Charles Malka, Founder of Charles David, Dead at 84

Charles Malka, founder of fashion footwear brand Charles David, died on Oct. 28 after battling Alzheimer’s. He was 84.

A native of Morocco, Malka began his career in France at the age of 13, working at the Bata shoe chain. He later moved to Canada, where he launched the Charles David line in 1967. He relocated the company to Los Angeles in 1987. Other brands included Charles by Charles David and the Guess license.

Having grown up in the shoe business, Malka witnessed its highs and lows. In an exclusive interview with FN in 2010, he said: “The business has never changed; fashion changed, and the competition for price point changed. When we arrived in Los Angles, we did not have any competition; now there are many [competitors].”

Facing increased competition and a changing retail landscape, parent company Charles David of California Inc. was sold to New York Transit Inc. in 2013.

According to Malka’s son, Alain, “He was a pioneer and a leader in the fashion footwear industry. He was instrumental in so many peoples’ [lives],” noting his impact on the careers of others in the shoe industry.

Over the decades, Malka worked with a wide range of industry insiders including Joe Ouaknine, chairman of Titan Industries. “He was a great shoe man who knew his business,” said Ouaknine, who was the brand’s first-ever sales rep in the U.S., beginning in 1984. “He taught me everything I know. We had a great run with the success of Guess and Charles David.”

Marc Fisher, CEO of Marc Fisher Footwear, knew Malka for over 20 years. “He had a great fashion eye and great sense of the new trends and what was coming for the net season,” said Fisher. “He always found a way to execute the key items affordably for the fashion customer. He was a very talented guy.”

He is survived by his wife, Estelle; children Alain Malka, Joelle Berkovitch and Natalie Marciano; and nine grandchildren.

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