Martin Greenfield, Tailor to Sinatra, Obama, Trump and Shaq, Dies at 95

Martin Greenfield, Tailor to Sinatra, Obama, Trump and Shaq, Dies at 95

Defying boundaries of style and time, Martin Greenfield made fits for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the gangster Meyer Lansky, Leonardo DiCaprio and LeBron James. Men expert within the arts of energy projection — together with trend writers and designers — thought of him the nation’s biggest males’s tailor.

For years, none of them knew the origins of his experience: a beating in Auschwitz.

As an adolescent, Mr. Greenfield was Maximilian Grünfeld, a thin Jewish prisoner whose job was to clean the garments of Nazi guards on the focus camp. In the laundry room at some point, he by accident ripped the collar of a guard’s shirt. The man whipped Max in response, then hurled the garment again on the boy.

After a fellow prisoner taught Max easy methods to sew, he mended the collar, however then determined to maintain the shirt, sliding it below the striped shirt of his jail uniform.

The garment remodeled his life. Other prisoners thought it signified that Max loved particular privileges. Guards allowed him to roam across the grounds of Auschwitz, and when he labored at a hospital kitchen, they assumed that he was licensed to take further meals.

Max ripped one other guard’s uniform. This time, it was deliberate. He was making a clandestine wardrobe that might assist him survive the Holocaust.

“The day I first wore that shirt,” Mr. Greenfield wrote seven many years later, “was the day I discovered garments possess energy.”

He by no means forgot the lesson. “Two ripped Nazi shirts,” he continued, “helped this Jew construct America’s most well-known and profitable custom-suit firm.”

Mr. Greenfield died on Wednesday at a hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., on Long Island, his son Tod mentioned. He was 95.

The miseries and triumphs of Mr. Greenfield’s life exemplified the traditional story of immigration to America. He confronted agony overseas, then penury in his adopted dwelling. With workaholic vitality, he constructed a enterprise and made a reputation for himself, gaining fortune and esteem. Late in life, he lastly reckoned with the tragedies of his youth that he had tried to go away behind.

The fruits of his hopes and efforts was his enterprise, Martin Greenfield Clothiers. It managed the inconceivable feat of thriving by doing the alternative of the remainder of its trade.

Local garment manufacturing had been declining for many years by the late Seventies, when Mr. Greenfield arrange store within the East Williamsburg part of Brooklyn, in a four-story constructing that had housed clothiers since at the very least 1917. He refused to fabricate abroad and by no means modified his requirements.

As a end result, Greenfield Clothiers was in a position to supply companies that New York’s designers and rich suit-wearers might hardly discover wherever else. It is now New York City’s final surviving union clothes manufacturing facility, Tod Greenfield mentioned in an interview for this obituary in March final 12 months.

There, some 50 garment staff, every with a specific experience, put collectively a single swimsuit over about 10 hours. They function equipment manually, permitting them to customise each press and fold of cloth; to align patterns over swimsuit jacket pockets flawlessly; and to render material stitching invisible.

The traditionalism of the store’s methods is embodied by a number of century-old buttonhole-cutting machines nonetheless in use. A 12 months in the past this month, a rusted dial on one of many contraptions indicated that it had reduce about 1,074,000,000 buttonholes.

The outdated manufacturing facility turned a congenial setting for political, inventive and athletic patriarchs. The acknowledgments part of Mr. Greenfield’s 2014 memoir, “Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor,” enumerates the folks “we’ve had the privilege of working alongside”: Gerald R. Ford, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald J. Trump, Joseph R. Biden, Colin Powell, Ed Koch, Michael R. Bloomberg, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Martin Scorsese, Denzel Washington, Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony — amongst many, many others.

A hand-sewn Greenfield swimsuit turned a low-frequency standing sign most of all in New York City. The former police commissioners Raymond Kelly and William J. Bratton have each been Greenfield patrons.

Proximity to energy gave Mr. Greenfield a inventory of quips and anecdotes. Making a swimsuit for the 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal, he wrote in his memoir, “required sufficient swimsuit material to make a small tent.” When The New York Post in 2016 requested him about Mr. Lansky’s tastes, Mr. Greenfield recalled that mobster’s orders precisely: 40-short, navy, single-breasted fits.

But he knew when to be discreet. “I met him as soon as on the resort,” Mr. Greenfield mentioned of Mr. Lansky. “He was a really good man to me, and I knew he was in cost. That’s all I’m saying!”

Initially, Greenfield Clothiers’ most important enterprise was manufacturing ready-to-wear fits for malls like Neiman Marcus and for manufacturers like Brooks Brothers and Donna Karan. Mr. Greenfield labored immediately with designers, together with Ms. Karan, who confessed to The Times that he had taught her garment terminology like “drop,” “gorge” and “button stance.” She added, “His genius is in decoding my imaginative and prescient.”

The enterprise modified path after Mr. Greenfield agreed to make Nineteen Twenties-style outfits for the HBO sequence “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-2014). His store produced greater than 600 fits for 173 characters.

Other movie and TV initiatives adopted, together with for the Showtime sequence “Billions” (2016-2023); and the films “The Great Gatsby” (2013), “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) and “Joker” (2019). The latter featured what may be Greenfield’s most recognizable creation: the crisp purple swimsuit and mismatched orange vest worn by Joaquin Phoenix, who performed the title character, the Batman nemesis.

In a testomony to his longevity, Mr. Greenfield dressed the early Twentieth-century comic Eddie Cantor in addition to the actor taking part in him many years afterward “Boardwalk Empire.”

Maximilian Grünfeld was born on Aug. 9, 1928, within the village of Pavlovo, which was then in Czechoslovakia and is now in western Ukraine. His household was affluent: His father, Joseph, was an industrial engineer; his mom, Tzyvia (Berger) Grünfeld, ran the house.

When Max was about 12, the German Army occupied cities round Pavlovo, and he was despatched to stay with kin in Budapest. Sensing he was not wished, he fled the night time he arrived and spent about three years dwelling in a brothel — the ladies there sympathetically took him in — and incomes a dwelling as a junior automobile mechanic.

But after sustaining a hand harm that made it tough for him to work, he returned to Pavlovo. Before lengthy, the Nazis pressured him and his household onto a prepare to Auschwitz. On arrival, he was separated from his mom; his sisters, Rivka and Simcha; and his brother, Sruel Baer. He remained together with his father solely briefly. All of them died within the Holocaust.

He witnessed many horrors. Building a brick wall as soon as, he labored alongside one other boy who was randomly used for goal observe and killed.

After a harrowing dying march from Auschwitz, adopted by a freezing prepare switch to Buchenwald, Max was lastly freed within the spring of 1945. General Eisenhower himself toured the camp, unaware {that a} teenage prisoner there would at some point turn into his tailor. In his memoir, Mr. Greenfield recalled considering that Eisenhower, an peculiar 5-foot-10, was 10 toes tall.

He immigrated to the United States in 1947, arriving in New York as a refugee with no household, no data of English and $10 in his pocket. Within weeks, he modified his title to Martin Greenfield — an try and sound “all-American,” he wrote — and a boyhood buddy, additionally a refugee, obtained him a job at a clothier referred to as GGG in Brooklyn.

He began as a “flooring boy,” ferrying unfinished clothes from one employee to a different. He studied each job within the manufacturing facility: darting, piping, lining, stitching, urgent, hand basting, blind armhole work and ending.

“If the Nazis taught me something, it was {that a} laborer with indispensable expertise is much less prone to be discarded,” he wrote.

Over time, Mr. Greenfield turned a confidant of GGG’s founder and president, William P. Goldman, who launched him to the agency’s shoppers, together with among the main tuxedo-wearers of postwar America. He obtained to pal round with Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

In 1977, 30 years after he had began, he purchased the manufacturing facility and renamed GGG after himself.

Decades later, he started discussing his expertise of the Holocaust extra extensively, culminating with the publication of his memoir. Around the identical time, he discovered himself labeled America’s greatest tailor by GQ, Vanity Fair and CNN.

In current years he handed off the enterprise to his son Tod and one other son, Jay.

In addition to them, Mr. Greenfield is survived by his spouse, Arlene (Bergen) Greenfield, and 4 grandchildren. He lived in North Hills, a Nassau County village on Long Island’s North Shore.

On his first day in Auschwitz, Max’s father, Joseph, advised him that he was extra prone to survive in the event that they separated, Mr. Greenfield wrote in his memoir. The subsequent day, the camp guards requested which prisoners had expertise. Joseph grabbed Max’s wrist, thrust the boy’s hand within the air and introduced, “A4406” — Max’s tattooed inmate quantity. “He is a mechanic. Very expert.”

Two German troopers hauled Max away. He didn’t see his father once more.

Before they parted, Joseph mentioned to Max, “If you survive, you reside for us.”

The remainder of Mr. Greenfield’s life was an try and comply with that commandment, his son Tod mentioned: “And that’s what he did.”



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