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Holocaust Survivor Tailors an American Success Story

Martin Greenfield's tailoring business has taken him to the White House

By: Ned Martel
Published: November 5th, 2012 in Business » World
Martin Greenfield immigrated to the United States after World War II

Like many men, Martin Greenfield ordered a new suit when his life was about to change: He placed his order just after he was liberated from a concentration camp.

In 1945, he left Buchenwald and arrived at a German warehouse, where Allied soldiers let Greenfield pilfer four cuts of English wool. The freed captive carried the fabric to a Prague tailor, who made a suit for Greenfield from two of the cuts, with the other two as payment.

Two years later, an uncle helped Greenfield cross the Atlantic, and a fellow Czech immigrant guided him to a job as a floor boy in a Brooklyn garment factory. Within a few years, Greenfield became a tailor, assigned to the factory’s famous clients — actors, athletes, politicians. By the 1970s, he had amassed enough skill and capital to buy the factory. And today, at 84, Greenfield can count among the tens of thousands of men he has dressed, three presidents, a vice president, Cabinet secretaries and countless senators and representatives.

Through the decades, Greenfield constructed made-to-measure suits that customers ordered at special sales at Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus stores nationwide. Such trunk shows brought him often to the capital of the country that saved his life, where he suited up many of the men who run it.

There appears to be a fourth president among his clients. In February 2011 and then again one year later, Greenfield and his two sons — now his business partners — made trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The White House logs reveal that the Greenfields visited a personal aide in the official residence. The tailor doesn’t talk about any well-known client, until the client talks about him first.

By all accounts, the president doesn’t focus much, if at all, on clothes. He wears the same outfits into disrepair. When asked about his suits during the 2008 campaign, Sen. Barack Obama looked inside his jacket and said he was wearing an off-the-rack suit from Burberry. For his inauguration ball, he wore a tuxedo by Hart Schaffner Marx, the storied Chicago suit maker.

Greenfield’s bespoke suits fit the bill for White House wear. They can range from $1,800 to $2,700, depending on fabric and features. The tailor works simply, as he always has and in a way that few competitors still do, showing up six days a week in a union shop that employs more than 100. The plant has stayed open in a rough neighborhood during bleak decades. Greenfield’s factory has been burglarized 11 times.

On a recent visit to Greenfield’s office, before conversation could begin, his sons removed two framed photographs from the walls and shelves from among the signed photos of Paul Newman and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. If President Obama belongs in this gallery, the father and sons — and the White House — aren’t saying.

This article is republished from the Washington Post. To read the rest, click here.

Related articles: Holocaust, Survivor, White House, Tailor, President, United States
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