Talk about a seamless transition!
Longtime East Williamsburg suit makers Martin Greenfield Clothiers have pivoted from sewing business apparel to face masks and medical gowns to help the neighborhood’s vulnerable populations and the city’s frontline workers, according to the company’s manager.
“It’s a breakeven at best, but we’re doing a lot of good for the local neighborhood here and essential workers,” said Tod Greenfield, a second-generation head of the family business.
His father Martin Greenfield, a 91-year-old holocaust survivor, took over the Varet Street factory in 1977 and the outfitters have suited up a host of famous clients like presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as stars in TV shows and movies, including Leonardo DiCaprio in both the Great Gatsby and the Wolf of Wall Street.
But after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order closing all non-essential business to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in March, the custom clothiers had to halt their sewing machines and furlough their workforce.
Inspired by an online video tutorial of a woman showing how to sew face masks, Greenfield and his brother Jay decided to resume operations at the end of March, but instead of bespoke sports jackets, they started making facial coverings using the same materials — complete with pinstripe and houndstooth patterns.
“I thought If she can make masks we could do it too,” said Greenfield.
The company brought 25 workers back to the factory and have since sold about 6,000 of the masks and donated another 1,000. They also set up mobile mask carts for about half a dozen elderly employees to work from home, so that they didn’t have to expose themselves to the highly-contagious bug.
The tailors make the masks with a 100 percent densely-woven cotton shell and lining, along with a polyester inside layer for extra filtration and a solid wire at the nose for a better fit and seal. But they emphasize on their website that they have yet to get certification for how effective they are for protecting against the pathogen.
The masks cost $18 apiece and the company matches each purchase with a donation of a mask to frontline workers and local do-gooders like the community development nonprofit St. Nicks Alliance, according to Greenfield.
They’ve also partnered with Brooklyn Navy Yard tactical gear manufacturers Crye Precision to sew medical gowns, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to increase homegrown production of medical protective equipment in the five boroughs.