Kalman Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale's Fashion Director and Friend to Broadway, Dead at 69

Obituaries   Kalman Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale's Fashion Director and Friend to Broadway, Dead at 69
Kalman Ruttenstein, the fashion director of Bloomingdale's whose passion for the theatre often spilled over to window displays and in-store campaigns at the Manhattan retail institution, died Dec. 8 at Mount Sinai Hospital.

He was 69 and lived in Manhattan. The cause of death was complications of lymphoma, the New York Times reported.

A hungry theatregoer, Mr. Ruttenstein would often take inspiration from such Broadway shows as Rent, Saturday Night Fever and Hairspray to celebrate fashion and style in window designs and splashy store campaigns at Bloomingdale's on Lexington Avenue.

He had worked for Bloomingdale's for almost 30 years. In a long career as arbiter of taste and prognosticator of trends, he opened doors for major designers.

His window displays over the years, at many stores, promoted the work of such new designers as Zac Posen, Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs and Anne Klein, the Times reported.

His friends in the New York theatre community knew him as an addicted show-goer who liked to borrow themes, images and sounds of musical theatre to showcase fashion. Theatre industry observers said his enthusiasm and promotions for shows like Rent and Hairspray and movies like "Moulin Rouge" and "The Phantom of the Opera" brought those properties larger audiences due to exposure to hundreds of thousands of consumers. His displays were often subjects of news reports.

When borrowing ideas from pop cultural phenomena, like Rent, "Kal saw the shows and films numerous times and worked closely with the show's producers, designers, and casts," said Don Summa, a Broadway press agent who became a friend and colleague.

"He brought all of the machinery of Bloomingdale's to work on his visions —and the promotions were hugely successful not only in terms of in-store sales, but also, and more importantly, in the amount and kind of attention they received," Summa said.

"Fashion has lost a great icon, but theatre has lost a great friend," Summa said. "Kal promoted Broadway shows in the windows and shops of Bloomingdale's not merely because he loved the shows, which he did — he saw Rent about 40 times — but also because he truly believed that theatre still holds a place in the worlds of fashion and popular culture. There was only one Kal. He is irreplaceable and I will miss him terribly."

"Kal's passion for Broadway was unequaled.  Retail as theatre was epitomized in the many Broadway promotions he led at Bloomingdale's.  He lived life on the edge of fashion and entertainment,” said Michael Gould, chairman and CEO Bloomingdale's.

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