Her patience has been one of the ingredients that made me feel comfortable giving my best to the relationship and developing with her, all that she desired. She has a fantastic knowledge of the Louis style, that never changed, and starts with the fabric. Whenever we would start a new collection she would say, “Let’s start with the best. Show me the top of the line fabric and let’s get on the (design) table the colors and styles and designs that, for me, will represent the next season.” Then she would go through the whole line (2,000-3,000 swatches), pick 20-30, and from there she would narrow it down to 12-15. She already had in mind who she would present those pieces to, what sizes she wanted for each piece, and what kind of ambience she would create visually in the store from the pieces she bought along with the rest she was buying.

My admiration for Debi is the highest it can be. I can’t describe the kind of experience we had making all of those collections together. While it stayed greatly the same, it seemed that every 6 months the Louis image would evolve, and reflect the knowledge Debi had for the young generation and the consumer that would approach the line in the way the sales consultants, like Arthur Jordan, would translate the line to the consumer. I have had a wonderful relationship with Arthur, and I have to say he was the only one who never had a problem translating the line because he was in complete symphony with the store. We spoke often and he gave me excellent advice and comments about consumer reactions as he made them try our garments.

Debi married the old Kiton world that was clothing, to the new world where Kiton started to represent lifestyle – jeans, sweaters, leather pieces, nice overcoats, etc. Debi always chose things from us that were different from the other lines. When all the pants were plain front, she bought them with one pleat. She was the one that wanted things to be a little shorter…or more flexible, etc. She was the one who said let’s design a new color, a new style, a little shorter point, a little more spread. Her sensibility for designing comes not only from her education but also from the artistic world of Art Basel and the old galleries she would visited in Paris , London and Milano – by herself. And I think we have to give a lot of credit to Debi for traveling all these years, at least 6 times to Europe per year, talking to herself about the selection she was making. Being sure that what she was going to invest in was going to be received in the store the way that she meant it to be. I understand because this is how I learned myself – traveling alone to suffer in silence while making great decisions.

 

JK:

What will it mean when Louis closes?

Massimo:

We will all miss so much when Louis closes. The only thing I can hope is that Debi will continue to help us, through whatever medium she can, continue to see her vision of the future. I hope to belong to a small club of people who can follow her as closely as we can, in the future. When she moved from Newbury Street, which became “The Louis Building” to the waterfront she had a vision. She had been hunting property down at Fan Pier when she first brought me to the area. The Volvo Ocean Race was passing through the city on its 37,000-mile journey, and I said to her, ‘It’s a parking lot with a great view,’ and she said, “exactly.” I understood immediately and smiled at her. I always supported her vision and she made a success of it, as she always does. She continued to share with me how she imagined the restaurant, and the store, and the light coming through, and the way she would present the garments to her customers. I know Debi still has plenty to share with us if she wants to.

I think we will all try to chase, in any way, the future of Louis of Boston, and Debi’s visions. The doors might be closing, but hopefully we will see something from her again.

We need to wait until Debi tells us something. So, we will wait.

Fashion in Boston will never be the same because what she did was so special. It’s like when you have a beautiful painting, created in a beautiful light. You can ask the painter to do it again, and he will always say, “I’m sorry, I can paint another painting, but not the same as the one that I already did. There is only one.”

**

As we began to conclude our conversation, Massimo stopped me and said…

“This is one little thing that I have to share. When Murray passed things to Debi, I was so nervous, especially during the first seasons, not knowing what would be. Once, she came to Milano and I was to pick her up at her hotel. After she got in the car I began to drive away. However, I was listening to her so intently that I didn’t notice a car parked on the side of the street…and smashed right into it. Debi said with her wonderful laugh, ‘Are you trying to kill me before we even start?’ I told her I was paying close attention to what she was saying and she said, ‘Well, you have to drive too!'”

**

And with that, Massimo and I shared a hearty laugh and a fond farewell. A lovely man. Truly one of a kind.

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Our beloved Massimo Bizzocchi

Arthur Jordan – The Best in Boston – A Legend at Louis

Throughout the years at Louis, I’ve seen so much. I’ve met so many incredible people and seen so many rich and exciting things. Colors and fabrics change, patterns and lines evolve, but one thing has always remained the same, and that one thing is Arthur Jordan.

Arthur has been with Louis for as long as I can remember, and as far as I’m concerned, there will never be a better sales consultant in this city. I’ve been watching him work for decades, and quite honestly, the way he works with people is from a different era. He works with respect and taste – acting as part psychologist, part comedian, and part stylist. Perhaps more importantly – part futurist, always knowing a customer wants before they even know they want it. In the eyes of the industry, THAT is a value of a salesperson. No one is as good as Arthur, and no one will ever match his talent again. It’s an art form I am admittedly sad to see end.

Arthur has always been the ultimate wardrobe sales consultant in my eyes. It’s no secret that men aren’t always completely equipped at making the best sartorial choices, and it’s for that reason that gentlemen like Arthur will always be needed and valued.

As we have been preparing to close our doors this summer, nothing has made me happier than to see Arthur’s clients come in to honor him and get a taste of his service – one last time.

There will never, ever be anyone like Arthur Jordan. He is – the quintessential Louis experience.

Now it’s my turn to honor him. I asked my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn, to meet with Arthur and learn more about his past, present and future – and here’s what he told her…

ARTHUR JORDAN

Arthur Jordan has been a part of the Louis family since September 1967. He grew up in Dorchester, and went to Dorchester High School. If you ask him where he went to college he’ll tell you, “U of MP,” the University of Murray Pearlstein.

Jamie:

Tell me about the “U of MP:”

Arthur:

Well, I say that I went to U of MP, because Murray Pearlstein was the one who really gave me my education – in business and in life. My first job in retail was at a local Dorchester shop called Mike’s. Then I headed into Boston proper to work for the National Pant Company. It was in Chinatown, on Boylston Street – right in the middle of what used to be known as The Combat Zone. During that time there were really only two great places to shop in Boston – Martini Carl…and Louis. I had been working at Martini Carl for a couple of years and one afternoon, Bob Itri (who had been at Louis for 45 years during his career) came in one day and told me Louis, Murray’s cousin, had heard about me and wanted to meet me. Now, Louis was just the best store in Boston, and I have to admit I was pretty intimidated. Bob arranged for Murray to take me around the store, and before we were finished he offered me a job. I was shaking – but I took it.

I started to work in the Berkley shop – on the third floor. It was like an upscale Brooks Brothers, but much cooler with the fit and the prices. I worked under a gentleman names Frank Nunuez who ran the shop until the early 70’s. At that time Murray was doing all of the buying, except the street level, which was Wally Horn’s haberdashery shop. Eventually Louis and Murray bought Wally out, and Murray started to buy everything.

After two to three years in the Berkley shop, Murray asked me if I would join him on his buying trips. I figured I must be doing something right. This was around the time he started traveling overseas to the European market. We started meeting with the Italians, marveling at their tailoring and fine lines, and began to bring the look to Louis. Every year, for about 20 years, we would travel to New York City, London, Paris, Milan, and Florence. Went to the shows, and showrooms, and met with every famous designer you can think of: Pierre Cardin, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, etc., etc. We were hooked up with the best of the best.

It was fascinating, and quite a ride to be with Murray. He was a fiery man who knew what he wanted. He had a vision, and he had a passion that was just incredible. It was contagious, and I captured all I knew from him.

I traveled and bought with Murray for a very long time before Debi came into the business and continued to evolve the store. I was happy to become the Vice President of Sales and Merchandising, and my passion for the business never changed. There is no place like Louis. I never looked back.

From the concept shop “DOWN with Louis,” to the two locations we had at one time in Faneuil Hall, to the shops in Cambridge and Chestnut Hill, to our home of 20 years at the old Bonwit Teller building, which is now only known as “the old Louis building,” it’s been an incredible life in fashion.

Jamie:

What did you think of our move to the Fan Pier?

Arthur:

The move was characteristic of the Pearlstein family. Murray had tremendous strength and insight, and Debi is the same way. I think that’s been the bottom line of the success of Louis. She and her father took all the heat this town could throw at them, but they were both leaders and always made dynamic choices. I traveled with Murray for many years and got to know him very well. I feel like I know Debi well too, and understand her choices because she wouldn’t have it any other way. She is direct and I will always have an incredible respect for her and all that she has accomplished. I know a lot of people gave her a hard time for moving, but she hung in there – she changed the way she was buying and kept thing moving forward. It was interesting, and quite rewarding, to see the people who doubted the move eventually come out of their comfort zone of Newbury Street to see what we were doing on the waterfront. One after the other, people would walk into the store and it was as if a lightbulb went on over their head, and they finally got what this evolution was all about. The evolution of Louis is what’s kept it alive. Business has been great to this very day, and it will be good to go out on a very high note.

It’s been a great run of 85 years, and I have 47 in.

Not bad.

Jamie:

Looking back, what really made Louis special for you?

Arthur:

Special? Louis has always been special in so many ways, but the thing that stands out to me the most is the dedication both Debi and her father had for always wanting to have the best store in the world – and to merchandise it the way no others do. Instead of trying to have what everyone else has, Louis has always had what Louis had – its own looks and styles. And to this day, the same holds true, and it’s why so many customers continue to love this place I’ve called home for so long. I enjoy having customers from all over the country and all over the world, and I appreciate that while they come to Boston for so many things (education, banking, etc.) they continually patronize the store. Over the years we’ve collected an incredible amount of people who are regular clients. Simply put, I know they love and appreciate this store.

Jamie:

Besides the respect from your clients and colleagues, what do you attribute to your longevity at Louis to?

Arthur:

Well, I didn’t really have a goal to get into retail, but I was young, and liked the clothing, and enjoyed myself. Getting to Louis and meeting Murray was inspiring and led to wonderful things. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m still here, so that’s something. But I have to say, he probably fired me at least a dozen times. One day we were walking down the street and I said, “Murray, you’ve fired me at least a dozen times – and I’m still here.” I paused and said, “What does that say about you?” He just chuckled and walked away. I was here to stay and we both knew it.

Jamie: …and once Louis closes?

Well, Our customers are asking where they can shop. There’s no other place like Louis, and quite honestly I’m not sure where to direct them. There is no good answer. Louis has always been the whole package, and we have merchandise you just can’t buy in other stores. You have been hand picking every item in the store, and creating fabrication and cut. You can find Kiton at Neiman’s but it will look nothing like the Kiton you would find at Louis.

Jamie:

If you could leave your customers with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Arthur:

There are no experts, only people with opinions.

I want people to know that they can’t dress for other people. I’m no expert, but I’ve helped a lot of people and seen some amazing things, and it’s a wonderful feeling to help someone and give them confidence.

The “Louis Look” puts checks and plaids and stripes together – but some men shied away because they lacked the confidence to go for it. I encourage you all to go for it, and when someone shakes their head don’t let them shake your confidence.

Jamie:

What’s next for you Arthur?

Arthur:

Customers are asking, “Where are you going?” But I honestly don’t know. I’m listening to offers and thinking about things. I could, but certainly don’t plan to retire. I still have gas in the tank and want to be in action.

This is what I do, so stay tuned for the next chapter of Arthur Jordan.

Arthur Jordan and Joseph Abboud

Arthur Jordan and Joseph Abboud

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Arthur Jordan, Featured in Esquire Magazine

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Arthur’s Original Business Card From “DOWN with Louis”

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Recognition from Esquire Magazine

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Arthur’s Mentor – Murray Pearlstein

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Arthur Jordan / Model

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Arthur Jordan on the left, Modeling for Louis

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Arthur Jordan – Modeling for Louis

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Arthur Jordan – Modeling for Louis

Black Friday (It’s Not a Holiday.)

I can’t help but remember the good old days, when vendors actually believed in the value of their merchandise and went through the exercise of telling us when we had permission to mark their items on sale – which used to be the day AFTER Christmas. Slowly, over time, it kept moving. It went from the day after Christmas to the 21st of December (to help merchants move extra inventory), and then they moved it to the 15th, then the 9th, then the 1st, and then the day after Thanksgiving. Now the vendors aren’t talking, and no one is listening anyway. Retail does what it wants in an effort to compete with each other, and make all of you compete.

Just last week I caught a news story of two women were already camped out in front of a Best Buy store in California for the store’s Black Friday sale. These two ladies have committed themselves to sitting in front of a store, on camp chairs, for over three weeks – to save money at Best Buy.

Should we laugh or should we cry?

To save everyone the trouble of sorting through the hot deals of the season, let’s just say that from now on, Halloween is the new sale date. Hell, why not back it up to Labor Day? At least the weather would be better for camping outside while you’re waiting for the doors to open.

**

I find it a little unsettling that merchants can no longer seem to sell merchandise unless it’s on sale. It’s the only tool they have left in the toolshed and they’ve trained Americans to think they should only buy something if it’s discounted. How do you explain “Friends and Family,” if everyone gets the coupon? What exactly is a “Private Sale?” Because the last I checked, if it’s loading in your Facebook feed, it’s not so very private – is it? All of these “sales” really just translate to 6 consecutive weeks of discounted merchandise for the masses.

Which begs the question, Is it even discounted? It’s no secret that some pretty big retailers have been caught before marking things “up” to mark them “down.” Do they really think they are fooling anyone? Do you really think they would take a loss for you? Apparently, the consumer really does. And the vendors keep saying…declaring…insisting, that they do all of this because it’s what “SHE” wants. But isn’t that a bit insulting that SHE won’t buy anything unless it’s on sale? Do customers really want stores to open earlier and earlier every year in an effort to create chaos in the lives of employees and shoppers everywhere?

So I have to ask, why is Saks opening a new 250,000 square foot store in New York City? And why are they moving next door to Century 21 when they already ARE Century 21? Do they really need more space to sell more merchandise at a discount? The last time I checked, when demand goes down, you don’t add more supply. Eventually, like the mortgage industry, which never should have failed (right?), this system will implode too. Retail giants continue to open more stores, but they will remain empty and merchandise will continue to be sold at marked down prices online.

Too much supply, not enough demand? How will they save the industry?

Create a Holiday!

Alibaba.com, a Chinese e-commerce company, broke all records this year with over 9 BILLION in sales for Singles Day. Yes, Singles Day. A “holiday,” created in 1993 to celebrate the young, SINGLE, fashionable set. Brands couldn’t even participate unless their merchandise was marked at least 50% off. And just today I read an article on PopSugar Fashion about the Black Friday “holiday” and the top 21 sales to keep an eye on. I’m sorry, but Black Friday isn’t a holiday.

And while they’re building up New York City, the rest of the country is pulling away from expansion. Retail real estate is projected to contract 37% year after year because malls and other brick and mortar retail stops can’t compete with their own, and others, online sales. Who needs a store if you have 2 dimensional pictures to click on? Consumers are not expected to expect anymore, and most retailers have gotten complacent and have stopped educating their customers about what it means to appreciate something they can actually experience.

By now you may be asking yourself, Debi, why do you care?

I care because retail has always been a huge part of my life, and my observations of the industry help me make better choices for Louis and all who have loyally patronized our store throughout the years. I care because it’s my job to stay connected with the newer shoppers who, despite having a laptop, still appreciate and understand the value of what we do. You can’t find what I have on sale. I keep it exclusive so we can all be reassured that you are buying something of quality, and something more special than the 8 million of something else you can buy online.

I remember, during the last great recession in the late 80’s / early 90’s when my father, Murray Pearlstein, said to me, “Debi, I lived through the great depression, and while things were very tight, there was always somebody who still appreciated something special.”

So people, take a breath. There truly is plenty of time to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

No matter what holiday you observe, let the spirit linger.

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Murray Pearlstein

We are saddened to announce the passing of a member of our family this past Sunday April 21, legendary Louis owner Murray Pearlstein. In the late 1960s, Pearlstein transformed our iconic store (founded by his father and uncle) as a buyer by importing Europe’s premier designers. In the 1990s he consolidated Louis’ several Boston area and Manhattan outposts into the monumental building on Boylston Street, formerly home to the Museum of Natural History. Over the years Pearlstein was the recipient of numerous international awards for Louis. He was widely respected by his colleagues and was known internationally as a “buyer’s buyer” for his keen and discerning eye for quality and craftsmanship. His innovation has made a lasting impression on the industry.