Long-time Bloomie's Exec Dies

Levine Combined Theater and Fashion Sense

Carole Sloan, December 6, 2004

Carl Levine, a long-time home furnishings retail executive at Bloomingdale's, died on Nov. 26 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9 at the Four Seasons restaurant here at 99 East 52 St.

Levine “retired” from his post at Bloomingdale's as executive vice president, Home, in 1992 and formed Carl Levine Consulting and Licensing. While at Bloomingdale's, he also served as general merchandise manager for mens.

He gained international stature at Bloomingdale's with his knack for combining theater with his keen fashion sense and alertness to trends. The store's model rooms — created in partnership with Barbara D'Arcy, senior vice president for home furnishing fashion, featuring trend setting furnishings and furniture — were “must stops” for anyone in the business. Bloomingdale's first store-wide “country” promotion in 1960 — Casa Bella — reflected a large measure of his efforts.

Said Joe Laneve, senior vice president, general merchandise manager for home at Bloomingdale's, “I followed Carl directly at Bloomingdale's, and all through my career I felt he was the pacesetter in what fashion merchandising is all about. But he also had the great ability to do a lot of volume, profitably.

“He was a perfectionist, left no detail undone and was as natty in person as he was in business,” he added.

Norman Axelrod, one-time executive vice president, home, intimate apparel and swimwear at Bloomingdale's and now chairman and CEO of Linens 'n Things, remembers Levine for his “high taste and execution level. He set himself a much higher standard than others, and he made Bloomingdale's home store a special place. He was an exceptionally creative merchant.”

But Axelrod added, “It was difficult to compete with him inside Bloomingdale's and outside.”

Barbara Deichman, president of Ralph Lauren Home and a former vice president, home furnishings, at Bloomingdale's, called Levine her mentor, adding, “I learned a tremendous amount from him. He was motivating, inspiring and later became a friend, a great supporter. His standards were stellar, it's one of the great things I think about.”

Said designer Larry Laslo, “He established me in High Point after we first met in 1980 when I had a shop of gifties and vases at Bloomingdale's. He had a great eye when he went into licensing, (with Laslo as one of his clients) he knew where he should place and merchandise talent.”

Lester Gribetz, senior vice president, fashion, for Macy's Home Store and Levine's boss at Bloomingdale's, noted, “He had the magic to set a tone and level that is rarely seen. But he also was a remarkable person — a marvelous raconteur, funny, a special person.”

For Marvin Traub, former chairman of Bloomingdale's who supported his efforts, “Carl was a wonderful combination of creative talent, an outstanding merchandiser and a fine human being. He was responsible for developing small European suppliers with unique abilities and even taught them how to 'antique' or distress reproductions. He was one of the first to bring in etageres and to see using armoires as storage pieces.”

And for Anne Bertsch, former senior home furnishings fashion director at Bloomingdale's, now a consultant, “Carl was one of the smartest, most creative merchants I have ever met. But what made him special was his ability to make hard work fun. He had a vision, he was sensitive, and he had an incredible sense of humor.” She added, “I'll bet the gates of heaven will get a new coat of paint once he's around.”

He is survived by his partner David Fink, two daughters, two grandchildren and a brother.

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