A Holocaust survivor named Hedda Kleinfeld transformed the bridal market by bringing it to life with European designer gowns before “Say Yes to the Dress” brought Kleinfeld Bridal to the attention of more than 1.5 million households across America every week.
About 200 people work at the renowned wedding boutique, which was once a division of Isidor Kleinfeld’s Vienna-based fur company.
Hedda Schachter, a skilled fur cutter employed by her father, co-owned Kleinfeld Bridal with her husband Jack for several decades in the late 1960s.
Kleinfeld, also known as “Miss Hedda,” turned the family firm, which sold fur and modest unique occasion clothing, into a multimillion-dollar enterprise with the vision to focus solely on carrying wedding gowns.
One of the current co-owners of Kleinfeld, Mara Urshel, told WWD that “she built Kleinfeld not only as an iconic name, but she left an incredible mark on the whole industry with her vision.”
On March 29, Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter passed away in Manhattan. She was 99 years old.
In 1924, Hedda Kleinfeld was born to a secular Jewish upper-middle-class family in Vienna. Liane, her younger sister, was born.
The family chose to escape after her father was freed from the Dachau concentration camp, where he had been detained for attempting to cross the border into Belgium with his brother.
At first, they used fake visas to gain entry to Shanghai. Hedda and her family traveled to Havana, Cuba, where those documents arrived too late.
Her granddaughter Ilana Schachter recalled that while traveling to a Park Conservancy gala in 2018 as her granddaughter’s guest, she danced to a local band playing under the shade of the famous Wisteria Walk.
That is where the teenage boys of her youth flirted with her and taught her how to dance, a skill she brought with her to Central Park.
She never talked much about her early experiences in Vienna and her flight to Havana, even with her family, even though they significantly impacted her life.
According to Schachter, “She tried to suppress those memories, box them up, and say that was a past life.” She didn’t discuss many experiences from that era.
Schachter and her grandmother traveled to Havana around ten years ago, stopping at the locations where Kleinfeld spent her teenage years, including her former residence and the town square where she had danced.
So it makes sense that her grandma opted to work in the wedding industry.
According to Schachter, “I think she appreciated being a part of an industry about celebration.”
According to company history, the Kleinfeld company changed hands several times in the 1990s. In 2004, construction started on a 35,000-square-foot store on West 20th St., frequently shown in the popular TLC offer “Say Yes to the Dress,” in which experts assist brides in finding the ideal gown.
Millions of homes saw the name of the store thanks to the broadcast.
2008 saw the death of Kleinfeld’s husband, Jack. Their sons Robert and Ronald are her only surviving children.