About a month ago, I lost a mentor. One of those people in life who leave a mark on you… leave you with life lessons and life philosophies that you weave into your own life… and hopefully, lessons you pass on to others.
Many of you might not be aware of my days selling and designing men's clothing. It was a period of my life that came at a time when I was learning about life, just like many other 20 year-olds. But unlike other 20 year-olds, I found myself in the company of “the best.” I met a man by the name of Lou Myles.
I had a men’s shop in Birmingham, Michigan in the early 70s and through the mid-80s. My entire store was built around Lou Myles suits and his design and fit philosophy. While my shop was all private label, Lou provided me with a foundation and understanding of fit, quality and taste. His factory gave me the freedom to create my own collection using high-end fabrics while developing a strong following based on my own name and reputation. While the success may have been a matter of timing... the strength of the US dollar, the shift in our culture and taste toward men's fashion, Lou's cut was on the money. And having a shop staffed with first generation Italians while manufacturing in North America made Lou's line amazing.
In retrospect, Lou’s impact on my life is more about life than about business…. more about style than fashion.
Simply put, Lou had taste. Lou’s philosophies were simple yet elegant, insightful and profound, At 5’ 7” he was bigger than life. When Lou walked into a room, he owned the room. And when he spoke to you, you were the only person in that room. Whether you were a young kid like me… or one of his star studded clientele, at that moment, you were the most important person in the world. And when I say star-studded…. Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Bobby Orr and John Gotti (the late Mafia don is buried in a Lou Myles suit)... the list is endless. They all had a special relationship and rapport with Lou.
The stories of my time with Lou are endless. When you went to an Italian restaurant with Lou you were welcomed like family. It didn’t matter if you were in New York, Toronto, Chicago, L.A. or Detroit… the maitre de jumped. Tables were moved, waiters were summoned and we were treated like royalty. Typically, we would rarely have to order… Lou would be back in the kitchen and dishes of food would just start appearing at the table. It was amazing.
With Lou, everything was about being honest to and with yourself. Honest to your beliefs, honest to your goals and sticking with what you know. With Lou it was always about being the best you could be. And for me, it was exciting. For me, Lou made things possible I never thought were possible. Because of Lou I was able to acquire and build relationships with some of the finest clothing families in the world… names like Loro Piana, Cerruti, Ermenegildo Zegna, Guy Laroche, Missoni… the list is endless. Make no mistake… back then, these weren't simply licensed “designer labels” like much of today’s trendy high-dollar brands. This was century’s old tradition of being the “best of the best” …. truly quintessential … no corners were cut. Second best would not pass muster.
What Lou had, you didn’t learn in books. And if he chose you, Lou was a hand on your shoulder, gently steering you in the right direction… letting you experience and learn for yourself, letting you make the decision. He wanted you to make your own choice of being the best you could be.
We last had dinner maybe 10 or 12 years ago. Too long, I know. But there is not a day goes by that I don’t feel Lou’s hand on my shoulder, guiding me in choices or making me think about the importance of quality and about getting it right.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” - Steve Jobs
About a month ago I lost a friend. I’ll never forget you, Lou. Thanks for the ride.