Bud Konheim

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The fashion industry just lost an icon, a giant full-of-life character, a \”call them as he saw them guy,\” doused in great humor — and just simply a fine person and a wonderful friend, which I was lucky enough to have been for close to 30 years. Bud met designer Nicole Miller in the early 70s, and it was the beginning of both a warm familial friendship, a solid and profitable \”left brain/right brain\” business, and a powerful global brand.

I have observed during my career that common sense is often brilliant. Bud viewed life and business through a common sense lens, most of which could be defined as brilliant. Perhaps the most prescient and brilliant display of common sense was his simple \”day one\” strategy statement to Nicole. Bud and I met over lunch when he and Nicole joined forces and he recalled that statement, which was also repeated in a WWD interview. He said, \”I told her from Day One that we\’re going to run a business that\’s totally independent and rests on your ability to design clothes. I told her, \’You design clothes for yourself and we\’ll find enough people in the United States that share your aesthetic and your idea of clothes, and we\’ll make a business out of it.\’\” And they did, big time! When I think of Bud, it is that common sense approach to \”strategic planning\” that defined his brilliance.

More common-sense brilliance from Bud: \”Nicole and I have run our company since 1982 without manuals, bureaucratic boards or business school type organization. Most of our policies are formed by our own trial and error, occasionally adopting a business idea from an outside source that we think is worthy.\”

I often had lunch with Bud at his favorite restaurant, Arnos, one of the few remaining garment industry hangouts. Upon meeting, I shake his hand, sit down, and then his tutorial would begin. Wide-eyed, grinning, bow-tied, exuberant, out-spoken Bud, launching into a diatribe. One of his favorite rants was about department stores no longer buying fashion, rather buying \”tonnage.\” And then he would grumble about chargebacks, describing it as subsidizing the retailers\’ bottom lines. But, somehow it never sounded like he was complaining. In fact, he would often just laugh.

About his personality and sense of humor, Nicole\’s comments to WWD said it all: \”We just always got along. I\’m more low-key and he had a big personality. When he entered the room, he always took over the whole room. If he was at a dinner party, he took over the whole dinner party. He was just larger than life and everybody loved him. He made every day exciting.\”

Miller recalled a magazine luncheon she and Konheim attended where 24 guests were seated at one table. She said, \”He carried on during the whole luncheon. He talked to the whole table like he was conducting the whole luncheon. He had everybody howling. He had everyone in stitches. I was like, \’Oh my God, is this a little bit rude? You know how those luncheons are quiet and you talk to the person next to you and the person on the other side of you? But Bud had everybody laughing and they were so entertained. Afterward, everybody just came up to talk to him.\” Miller added, \”He was just one-of-a-kind. That\’s for sure.\”

Indeed, Bud was one-of-a-kind. I will miss him, as will the industry.

In signing off, Bud and I often shared Marine Corps stories. So, my goodbye represents a common verbal salute between Marines.

Semper Fi my friend.

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