What will Houston's fashion and social scene be like without Mickey?
That was the question stunned friends and colleagues were asking upon hearing that Tootsies owner Mickey Rosmarin had died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack Friday. The longtime retailer, who Texas Monthly once called "Houston's shrewdest, hippest retailer," was found at his Rice University-area home after he had not sent some business papers to the store as he had promised.
Rosmarin was 63.
For more than 30 years, Rosmarin, whose given name was Michael, was the king of Houston's fashion scene. The native Houstonian, a graduate of Bellaire High School who attended the University of St. Thomas, got interested in fashion at an early age, with a love for Levi's jeans and Hawaiian shirts. As a junior in high school, he learned how to silkscreenHis first business venture was selling recycled clothing in a garage.
After attending the National Boutique Show in New York, the then 21-year-old Rosmarin opened an edgy, hippie-influenced clothing store on lower Westheimer in the heart of Montrose. He called it Honest Threads.
As Houston grew more affluent and sophisticated, so did Rosmarin. In 1975, he opened a store in the Galleria area, calling it Tootsies, after the 1920s Al Jolson hit, "Toot, Toot-Tootsie (Goodbye)," because Rosmarin loved all things Art Deco, and began offering more exclusive merchandise.
In the mid-'80s, he moved to a large store in Highland Village that carried the latest European designers, whose creations Rosmarin picked on trips abroad. He discovered designers like Andrew Gn in Paris and was well-known in fashion centers in New York and Milan as well. He also was on the lookout for emerging talent in Houston and Dallas, where he opened a store and expanded to Atlanta.
"He gave my my very first order," Houston accessories designer Elaine Turner recalled via email. "He basically gave me a stage to sell my goods. Honestly, I really didn't think I had a business until Mickey bought my collection. He supported young local designers like no other business owner. And he didn't have to. He mentored us and for that I will be eternally grateful to him."
In 2011, Rosmarin moved the flagship Tootsies store to the new West Ave mixed use complex at the corner of Kirby and Westheimer. The lavish 35,000-square-foot store is marked by a Tony Duquette gold chandelier at the entrance. "I thought it fit the door perfectly," Rosmarin told CultureMap. "I wanted anything but a normal chandelier." He located a swirly green marble — "the color of money," he joked — for the customer service area and insisted on a long marble floor that bisects the store and often serves as a runway at the many charity events he hosted there.
Patsy Fourticq, who was active with St. Luke's Friends of Nursing, recalled the first fashion show luncheon Tootsies did for the organization. In a surprise to the nurses who were modeling, he gave each of them the outfits they wore in the show. And he continued to do that over the years.
"He was like that with everyone. He was the sweetest, sweetest," Fourticq said.
Like all of his friends, longtime confidant Meg Goodman was heartbroken at the news of his death. "Everybody loved Mickey and Mickey took care of everybody," she said. "He was an amazing person. He was so present in every conversation. He will be greatly missed."
"Mickey always stuck to his conviction about how women should look - elegant, joyful, feminine - no matter how much fashion changed, but his taste never wavered," Kristi Schiller, a friend and admirer for more than 25 years, said via email.
"He left us exactly as he lived: with tremendous grace, great dignity and very much on his own terms," Schiller added. "While our hearts are broken by the idea of life without Mickey Rosmarin, he is still very much with us in spirit. Mickey's hard work, his intelligence, his vision and his love of life are the heart and soul of Tootsies."
Rosmarin is survived by his brother, Kenny Rosmarin; sisters Susie Rosmarin and Judy Pliner; and daughter Aurey Harper; as well as many friends and employees.
A funeral service will take place at 11 am on Monday, June 20, at Emanu El Memorial Park, 8341 Bissonnet.