Inside Martin Greenfield Clothiers East Williamsburg Factory

Martin Greenfield runs the largest surviving unionized menswear factory in New York, and has created custom suits for everyone from Bill Clinton to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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Martin Greenfield started his career when he was hired by clothing manufacturer GGG Clothing in East Williamsburg in 1947. His first job was moving batches of unfinished garments from one sewer to another. In 1978 Greenfield bought the business, which now has over one-hundred employees. His two sons Todd and Jay have also come on board to work at the family business.
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The building in East Williamsburg that Martin Greenfield calls home has been a men's clothing factory since it was built. Originally the building was gas-lit and the original gas jet remains.
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Greenfield's factory is the largest union menswear factory remaining in New York today (at one time there were over 3,000 similar factories). The factory prides itself on offering living wages, health benefits and retirement and vacation pay to its employees. Handcraftsmanship is its core philosophy.
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Making a single jacket the Martin Greenfield way requires eleven-hours of labor and many different steps. By the end of the process the jacket will have been touched by between 80 to 85 tailors.
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At Greenfield's garments are assembled using temporary stitches, then pressed and then permanently attached. Greenfield's son Todd says this is what makes the difference between "assembling and crafting a garment. All of the stitches on an engineered garment are final stitches. On the hanger it might look the same as ours, maybe even cleaner because it's had less work done to it, but with time and wear you can tell the difference."
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One of the most labor intensive steps of constructing a jacket at Greenfield's is the armhole, which has several components--a layer of canvas, a shoulder pad, a piece of felt and a liner. It takes five people doing different work on the armhole, including hand stitching, to finalize this one piece of a jacket. Greenfield says, "Doing it this way allows the garment to take on the shape of the shoulder of the customer."
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Greenfield's has become the go-to tailoring shop for rising stars of the men's fashion scene including Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders and Freemans Sporting Club. "Rag & Bone came to me before they were Rag & Bone," recalls Greenfield. "I started with them by making a single sample."
At the finishing station button holes are hand-stitched (requiring 50-stitches each) and decorative but functional hand stitches are made on jackets and slacks. That work is then carefully inspected.
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Racks of finished suits ready to be delivered to customers who have special ordered something and orders from stores like Barneys line the walls (a Band of Outsiders jacket has been doing particularly well and has been re-ordered by the label). Greenfield says he has noticed an uptick in special orders and expects that to continue when fall 2011 retail orders are placed.
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Todd Greenfield says, "We are not afraid of technology but at the same time we still use machines from the turn of the last century. We've taught the computer all of the various alterations that can be done to a pattern." This altered pattern is then used to cut a suit so it fits the customer almost exactly right.
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Racks of paper patterns line the hallways--either made for customers who frequently order or basic pattern models from designers. The original patterns are hand drawn and then digitized.
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Greenfield's office is steeped in history. Now 82-years old Greenfield is still involved in the day to day. "I love what I do. I work everyday. I know every job on the floor. Producing quality is what keeps me going. Everyone here knows that I am always watching."
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