In Conversation with Retailer Richard Derwin

MR - The Menswear Industry's Magazine

Back in the day, when retailers were merchants, there was a handsome charming young exec by the name of Richard (Dick) Derwin, famous for his upscale taste level, his ability to build relationships, and his rather outrageous personality. Today, Derwin directs merchandising for his two apparel specialty stores, R. Derwin Clothiers (one men’s, one ladies) in beautiful Litchfield, Connecticut where he was one of the first “Jewish weekenders” in the 1970s. I was lucky enough to meet him last week, and hear some of his enchanting tales from the past, as well as talk about his continuing success.

Derwin’s retail career started in the 1950s, when he worked at a college clothing shop while attending Syracuse University. When he graduated and went looking for a job in New York City, the first place he investigated was Bloomingdale’s, hoping to work for their famous menswear GMM. But they offered him a position on the “fly squad” which didn’t guarantee a specific department, so Derwin declined. Instead, he took a job selling space for a directory in Harlem. “I sold only full page ads,” he boasts, “because the girl I was dating was the credit manager and she cleared everyone. I was the company’s leading salesman until nobody paid their bills.”

From there, Derwin headed west to Los Angeles and worked for a small independent chain of upscale menswear stores that wardrobed Hollywood film and TV stars. He was 25 and quickly became the top seller, ultimately buying into the business. His customers included Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Rock Hudson, and the stories he tells about some of these celebrities are priceless.