Style Eye for May 6, 2010

Remah Doleh

During my trip to New York City in January, I was fortunate to meet Greenfield, Holocaust survivor and the owner of the famous Martin Greenfield Clothiers. After reading an article on Mr. Greenfield in GQ magazine, I was determined to meet the man behind the seams.

Not far from my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn lies Martin Greenfield Clothiers. I walked into the factory, nervous but overly excited to meet the legendary tailor, who has tailored for many well-known people, such as former President Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson and Paul Newman (who he has pictured on his office walls). I entered Mr. Greenfield’s office and immediately noticed the hundreds of pictures on his walls, pictures dating back four decades. His desk was crowded with magazines and newspapers he was featured in.

There stood Mr. Greenfield, wearing an impeccable, handmade three-piece suit equipped with a pair of cufflinks he received at the opening of Caesars Palace, a gift for constructing the suits worn that night.

After the interview, he was generous enough to give me a tour of his factory while introducing me to a few of his diverse workers. He explained the productions of his company and even showed me some half-constructed suits from Rag & Bone and Band of Outsiders upcoming collections.

The art of handmade suits is slowly diminishing; Mr. Greenfield is determined to keep this art going one stitch at a time.

R: How did you get your start as a tailor and what inspired you?

I learned my skills here in this factory. I have worked in this factory since 1947, 62 years in the same building. When I came here, I started as a floor boy for $35 a week, then I became in charge of manufacturing. Thirty years later, I bought the business.

R: What skills are required to become a successful tailor such as yourself?

It takes a lot of years, and it takes a lot of work. You don’t always make everything perfect, but you improve as you go along. Quality is the most important thing that we do. You see, a lot of people dress and a lot of people don’t dress, so you have to adjust to every situation.

R: Do you believe “the clothes make the man?”

Definitely. It’s a good expression. I dress every day the way I come to work. I believe just like the famous designer once said when she came here, Chanel, she said that fashion comes and goes, but style is constant, and that’s what I believe.

R: Currently, what designers are you working with?

We work with a lot of young designers. We work with Rag & Bone; we work with Band of Outsiders and 20 others, but these two are most popular right now. Young designers come to us, sometimes I think too many, but they like to come here because of our quality.

R: What is the anatomy of a great suit?

In my opinion, a great suit starts with the fabric. Our quality is handwork; there is no duplicate for handwork, because when you put on something that is made by hand, it moves with you in any direction.

R: Are there any big projects you are working on now?

Right now, we are involved, also, with HBO. They are doing something big that isn’t announced yet, but I’m going to tell it to you. The next show after the “Sopranos” is “The Boardwalk Empire.” It’s being filmed now already for six months in Brooklyn, and we’re making all the clothing for all of the actors that they wore in the ‘20s, because there were no machine work in those days and that’s the most beautiful quality. I remember my grandfather and the beautiful quality that was worn in those days. We had to look for the old fabrics to repeat everything, so it’s a very exciting time.

R: What has been the most exciting job that you’ve had so far?

There have been many exciting things to happen to us, because we meet a lot of important people and we dress them. A lot of people who we dress are very prominent people. I love what I do; I wouldn’t be here at this age if I didn’t love what I do.

R: What is it about New York style that is so influential?

Everybody comes to New York to buy, and everything happens mostly in New York City. New York is where everything is happening. We will never move away from New York, because we are New Yorkers. I lived 50 years in Brooklyn, I just moved out of Brooklyn about 10 years or 12 years ago, but I love Brooklyn. To me, there’s no place like Brooklyn. There is no place like Brooklyn. It’s the place to live in.

I want to thank Mr. Greenfield again for participating in Style Eye. Look out for next semester for more campus street style.

Contact Style Eye columnist Remah Doleh at [email protected].