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Obama's Inaugural Tuxedo's Indian Connection

India West, News Report, Sunita Sohrabji Posted: Dec 26, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama ordered his inaugural tuxedo six months ago while still on the campaign trail, revealed the Mumbai-born head of the company that is custom-making the outfit for him.

"We've been supporters of Senator Obama from the day he first ran for office in 2004," Homi Patel, CEO and chairman of the Chicago-based Hartmarx Corp, told India-West. "We've been working with his staff for the past six months," he said.

Obama will be wearing a one-button black wool tuxedo with satin notch lapels, made by Hart Schaffner Marx, for the inaugural's evening celebrations. The president-elect will also wear an HSM suit and topcoat while taking the oath of office Jan. 20. Hartmarx is HSM's parent company.

Obama has been wearing the HSM brand on the campaign trail, said Patel, adding that the president-elect had called him six months ago to arrange his inaugural wear. Obama wore a navy blue cashmere suit from HSM for his acceptance speech Nov. 4.

The 136-year-old company was the logical choice for Obama's bespoke suits, said Patel, adding that it manufactures all its clothes in the U.S., and is a union company.

Asked whether Obama was the highest-profile person the company has outfitted, Patel said no. "We've done presidents before, on both sides of the aisle," he told India-West.

Patel said he was not allowed to reveal Obama's size nor any details of the clothes, such as cost.

Patel joined Hartmarx 28 years ago, after completing his MBA at Columbia University, and worked his way up. He has been Hartmarx's CEO since 2001.

The Forest Plains, Illinois resident grew up in Mumbai, opposite Chowpatty Beach, and attended Cathedral School and IIT Mumbai before emigrating to the U.S.

The India-based Daily News and Analysis Web site reported that Patel's father was the chief accountant of the Central Bank of India, while his uncle Dr. Jal Patel was the physician to the viceroy of India, the governor of Bombay and Mohammed Ali Jinnah before independence. Jal Patel also served as physician to JRD Tata, until his death.

Brothers Harry and Max Hart opened a small men's clothing store on Chicago's State Street in 1872, called Harry Hart and Brother, which became Hart Schaffner Marx eight years later.

Hartmarx offers brands for both men and women, including HSM, Hickey-Freeman, Bobby Jones, Barrie Place and Zooey.


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