Joseph Picone, a tailor who specialized in men's trousers until a woman's
skirt crossed the threshold of his tiny shop, died on Saturday at his home
in Manhattan. He was 83.
In 1949, Mr. Picone was working out of a storefront on Fifth Avenue near
46th Street when a client sent his son over with a business proposition one
afternoon. The son, Charles Evans, had designed a simple skirt with a fly
front that he thought would find a market among fashion-conscious women.
He had spent months looking for someone who could create a sample, something
he could take around to stores to sell.
"I brought him this skirt and I said, `Can you make it?' " Mr. Evans recalled
yesterday. Mr. Picone said yes. Mr. Evans was delighted, but he had another
question. "I asked him when I could come back and take a look at it," he
said, "and he said, `In the morning, but not before 7.' "
The two formed a company, Evan- Picone, which produced thousands of skirts
and eventually women's slacks as well. They were going to name it Evans-Picone,
but at the last minute decided to drop the "s," reasoning that Evan-Picone
sounded more like somebody's name. They also dropped the final syllable of
Mr. Picone's name, which was pronounced in proper Italian style as "pi-KOH-nay."
Mr. Picone was an early pioneer of assembly-line garment manufacturing, assigning
one worker to sew hems, another to add buttons and another to sew pocket
darts, which were a company innovation that kept pocket seams from tearing.
The Evan-Picone brand was a success almost immediately, and it dominated
the sportswear business even after the company was sold to Revlon in 1962.
The company was sold because Mr. Evans wanted a change, he said. He went
into the real estate business. Mr. Picone remained and bought the company
back in 1966. He sold it again to Palm Beach Inc., where, in 1981, Evan-Picone
began its first advertising campaign to presell its clothes to working women,
who Mr. Picone thought were too busy to go through the racks looking for
the right things to wear.
He retired in 1983 as chairman and chief executive of Evan-Picone, now part
of the Jones Apparel Group, but before long he was back in action, introducing
the MaxMara line, founded by his friend Achille Maramotti, to stores in the
United States. From 1987 to 1992, Mr. Picone was chairman and chief executive
of MaxMara USA, where he remained on the board for several years after his
Mr. Picone, a native of Castronovo, Sicily, entered the garment business
when he was 7, apprenticed to a local tailor. He left Italy in 1936, when
he was 18, and within three years of arriving in the United States had opened
his own business making men's trousers. He closed the shop in 1942, when
he joined the Army, but he was back in business after World War II, stitching
up slacks on his machine at his shop, MPA Tailors, which soon became a supplier
of pants for Brooks Brothers.
He never forgot that early training and could be a tough taskmaster when
it came to the garments bearing the Evan-Picone name. "He was a difficult
boss," Mr. Evans recalled, "but an honest, good friend and in the 15 years
we were in business together, we never had one cross word."
He was soft-spoken, always impeccably dressed and, years after leaving his
native land, retained his Italian accent. He received several awards from
the Italian government and the Vatican and sponsored the 1967 Masquerade
Ball in Venice to benefit artisans there.
He is survived by his wife, Fannie, of Manhattan; a daughter, Sarina, of
Manhattan, and a son, Joseph, of Bergamo, Italy; two brothers, Vincent, of
Orlando, Fla., and Anthony, of Ridgefield, N.J.; and two sisters, Mary Celauro
and Marianna Pisano, also of Orlando.