Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Henry Rosenfeld - Designer for the Budget Minded

Henry Rosenfeld started his career as a shipping clerk in Manhattan's garment district. He worked his way up the ladder at Bedford Dress, Inc. before striking out on his own in 1942.

The war years were a difficult time for the garment industry due to government restrictions on fabrics and designs. Rosenfeld had contracted to buy fabrics for his line just before the OPA (Office of Price Administration) was preparing to set ceiling prices on fabrics to control inflation and help the war effort. Many garment manufacturers cancelled contracts to purchase fabrics in order to take advantage of the new, lower prices. But Rosenfeld was smart. He honored all of his contracts at the agreed-upon prices that were set before the ceilings went into effect. In later years, when fabric shortages affected the industry, grateful fabric manufacturers gave Rosenfeld first choice.


Elizabeth Hilt was the designer for Henry Rosenfeld, which was a budget label, with dresses ranging from $10.95 - $19.95 in 1946 ($121 - $221 today). Yet the dresses were well cut and simply tailored, which gave them an expensive look. In 1945, Rosenfeld grossed $8,000,000 on sales of 2,000,000 dresses to 12,000 stores.

One of those stores was Lord & Taylor, which featured a Henry Rosenfeld dress in this ad for Glamour magazine in November 1949. This dress was sold in Lord & Taylor's Budget Shops for $17.95 ($163 today). Fashioned of rayon lamé in silver, gold, or gun-metal grey, it has a velvet sash at the waist.

Thank you to Rosenfeld's nephew for pointing out these photos that were featured in a Life magazine article about the designer and his company in 1951.


fuzzylizzie said...

Great bio, Jody. I think these "unknown" designers are so interesting and fun to research.

Ciabel said...

Hi! I'm new to the American flea market experience. Got this great classic black leather bag (for $35 at the Brooklyn Flea) with a geometric patterned clasp and gold scalloped chain shoulder strap , and inside there's a logo that says rosenfeld. Do you think it's by Henry Rosenfeld? Did he do bags as well?

lshadoff said...

Henry Rosenfeld was my uncle (my mother's brother). As a teenager I worked Summers for him in New York City (498 7-th Ave) during the 1950s.

There was a Life article about him. The pictures from it are here:

Barb said...

Henry Rosenfeld is my first cousin once removed (my grandfather and his mother were brother and sister). I never met him but learned about him and his legacy as I grew up. I think his dresses are simply beautiful. If I were small enough, I'd wear them today!

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Thanks for posting here Ishadoff and Barb! It's always nice to "meet" relatives of the designers I admire today. I've added a link in to the pictures from Life Ishadoff. Thanks for pointing them out!

Blythe Hopes Vintage said...

I actually came a cross one of his dresses last week while hunting - it's fabulous and I'll be listing it soon.

Thanks for the info Couture Allure :)

Anonymous said...

I have just bought a Mr. Henry dress and would like to know when this company stopped trading. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hello. I bought a black duffel bag and it appears to kinda look vintage, light weigh duffel bag but well made, has a black logo on the front that has an embossed YSL and the zipper pull is the same stamped YSL engraved. And there is a tag inside the bag that says "Made expressly for" Henry Rosenfeld. Now my question is this, is this bag made by YSL (Yves Saint Lauren) same maker of the OPIUM parfume? I appreciate if somebody can help me with this. Thank you.

kherbaugh said...

I am currently researching fabrics made by the Associated American Artists from 1952-1956. Henry Rosenfeld was one of the designers that used the fabrics. Isadoff, you mentioned your worked for him in the 1950s. Do you remember these fabrics. Any chance we could talk. Karen, curator, American Textile History Museum

J J said...

Thanks for this post. I'm reading a profile of him in the 1.7.50 issue of the New Yorker; he sounds like a fascinating (if single-minded), good-hearted, and incredibly astute person. And the few Rosenfeld dresses I've seen online are beautiful -- as you noted, the simplicity and tailoring make all the difference. Thanks again.

Post a Comment