Obituary: Stan Tendler, founder of Kennington men’s shirts
Stan Tendler, the founder of the men’s shirting brand Kennington Ltd. and a charter member of the MAGIC trade show, died of esophageal cancer at his Los Angeles home on July 1 at the age of 88, said his son, Lance Tendler.
Stan Tendler built a multimillion-dollar business with the shirting company he started in his apartment in 1957, developing a reputation for weaving Southern California style into Oxford shirts.
The company grew, and he later expanded into real estate, mortgage banking and the hospitality industry. By the late 1970s, the company’s annual revenues were more than $100 million.
“Apparel was the only business my dad ever cared about,” Lance said. “My dad’s eyes glazed over if it wasn’t about shirts.”
Born on Aug. 30, 1930, in Staten Island, N.Y., he and his family later moved to Los Angeles, where he attended Hamilton and Fairfax high schools.
Shortly after high school, Tendler joined the Air Force for four years and served in the Korean War as a staff sergeant in the office corps. “He joked that he won the war with his typewriter,” Lance said.
Stan Tendler met his wife, Audri, in 1955 and married her that same year.
Tendler always wanted to run his own business and saw an opportunity in the fashion world. He got a $6,000 loan from a grandfather. To name the company, his sister picked out the name Kennington by looking at a map of England. He liked the name because he thought it had an established, old-money sensibility. “It was ironic because they were selling something that was new and different,” Lance said.
When Tendler started his business, mainstream men’s shirting had an Ivy League sensibility. But Tendler wanted to experiment with the look. He designed shirts with colorful prints and made slimmer silhouettes. The brand was a success. Later, he took on Lee Condon as a business partner and they worked together for decades. Condon handled production and Tendler handled design and sales.
Long before the current craze in collaborations, Tendler had a knack for forging creative partnerships. In the late 1960s, Kennington sponsored the Malibu Surf Club and associated the shirt with the surfing world.
He also had a license with The Walt Disney Company, whereby he put prints of Disney cartoon characters into his woven shirts. “He was just putting an adventurous spin on traditional styles,” Lance said. “My dad was not afraid. He did things on a hunch. He worked long before market research became a big deal.”
The brand experimented with different styles, including the body-hugging polyester shirts of the mid-1970s. But it never stopped producing collared print shirts, which the company continues to make.
Tendler also was active in the apparel business community. For a year he served as president of the Men’s Apparel Guild in California (MAGIC)when the trade show produced events in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif.
Tendler was part of the group that urged the organization’s move to Las Vegas to attract buyers from outside of California. MAGIC started producing Las Vegas trade shows in the 1980s.
The Kennington brand was inactive from 2010 until it was relaunched in 2013. In 2018, the brand name was licensed to Alan Walters, who had been a longtime associate of the label.
Tendler is survived by his wife, Audri, son and daughter-in-law Lance and Karyn, daughter Bettina O’Mara, and four grandchildren.
Services were held July 3 at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City, Calif.