Apparel maker Irving Kaplan died peacefully on Oct. 2. His daughters—Barbara Kaplan, Sandra Gonsalves and Joan Main—were by his side. He was 99.

A Bronx, N.Y., native, Kaplan played basketball for New York City College and served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in World War II, earning a Purple Heart. He married Gertrude S. Moskowitz and started his family before moving west and settling in Los Angeles in 1952.

The Kaplan family story is tied closely to the history of the Los Angeles apparel industry.His late wife, Gertrude, a niece of California Mart (now the California Market Center ) founders Harvey and Barney Morse, ran the California Mart Answering Service for more than 25 years. His family’s connection to the industry continues to this day. Granddaughter Marlee works with her mother, Barbara, at Extra Secretary at the CMC. His daughter Sandra Gonsalves works for Los Angeles apparel maker Jerry Leigh . The Kaplan family is not exclusively apparel industry–focused, however; his daughter Joan Main works in the medical field.

A central figure in the Los Angeles apparel industry, Irv Kaplan was a partner in Guild Lingerie , which was originally on the corner of Ninth and Los Angeles streets, but moved—happily, according to his daughter Barbara—a few blocks south to make room for the Morses to build the California Mart.

Guild Lingerie made children’s sportswear and sleepwear sold mostly to retailers such as Sears, JC Penney and Montgomery Ward . Guild was the first apparel factory to have an in-house testing facility for flame retardancy.Irv Kaplan became an expert in this field and was called upon whenever there was a case concerning a burn victim, according to Barbara Kaplan.

Even after Irv retired, he would come downtown every Wednesday for hot dogs from the Bakery on the CMC’s second floor, according to Barbara Kaplan. “He visited his ’girls’—Connie, Gloria and Hilda from the Hair Shop —and would say his hellos to the gang at Tri-R ,” she said.

Generous, kind and caring, Irv Kaplan was known to have a quick temper—but he was even quicker to forgive and forget. His generosity extended beyond family and friends to include competitors and the community at large. Barbara Kaplan recalls her father donating dresses to the Magnolia Elementary School in Los Angeles so the schoolgirls could have new dresses for graduation. “My dad had a great life—of family, friends, golf and a lot of travel.”Barbara Kaplan said. “I can’t help but to be happy to have had my dad for as long as I did.”

Many of those who knew him considered him a good friend.“He was my first official boss in California,” said retired apparel manufacturer Shelly Kadish, who met Kaplan when he joined Guild. “He loved the people who worked for him, and the people who worked for him loved him. He was everything you wanted in a boss.”When Kadish decided to leave Guild to launch his own apparel label, Traci Lynn Inc. , Kaplan was supportive. “He was one of the few people who understood my wanting to go into business for myself,” Kadish said. Kadish and Irv Kaplan stayed good friends. “He was the sweetest man,” Kadish said.

Retired apparel manufacturer Pete Lisa also worked for Kaplan—twice.“He was a great fellow,” Lisa recalled. “He had a quick, quick mind. He was a firm person, but he had a heart of gold. He knew what he wanted, and he demanded what he wanted. He thought we were all his soldiers.” After Lisa left Guild the second time to launch a new division at Kathy of California , the apparel manufacturing firm owned by his brother, Tommy, he and Kaplan started meeting to play golf—a practice they continued for 15 years.

Kaplan was a strong supporter of the Fashion Industries Guild of Cedars-Sinai and of the Textile Association of Los Angeles , said Hal Kaltman, former president of TALA and retired textile sales representative.“I didn’t have fabrics for ladies’ undies, but I would go in to say hello,” Kaltman said. He recalled that Irv always inquired about Kaltman’s grandchildren. “He would say, ’How are the twins?’ He was a true gentleman.”

Kaplan was preceded in death by his wife and is survived by his three daughters, two sons-in-law, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. —Alison A. Nieder

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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