Well-Known Tailor Helps
By Meghan Barr
BROOKLYN — Troy Baptiste was grinning as he stared at his reflection in the full-length mirror, admiring the navy blue suit that was made especially for him. The elderly tailor scurried around Baptiste sticking pins into the fabric, his brow furrowed in concentration.
“I don’t think I ever looked this good in a suit,” Baptiste said, breaking into laughter. “I can’t wait to go to this job interview wearing this suit.”
It was an unusual day for Baptiste, an unemployed 30-year-old from Brooklyn who can hardly afford a McDonald’s Happy Meal for his 4-year-old son, let alone a custom-made suit. He was one of 17 unemployed men who are receiving suits worth $1,000 from Mohan Ramchandani, a renowned tailor who has fitted New York City’s wealthiest residents for 30 years, including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The recipients are students and graduates of the Downtown Brooklyn-based HOPE Program, a nonprofit that provides work readiness training and job placement assistance to impoverished New Yorkers.
The program is hoping the new suits will help these men — some of whom have served time in prison — make a fresh start in a difficult job market.
“It makes them stand a little bit taller,” said Irene Camp, the HOPE Program’s development director. “I think it helps them to portray a really professional outlook, and helps to set the tone for the kind of employee that they’re going to be.”
Baptiste decided he needed to turn his life around after he was laid off in 2010 and ended up serving several months in jail, though he did not elaborate on his prison record.
“As far as making decisions, when your back is against the wall, I kind of made a bad decision,” he said. “Got myself into some trouble.”
He found out about HOPE through his probation officer. The program set him up with an unpaid internship at Baruch College, where he performs clerical work at the graduate admissions office. Now he’s trying to land a job in clerical work or as a lab technician. Anything, really, that will help him provide a good life for his son.
“He’s one of the batteries in my back,” Baptiste said. “So I can at least have a better future for him. Have clothes on his back, food on his table and a roof over his head.”
Ramchandani was inspired to help these men because he sympathizes with their plight. An immigrant from India, he started his business 30 years ago, with very little money, in a rented space at the Roosevelt Hotel.
“What you study at school, that’s one thing,” said K.J. Singh, a sales manager at Mohan’s. “But how you look at the job, that’s another. That gives an individual a lot of confidence.”