Funeral services were held earlier this month for Blossom Warren, 95, a pioneering fashion executive.
Born Blossom Tilzer in the Bronx, she stayed rooted in New York throughout her life and graduated from the City College of New York. In 1952, she married David Warren who, after working for the American sportswear manufacturer Bobby Brooks, started his own company, The Warren Group, in 1967. Through that entity, the dress-focused business evolved to include the David Warren, DW3, Morton Myles, Rimini, Richard Warren, Riggio and Richard Warren II Sportswear labels.
At its peak, the company employed about 200 people and generated annual sales of $65 million. Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillards and Bloomingdale’s were among the major retailers that bought into the Warren Group’s various labels. There was also a consistent business with specialty stores nationwide.
When David Warren died of colon cancer at the age of 56 in 1981, his wife became chairman of the board, worked alongside Morris Marmalstein and her two sons, Richard and Michael. With her shock of red hair, sky-high Charles Jourdan heels and Chanel jackets, Blossom Warren was often the first to arrive to the office each morning and never missed a day of work. A visionary corporate leader, she wanted the designers, salespeople and all employees to realize their capabilities and was among the first fashion companies to adopt Dale Carnegie training.
“She was committed to carrying on her husband’s legacy and she really loved what she was doing,” said her daughter-in-law Marcy Warren, who befriended Blossom — before her future husband Michael — when she worked at the company in the ’80s.
Blossom Warren traveled all over Europe choosing fabrics and styles and attended fashion weeks in Paris and Milan to glean inspiration. Quality-oriented and hands-on, she canvassed the company’s 17 factories in China, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Her nephew, Robert Maslin, a former Warren group executive, had a bird’s-eye view of her professional side. “I worked with her for 20 years, and I watched her return lunch almost every day. It’s hard to believe that you could screw up an egg salad sandwich so much. But she was a good cook,” he said. “She was involved with every single design meeting, when we had 12 divisions. She was very instrumental with what was approved to be sewn.”
Even at 95, she would outpace Maslin on city sidewalks en route to enjoying a martini at Il Murino. Philippe was another favoorite haunt – so much so, that the bartender name her preferred gin apple-tini “The Blossom.”
In 1998, the Leslie Fay Co. acquired the Warren Group, which had seen sales decrease due partially to retail consolidation and increased competition from designer labels. By 1999, the company’s sales were estimated to be $40 million. Around the time of the acquisition, Blossom Warren exited the company, serving on the board of the Pierre Hotel (where she also resided). She continued to be involved in real estate and also investing. She also became a master bridge player and traveled extensively — making the most of the five languages that she spoke. At 80 and in three-and-a-half inch heels, she climbed The Great Wall of China with relatives and at 85, she rode a donkey up a mountain near Petra.
“She was a diehard New Yorker. She didn’t go to restaurants to eat — she went for the atmosphere, to see the latest fashions and who was there. Should she be seated next to Woody Allen, she wanted to see what his date was wearing,” Marcy Warren said. “It was more about being a true New Yorker and a fashionista,” adding that even hospitalized, her signature coif and red manicure were intact.
When one of her four grandchildren, Andrew, got into the fashion business with his Just Drew collection, she offered her insights. Warren also supported institutions philanthropically including Parson School of Design and the United Jewish Appeal among others.
Many of the former employees attended Blossom Warren’s Sept. 7 funeral in New York City. She died two days prior due to a perforated colon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, according to Marcy Warren.