Rosen gives tailored advice
By Mark Brown
Students got the chance to pose a fashion guru questions yesterday in the University Community Centre's McKellar Room but they weren't "asking Harry" about menswear.
Harry Rosen, chair and CEO of Harry Rosen Inc. and member of Western's Board of Governors, talked about the growth of his business from its little Toronto shop, opened in 1954, to its place in today's market.
"Always remember to renew yourself and keep in touch with the next generation," he said.
Rosen explained he adopted this philosophy in 1957 after he was encouraged to see the clothing being produced by Brooks Brothers, a tailoring company in New York City.
Shortly after this change in outlook, Rosen said he began running a series of six full-page ads in The Globe and Mail containing information that men do not ask about clothes.
"The ads were designed to make us look bigger than we were. People began coming in from small towns, from all sorts of locations across Canada. The ads began to work immediately. They became the Volkswagen ads of the tailoring business."
Rosen said two of the first six ads his company ran created controversy. One offended a commentator for CFRB radio in Toronto and another ad was run in the Globe during a dry-cleaning convention that stated excessive dry-cleaning would shorten the life of a suit, which did not please many of those attending the convention.
"[We] got more publicity the ads were working in several ways."
Fortunately for Rosen, controversy and later, some embarrassing mistakes, would follow him to this day mistakes he said he has been able to turn into bigger successes.
However, Rosen said the rapid growth of his first shop prompted him to spend $200,000 on a lease in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto to open up his first expansion store in 1964.
Rosen said this created a new problem for him since he could no longer maintain complete control of all of his operations. "I was accustomed to being involved in most things I had to learn how to manage differently," he said. "The first thing that I learned about delegating is to allow [employees] the power to make decisions."
Rosen added the success of his store is due to his ability and willingness to identify changes in the market, including adopting a Ralph Lauren sports line in the store. "We had, in fact, attracted a whole new generation," he said.
Rosen added he attributes his success to his close relationships with his customers and his eye for quality. "I've never got the chance to sew," he said. "I plan to do that when I retire."