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Danny Zarem, Pioneering NYC Fashion Retailer, Dies at 86

He outfitted Steve McQueen for one of the most stylish films ever, the 1968 heist classic “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
Courtesy of Bobby Zarem

Danny Zarem, the renowned New York fashion retailer who outfitted Steve McQueen for the uber-stylish 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair, has died. He was 86.

Veteran entertainment publicist Bobby Zarem told The Hollywood Reporter that his older brother died Thursday in his Manhattan apartment after a long illness.

Danny Zarem is credited by many to have created the casual look in men’s clothing in America in the mid-1960s. As vice president of the now-defunct clothing store Bonwit Teller, he introduced the men’s fashion department there and brought in handmade suede clothing by Pierre Cardin. Wall Street execs noticed and began to wear casual jackets to work.

In director Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair, the usually rugged McQueen for the first time in his career went formal onscreen as he portrayed a dashing, urbane tycoon who masterminds a bank robbery. Whether wearing custom-made three-piece suits or more casual fare, McQueen became a fashion icon.

Meanwhile, co-star Faye Dunaway wore 31 outfits in the film and created a sensation all her own.

Zarem later worked with Andre Oliver, the longtime partner of Cardin, on cable-knit, baby-wool men’s sweaters. Known as “Le Sweater,” the item was bought by women in droves and worn by Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Bobby Zarem told THR that his brother also designed a denim shirt for Cary Grant that the actor wore on the big screen in the 1960s.

Danny Zarem, a close friend of Michael Caine, was voted to the International Best Dressed Men’s List in 1978. Andy Warhol once photographed him and Cardin for a famous 1980 picture.

Zarem was born in Manchester, Ga., where his father opened a wholesale shoe company. After serving in the U.S. Army in Japan, he enrolled in the Yale School of Fine Arts, but when his father died in 1950, he had to leave school to run the business.

Zarem later moved from Savannah, Ga., to New York in the '60s as an executive at Genesco, which owned Bonwit Teller.

In addition to Bobby, who just presided over the 16th annual Savannah Film Festival, survivors include another brother, Harvey -- formerly the head of plastic surgery at UCLA -- and six nephews and nieces.

A private funeral service was held Tuesday.

 

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