Syracuse University

Henry Grethel

Henry Grethel ’54
is a celebrated American designer whose collections are elegant, understated, and intelligent. Known for deftly combining the casual modern essence of American sportswear with sophisticated colors and fine fabrics, Grethel is a vital creative force designing for the rapidly evolving lifestyles and priorities of today’s consumer.

Born and raised in Syracuse, Grethel graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Whitman School of Management. During his years at SU, Grethel was selected as an “outstanding student” in the field of marketing, served as social chairman of Sigma Chi Fraternity, and was elected treasurer of the American Marketing Association. He worked his way through college with a sales job at Wells & Coverly, a stylish men’s clothing store in downtown Syracuse.

While in college, Grethel interviewed with C. F. Hathaway Company, a prestigious manufacturer of high quality men’s shirts. However, he accepted a pioneering position with Recordak Corp., a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Co. in New York City, where he spent two-and-a-half years selling and marketing the newly launched microfilm product line. Hathaway recognized Grethel’s talent and continued to offer him employment, which he finally accepted in 1957. His first position at Hathaway was in sales; but his career rapidly progressed and he ultimately became the company’s vice president for design, merchandising, and marketing. During his tenure, Grethel repositioned the brand as a younger, more dynamic force in the menswear business. Following his success at Hathaway, Grethel became president of Eagle Shirtmakers.

Grethel’s marketing education and business experience have made him an entrepreneurial concept creator and product designer. Prior to launching his own men’s and women’s designer collections, Grethel designed menswear for Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, and Lanvin. As president of the Manhattan Shirt Company, he originated and developed the John Henry brand in men’s and women’s wear. Grethel was the first menswear designer to introduce fitted dress shirts, a category that still drives the men’s dress shirt business today. As testimony to his multidimensional talent, his women’s wear business grew to be even bigger than his men’s.

Perhaps the only thing bigger than Grethel’s design talent and business acumen is his generous spirit. His boundless energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to mentor others continue to inspire new generations of fashion industry executives at retail and wholesale. A leading member of the Retail Advisory Board of the Whitman School, he continues to share his wisdom and passion with SU students.

Grethel has received numerous honors for marketing and design, including membership in the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America, whose membership consists of more than 450 of America’s foremost fashion and accessory designers. He was selected to design the men’s and women’s opening ceremony uniforms for Team USA at the Albertville and Barcelona Olympics, and was awarded the Tiffany trophy from the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee for his stylish parade uniforms for the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville. He is a recipient of the Icon of Style Award from Syracuse University and the Syracuse University Outstanding Alumni Award. Grethel is married to his wife, Anne. Two of his five children—David Grethel ’82, and Michele Grethel ’88—are also SU alumni.