A Tailor, Called Upon by Designers and Politicians

By ANN FARMER            NYTimes
When the trend-setting fashion designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville of Rag & Bone wanted a top-of-the-line men’s wear maker for their hip brand, whose door did they knock on? Martin Greenfield’shttp://www.greenfieldclothiers.com/home.html  When the costume designers for the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” sought period garments that could have been lifted straight out of the 1920s, whom did they turn to? Martin Greenfield. And when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and other local notables known for their sartorial flair need a new addition to their wardrobe, whom do they call? You guessed it.

Working behind the scenes for more than 60 years, Martin Greenfield has been an influential face of men’s fashion in New York City — from the era when men wore suits to baseball games to today, when only the fussiest of restaurants demand jackets and ties.

Men’s fashion may be much less formal, but Mr. Greenfield, 82, is still old-school in his devotion to the labor-intensive, exacting and vanishing art of making tailored garments by hand.

“See, I wore out the floor,” Mr. Greenfield said the other day, standing on a weathered sheet of plywood that long ago replaced the worn planking on the second floor of the factory in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he and his two sons oversee 117 workers.

Hunched over tables spread across the vast loft-style space, workers methodically stitched sleeves, pockets, buttonholes and collars into jacket bodices. Dressed in a natty three-piece suit embellished with a pair of striking cufflinks — a tiny measuring tape and shears presented by a satisfied customer — Mr. Greenfield paused to sort through a rack of finished jackets destined for Brooks Brothers and two fashion-forward labels: Freemans Sporting Club and Band of Outsiders. “Look at the beauty of these garments,” he said, pointing out the even stitching and luxurious feel. “Everything is soft.” Every suit, Mr. Greenfield explained, takes about six weeks and the handiwork of 80 to 85 tailors to make.

“He does simply outstanding work,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who credits Mr. Greenfield with making all his suits. Mr. Greenfield first grasped the importance of appearances while trying to survive the Holocaust. When he was 14, he and his father, mother, two sisters and a brother were taken from their home in Pavlova, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and later delivered to Auschwitz. He was assigned to wash clothes in the camp’s alteration shop, and one day he accidentally ripped an SS officer’s shirt, an affront for which he was beaten. The officer threw the shirt at Mr. Greenfield, who mended it and started wearing it instead of the uniforms the other prisoners wore. From then on, he said, the guards and prisoners began treating him with respect. “He looked like a somebody,” said Jay Greenfield, 52, Mr. Greenfield’s oldest son and the executive vice president of the company, Martin Greenfield Clothiers, explaining that his father attributes his survival to that shirt. The rest of Mr. Greenfield’s family perished in the camp, though he did not find that out immediately and spent two years after the war looking for them. After discovering that some of his mother’s siblings had immigrated to America before the war, Mr. Greenfield traveled to New York, where he was met by an aunt, who relied on a photograph to recognize him. In 1947, he was hired by a clothing manufacturer, GGG Clothing, in East Williamsburg. His first assignment was to move batches of unfinished garments from one sewer to another. He advanced to blind stitcher, fitter, supervisor and so on, until he was able to buy the business in the 1970s, starting from scratch with six employees. He did not have it easy after he took over. “Eleven times they’ve broken in,” said Mr. Greenfield, who founded a business development corporation and served on a local preservation board to help revitalize the now-gentrifying neighborhood.

As his reputation grew, well-known figures like Paul Newman, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, Colin Powell and Patrick Ewing sought him out for custom-made suits, which cost as much as $2,600. After President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the White House requested a tailcoat for the president’s first state dinner. Painstakingly measuring Mr. Clinton, Mr. Greenfield told him: “Anyone would give their right arm to be in my position. But if I don’t do it right, you could ruin my reputation.” Mr. Clinton, he recalled, simply laughed. Later, Mr. Greenfield got a photo of Mr. Clinton wearing the tailcoat. “They sent me the picture because he looked so good in it,” he said.

As comfortable as he is dressing the president, Mr. Greenfield is also versatile enough to work with Mr. Wainwright and Mr. Neville, the designers behind Rag & Bone, who are known for their modern yet classic approach to men’s fashion. Mr. Greenfield celebrated when Rag & Bone was named the 2010 Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.  http://www.cfda.com/   “We don’t get to win awards, but we get to enjoy the success,” said Tod, his other son.

They also delighted in watching episodes of “Boardwalk Empire,” for which they hand-tailored 250 period garments with fabric that was used in the 1920s. “It’s hard to follow the plot,” Tod Greenfield said, “because we’re looking at the clothes.” One day, when Mr. Greenfield visited the set of the show in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Steve Buscemi, the actor who plays one of the leading roles, walked up to him and gave him a hug. “He said he never looked so good,” Mr. Greenfield said.

Thoughts of the Day:

Treasure every Moment that you Have.
Yesterday is History.
Tomorrow is a Mystery.
Today is a Gift.
That’s why it’s called the PRESENT !
Eleanor Roosevelt
Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity.
Don’t fight them.
Just find a different way to stand.
Oprah Winfrey
Open the File Cabinets of your Mind
Make Money with Your Skills
Joan McKenna

Project Runway

Project Runway’s preshow begins at 8 PM on Thursday, August 20th, 2009. The first show of the new season starts at 10 PM. It will now be on the Lifetime Network. This is Channel 38 on San Diego Cox. Don’t forget to watch !!!! Make Money with Your Skills

Leapin’ Lizards !!!

This picture is Priscilla’s final project from the Spring Semester. I couldn’t resist posting it !!!!

The classes are still ALIVE !!!! I am so JAZZED !!!! This is the third week of each course. I do intend to run the courses until the Dean tells me to stop. Here is what’s up in each course. Over the July 4th weekend, I will set up the Fandango for July 11. It’s coming up ever so quickly !!!!

Serging: We learned a bit about fitting a paper pattern last week. Hope you all cut your fabric and are ready to serge. BRING YOUR SERGERS TO CLASS ALONG WITH FABRIC AND MAXI LOCK SERGER THREAD. This week, we will be threading our sergers, and testing our stitches. Once you have done that, you can begin to sew up the bathrobe. We will tie on your threads to the cover stitch machine and make your belt loops. It’s easy. I will show you. AND if there is time, I will demo how to embroider one pocket. I have enough stabilizer for each serger student to embroidery one pocket with a Deco machine. I have 6 Decos so waiting will be at a minimum. If you own your own embroidery machine, feel free to embroider a pocket at home.

Basic Sewing: Last week, we fitted our nightshirt pattern. We discovered that McCall’s pulled pattern 8524 from its pattern book. Some of you, are using different patterns. BUT…they are all basic. So don’t worry. This week, we will be SERGING our open edges. Sergers will overcast the edge of your fabric so that they won’t ravel. AND the edge will lay flat. The ONLY edges that do NOT get serged are the ones that are enclosed like the neckline and neckline facing edge. The facing edge that is NOT enclosed gets serged. It’s easy. I will show you. Yes, I know, there are overcast stitches on the straight stitch sewing machines. Why are we not using them??? Because they don’t lie as flat as a true serged edge. AND I decided to take this opportunity to introduce sergers to you. They are very useful when you sew. AFTER the serging is done, I will show you how to mark your cut fabric with notches, dots, and pocket placement. All of this is done in the seam allowance.

Patternmaking: This week we will be drafting woven pants from the handout I gave you. Make sure you have taken the measurements that were listed on the handout. Last week, we draped knit leggings and traced them off onto pattern paper. Bring your curved rulers, pencils, and ultra fine sharpie markers, !!!! You will be able to see quite the difference between the two patterns when we are done.

Computerized Machine Embroidery: Last week, we learned how to work with hot-fix crystals. It was fun !!!! I think I was the only one who mixed the crystals with permanent markers. I do intend to wear my shirt on Thursday night. I hope you all wear your shirts, too.
I was asked to write the directions for using crystals with Mylar paper. I thought I should reprint this here:

To use the Mylar paper with Hot-Fix Crystals:

1. Take an image. I like to use Microsoft clip art. It should be something she likes. Print it out.
2. Scotch Tape it to a table.
3. Take the backing off the CLEAR Mylar piece. Place it sticky side up over the Microsoft clip picture.
4. Tape this down in all 4 corners.
5. Outline the clip art with the crystals. MAKE SURE…..you place the crystals right side down on the Mylar. When you think you are done, replace the backing on the Mylar.
6. Turn the Mylar over to see what you created. You can easily remove the backing and move the crystals around – until you are happy.
7. Place the t-shirt on the ironing board. Place a pressing cloth over the Mylar. PRESS without steam for about 1 minute. The Mylar will get all wrinkly. This is how you know you did it right. LET THE MYLAR
8. COOL BEFORE YOU TAKE IT OFF. The crystals will be stuck to the t-shirt.
9. When you want to wash the t-shirt….use cold water and turn the t-shirt inside out.

This week we will be doing embroidered Pocket Toppers

You will need: A shirt with a pocket on it. This should be a woven shirt. I found an appliqué teddy bear embroidery design for this. I have paw prints (from the text) and I have the teddy bear appliqué pocket topper. (REALLY COOL !) Bring a 4 inch square of appliqué fabric if you want to do the teddy bear coming out of the pocket. The school will also supply the rayon embroidery threads. Bring tear away stabilizer. We will learn about templates and we will be using the Cartesian cross. Come to class with the vertical (y axis) line basted from inside the pocket on up over your shirt pocket. Make sure this line is dead set in the middle of the pocket.

Remember to check out the right side column of the blog. I have added new embroidery sites and inspirational creative messages.

Make Money with Your Skills !

The Week Before the Open House Fashion Show

Blog #3 April 26, 2006

Hello A-Team !!!!

Check out this week’s picture. There are 6 designers there. Left to Right. Upper to Lower, I can only name 3. Can you name the rest???? Let me know. Send me an email.

#1. Donatella Versace. #5. Madeleine Vionnet. #6: Coco Chanel.

Check out the best link ever!!! I put a new link up under Fashion News. Check out the site: Fashion Windows. It is a wealth of information concerning fashion designers (past and presnent) + fashion news + more !!!!!

I also put up more info under Jobs and Career. Things to know when you are laid off.

What an exciting week we have coming up!!


We have some students who are finished with their fashion show feather shirts. We have some that are not. For those who are ahead, let’s bring some cutaway and solvy and do a stitchout on stretch velvet. I gave the green velvet to you a while ago. Check your stash….. This will be fun to do. I now have 4 repaired embroidery machines + the Viking Rose. Come to class and let’s practice !!!! If you still need a shirt to embroider feathers on, let me know. I have two donated shirts that are just waiting to be used.

This is the week we need to make our model list for the fashion show. For the Thursday night class….this is the last class before the show. Our feather shirt fashion show will be at 12:15 PM on May 6th, in room 211 of West City Center. For those of you who can not attend, don’t worry: You can give me your shirt. We have plenty of dress forms that will display with HONOR !!!

Basic Sewing:

We need to discuss our Sample Portfolio presentation this week. Next Monday night…they are due. I know…we are NOT finished, yet. BUT….the Portfolios will look excellent just the way they are!!!! Everyone will be able to see just how much you have learned !!!!!


We are in the middle of patterning our first dress. This week we will finish it up by completing the sleeves, facings, interfacings, and adding seam allowances. Then we can cut and sew our toile/sample to check the fit. WHAT FUN !!!! Remember to bring ALL your pattern making tools. It is time to buy the notions for our dress: The notions are listed in the specifications chart on page 131 of our text book. You will need 7 or 9 half-inch buttons, ONE 9 to 12 inch polyester side zipper, and rat/mouse tail (About 1/2 yard). Check your stash !!! If you have not bought your toile/sample supplies, do NOT buy the rat/mouse tail. I bought the class something better to use. Come to class and find out what it is !!!!

This week’s class is the last class before the fashion show. You will need to dress a half-scale dress form for the show with your muslin sloper. I promise to take pictures so that you can see how they were displayed. So don’t forget to bring your dress with your “arm.” I can’t wait to see this all displayed !!!!!!!!

Be persistent in your studies !!!!! Come to class prepared to LEARN !!!!

Make it a GREAT week !!! See you all in class !!!!

Sewn Products are Fun

I’m crazy about Sewn Products and not just clothing but anything you can sew!
Just ask my friends, my students, my cats in fact anyone who knows me will tell you that!
Watch for updates and come join in the fun for learning, networking and meeting new friends.