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. Grethel believes that men and women want clothes that are good-looking, comfortable, and versatile—“just beautiful clothes”—is how he describes his design sensibility.
The youngest of five children, Grethel was born and raised in Syracuse and graduated from Syracuse University in 1954 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 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. P. Hathaway Company, a designer and manufacturer of men’s shirts. However, he decided to accept a more “practical” position with Recordak Corp., a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Co. in New York City, where he spent two-and-a-half years “microfilming” records. 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; however, he soon moved on to become the company’s chief designer and marketing director.
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. He originated and developed the John Henry brand in men’s and women’s wear. Grethel’s fully integrated collection of apparel and accessories under the Henry Grethel label artfully blends business and casual looks that meet the demands of today’s business environment as well as active social lives. His modern styling, color palette, and richly textured fabrics appeal to savvy men and women of all ages.