Rosen, Carl

views updated


ROSEN, CARL (1918–1983), U.S. apparel manufacturer. Rosen, a native New Englander, joined a small regional dress firm owned by his father, Arthur, and built it into one of the most successful apparel businesses in the U.S. At the time of Rosen's death, Puritan Fashions Corporation – founded in Boston in the first decade of the 20th century – had become a $300 million-a-year business. Rosen, one of the garment industry's more colorful personalities, also owned thoroughbred horses and was a regular at tracks around the country. He was a benefactor of many institutions, including Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., where he endowed the Arthur Rosen Chair in economics. He began his lifelong career at Puritan in 1936 when still a teenager, starting in the cutting room as a sweeper. He entered the U.S. Army as a private during World War ii, emerging as an artillery captain. He returned to Puritan, became chairman and chief executive officer in 1953, and remained in those posts for the next 30 years. In the 1960s, Rosen foresaw the vast changes that U.S. social customs, dress codes, and retailing concepts were about to undergo. He was one of the first American apparel makers to realize the business potential of the Beatles, the rock group then taking England by storm but still relatively unknown in the U.S. Rosen secured a license to make Beatles T-shirts, knit shirts, and sweatshirts, then managed to sell them to the conservative J.C. Penney Co. chain. They were an instant hit. In 1965, Rosen opened Paraphernalia, a Madison Avenue store modeled after the boutiques then popular in London. Small and trendy, its mod fashions – vinyl miniskirts and neon bikinis, for example – helped launch the careers of such hip new designers as Betsey Johnson and Mary Quant. By 1968 there were 44 Paraphernalia franchises in the U.S., but the name had become diluted because of too-rapid expansion and the last one closed around 1976. In 1977, Rosen made perhaps his most astute move at Puritan, getting the license to produce Calvin *Klein jeans for men and women. Within three years, Puritan was shipping 500,000 pairs of jeans a week. When Rosen died, his son Andrew, then 26, became head of the company. Later that year, Klein and his partner, Barry Schwartz, acquired Puritan, subsequently changed its name and in 1989 Andrew Rosen left to join the Anne *Klein Apparel Group.

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]