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‘Elegance personified’: Canadian menswear mogul Harry Rosen dies at 92

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Harry Rosen, who founded one of Canada’s most prominent menswear retail chains, has died. He was 92.


Rosen’s eldest son confirmed his father’s Dec. 24 death in a statement.


“It’s with a heavy heart we announce the passing of our founder and visionary Harry Rosen,” Harry Rosen Inc. chairman and CEO Larry Rosen, said on Dec. 25. “His passion for menswear and fashion was contagious; his ability to teach and inspire were unparalleled.”


Founded in Toronto in 1954, the Harry Rosen retail chain grew from a single made-to-measure store to a leading destination for high-end menswear, with 15 locations and five outlet stores across Canada.


“Starting with a $500 loan and a dream, Harry willed his business into existence one client at a time,” Larry Rosen said. “The team he built and the values he instilled have helped the business span across the country, three generations, and nearly 70 years. Words simply can’t summarize the impact he had on us all.”


Harry Rosen was born and raised in Toronto to a Jewish family. According to the company, Rosen worked in a clothing factory and at a men’s haberdashery shop as a teenager before opening his first store at age 22 with his younger brother Lou. More shops followed in Toronto until Harry Rosen expanded across Canada in the 1980s.

After 51 years, Rosen stepped back from the retail chain’s day-to-day operations in 2005, but continued to advise his son and senior management while serving as executive chairman.


Speaking to CTV News Channel on Monday, Rosen’s friend and fashion journalist Jeanne Beker described the Canadian entrepreneur as “elegance personified.”


“He was just so kind, generous, and he was so amazingly caring when it came to his customers – they don’t make retailers like that anymore,” Beker said. “He built an incredible brand for himself that really raised the bar for men across the country to really get into style and really appreciate style.”


Rosen was also known for his philanthropy and contributions to groups like the Canadian Cancer Society, United Way, United Jewish Appeal and the Canadian Special Olympics. Such efforts were cited when Rosen was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004.


“His vast leadership contributions extend beyond the business sector into the wider community,” a previous statement from the Governor General of Canada said. “Renowned for his integrity, marketing skills and business acumen, he shares these abilities equally as a community builder.”


Rosen is survived by his wife of 68 years, Evelyn, their four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The family says donations in Rosen’s memory can be made to the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Baycrest Foundation for geriatric medicine.


Rosen’s funeral will be held in Toronto on Dec. 28.


Although the family has not released a cause of death, TVO journalist Steve Paikin reported Rosen was “suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.”


“One of this country’s most successful and prolific men’s clothing retailers has died,” Paikin wrote in a Christmas Eve tweet announcing the death. “Harry Rosen was a legend in retail circles.”


With files from CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer Hannah Alberga

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