Every American president has surrounded himself with political advisors. But one man has been lucky – and talented – enough to serve as fashion advisor to no less than four presidents. That man is Martin Greenfield. Who would have imagined that the teen who survived Auschwitz would eventually become a renowned tailor – not only to presidents but a host of entertainers, sports celebrities and other public figures?
Ironically, it was at Auschwitz where young Martin, born Maximillian Grunfeld, learned to sew. He and his parents, sisters, tiny brother and grandparents were taken from their Czechoslovakia home and shipped to the Nazi concentration camp when he was 15. Martin was put to work in the laundry room, where he repaired garments. At one point, he retrieved an SS shirt from the trash, re-stitched it and proceeded to wear it in secret under his camp uniform.
He says the ability to re-create and wear the shirt – a garment no other prisoner owned – gave him a special power. “Clothes don’t just make the man,” he says, “they can save the man; they did for me.”
GREENFIELD WITH BILL CLINTON DURING A FITTING IN CLINTON'S WHITE HOUSE BEDROOM. GREENFIELD'S FIRST IMPRESSION OF CLINTON'S CLOSET, "THIS HAS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST PATHETIC PRESIDENTIAL WARDROBES IN AMERICAN HISTORY."
Martin was the only member of his family who left Auschwitz. Late in World War II, he was transferred to Buchenwald, via a brutal 50-march through the snow. The camp was liberated by American soldiers in April 1945. With no idea all his immediate family were dead, Martin searched for them for two years.
He immigrated to New York, where another Czech refugee helped him get a job sweeping the floor at GGG Clothing. Under the tutelage of owner William Goldman, Martin honed his sewing skills, learning every detail of custom clothing craftsmanship. His reputation as a very fine tailor continued to grow, and General Dwight Eisenhower became his first big-name client, at the time he was running for president. That was a poignant success for Greenfield, who recalls shaking Eisenhower’s hand during the liberation of Buchenwald.
MARTIN GREENFIELD CLOTHIERS - BROOKLYN, NYC
He purchased GGG Clothing in 1977, giving the firm his own name. At the time, the company had six employees; today it has more than a hundred. Besides Eisenhower, Greenfield has crafted beautiful hand-crafted suits for Presidents Ford, Clinton and Obama. Other clients have run the gamut from Paul Newman and Shaquille O’Neal to Michael Jackson, Al Pacino, Jimmy Fallon, Johnny Depp, Cardinal Edward Egan and General Colin Powell.
Another loyal client is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Frankly, I’m in awe of him,” Bloomberg admits. “We’re talking about a man who fought to survive some of the worst mankind has ever shown, came to New York with nothing, worked hard, thrived, and took care of his family. Martin is some of the best we can offer. And I don’t buy my suits anywhere else.”
GREENFIELD'S BOOK IS THE STORY OF A MAN WHO SUFFERED UNIMAGINABLE HORROR AND EMERGED WITH A DREAM OF SUCCESS
Through the years, Greenfield and his employees have produced suits for Hollywood film and television characters as well as “real” customers. His company also contracts with high-end retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus and DKNY to make suits for their clientele.
Now well into his 80s, Martin Greenfield has published a memoir entitled “Measure of a Man,” in which he tells his horrifying and compelling life story.
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