The Kosins Brothers: Fashion Legends
Any day you happen to visit bilities of running the store,
Kosins Clothes in Lathrup persuaded Harry to join the
Village, Michigan, you may see firm.
bank officers, football stars,
What happened then could be
actors, judges or musicians. You described as phenomenal. Harry
may even come across Lee found he had a natural flair for
Iacocca, Chuck Daly, Joe the business. He could predict
Dumars, Redd Foxx and any or fashion trends two years before
all of the Temptations.
they became popular. His sense
The Kosins Clothes and of fashion and design was inno-
Kosins Big & Tall stores are not vative and avant-garde.
located in the midst of the rich
and famous stomping grounds,
yet celebrities and sports figures,
politicians and millionaires fly
into town every day to buy their
clothes from the man who has
become a major influence in the
men's fashion industry.
That man is Harry Kosins,
and his success story is not
unlike those written in books of
fairy tales, because Harry, like
so many achievers in successful
entrepreneurial stories began his
business career as a young child.
Max Kosins, Harry's father,
immigrated to Detroit from
With Ben at the financial
Poland in 1922. Before the helm and Harry in the forefront
Great Depression, in 1926, he of fashion, Kosins Clothes grew
opened a tailoring and pressing and prospered. The brothers
shop on Griswold in downtown made the old Griswold Street
Detroit, which eventually be- location the number one men's
came a small clothing store. store in Detroit for the next
Young Harry and brother, Ben, three decades.
helped out as errand boys, both
IN 1981, the Griswold store,
on hand after school to deliver with its famous Back Room,
the goods to Max's clientele, was destroyed by a tragic elec-
many of whom were actors in trical fire several weeks before
local vaudeville theaters. Harry the Christmas holidays. But the
progressed and grew in the Kosins' two Lathrup Village
operations were doing extreme-
The eldest of the two brothers, ly well. The brothers concen-
Benny, began his career at the trated all of their efforts on in-
age of eight. He, like Harry after creasing traffic and sales at
him, delivered garments from those locations.
his dad's shop to customers in
Today, along with the two
downtown Detroit office build- stores, there are a large tailor
ings. Very soon thereafter, Ben shop, a warehouse and the
advanced to full-time employ- corporate offices. Sales have
ment in the small back room, increased each year, even during
which was to become the the not too distant past when the
original location of Kosins area was besieged with unem-
ployment problems. Current
THOSE WERE tough times, gross sales between the two
those Depression years, and stores exceed $12 million
Benny's grand dreams of per- annually.
forming Paganini, Kreisler,
Designer Oleg Cassini calls
Sphor or Vieuxtemps on the Kosins regularly for advice.
concert stage as a world-class Manufacturers vie to make suits
violinist soon diminished like so for Harry hoping he'll wear
many wafting puffs of smoke as theirs at men's apparel shows.
he became more entrenched in His employees nominated him,
the family business.
and the Michigan State Senate
"I gave up a concert career honored Harry as the Business-
because of economics," explain- man of the Year in 1983.
ed Ben. "At the time, we just
KOSINS always wanted to
couldn't afford it. I went into the set trends. "When I started out, I
men's clothing business instead," decided Kosins had to stand for
something," Harry said. "We
Harry's return in 1945 was had to find an identity. At that
met with open arms and a hero's time fashion didn't exist in
welcome. He had been awarded men's clothing."
the Bronze Star for his partici-
He maintains that fashion is
pation in the Battle of the Bulge. timing. "In 1949, when all men's
He now wanted to become a • clothing was dark, we went to
lawyer — wanted to study law. bright colors and watched the
But Helen and Ben had other - rest of the world follow suit in
the next few years. Then in 1953
When father Max died in we were the first to go dark
1946, Ben and mother, Helen, again," he said. "In 1959, when
who had shared the responsi- most styles were double-breasted
we reintroduced single-breasted
suits and our growth doubled
that year." Kosins cites this
example, "By the time we sold
our last Nehru suit, the other
stores were just beginning to get
He credits the stores' successes
with two key factors. "Number
one, we give the customer some-
thing in fashion he cannot find
anywhere else," he said. "Num-
ber two, we fit him better than
he can be fitted anywhere else.
Our work just begins when we
sell the suit."
Kosins doesn't believe in
playing favorites with custom-
ers, either. "A man buying a
$189 suit will receive the same
attention, service and altera-
tions as a man who spends
$1,500. This type of service
enables us to keep our customers
when their incomes increase," he
IMPECCABLE tailoring is
important to Kosins: "Billy
Sims (ex-Detroit Lions running
back), who at that time had a 33-
inch waist and 38-inch thighs,
came to us and we were able to
fit him out of stock because no
one spends the time on alter-
ations that Kosins does," Harry
Kosins' attention to the per-
fect fit prompted him to special-
ize in styles for big and tall men.
"I realized these men (big and
tall) couldn't buy anything but
unflattering clothes," he ex-
plains, "and I didn't want to deal
with big and tall manufacturers
because their designs didn't suit
our customers' tastes. I insisted
our manufacturers make these
clothes to our specifications or I
wouldn't do business with them,"
Mike Lucci, former Detroit
Lions linebacker, has shopped
Kosins for years. "With my
physique and 36-inch arms, I'm
shown only three or four shirts
at other stores," Lucci said. "At
Kosins Big & Tall store I know
I'll find lots of shirts to choose
from," he added.
Harry Kosins is a man who
has followed his instincts — and
those instincts were right. He is a
man of considerable charm
which has endeared him to his
customers and business associ-
His innovative ideas and per-
sistence to detail and follow
through have distinguished him
as a major influence in the men's
fashion industry. His reputation
continues to grow as does the
Though occasionally melan-
choly about his lost musical
career, Ben has never seriously
regretted the turn of events that
led him and his brother, Harry,
to develop and maintain Kosins
Clothes and Kosins Big & Tall
as recognized leaders of men's
fashion throughout the world.
But what of the future? Who
can predict what accomplish-
ments the Kosins brothers may
achieve, or • where the men's
fashion industry is headed?
Ask Harry. He knows.
Now $2 59
Designed in Italy especially for Kosins.
Experience the luxury and warmth of
cashmere blend in our exclusive Enrico Fratelli
Cashmere Coats. Classically styled for optimum
versatility in single and double-breasted. In cream,
black, camel, grey and navy. Sizes: 6-18. Also
available in petite sizes. No charge for alterations.
Kosins • 559-3900
27881 Southfield Rd. at 111/2 Mile, Lathrup Village
Big & Tall • 569-6930
26300 Southfield Rd. North of 101/2 Mile, Lathrup Village
Mon.-Fri. 10-9; Sat. 9-6; Sun. 12-5
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS