Judge T.S. Ellis 3rd is apparently a Men’s Wearhouse fan.
For at least the second time since the trial against Paul Manafort started, the judge presiding over the case used the men’s retail chain as a stark comparison to the astronomical prices President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman spent on his wardrobe. The initial indictment against Manafort, who is on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on bank and tax fraud charges, details that he spent $1.3 million on clothes.
On Thursday morning, Ellis responded to the special counsel’s release late Wednesday of a collection of photographs showing the luxury suits and sportswear prosecutors say Manafort purchased using money from foreign bank accounts.
“It wouldn’t matter if he spent the money on Men’s Wearhouse clothes,” Ellis said according to a transcript from The Washington Post. “All the evidence of the fancy suits really is irrelevant and besmirches the defendant,” he said. “Most of us don’t have designer suits…it engenders some resentment.”
On Wednesday, Ronald Wall, chief financial officer for House of Bijan in Beverly Hills, testified that between 2010 and 2014, Manafort spent more than $334,000 at the specialty retailer, which boasts that it is the “most expensive store in the world.” This included a $21,000 limited-edition black titanium Royal Way watch, a $33,000 “blue lizard” jacket, an $18,000 suede coat, a $14,000 quilted silk jacket, a $12,000 brown pinstriped suit, pants priced around $2,800 apiece, dress shirts costing $1,500 each and ties that averaged about $950 each, according to the government’s exhibits.
It also includes a $15,000 ostrich jacket, which is getting a lot of buzz with the fashion press. “Houses and watches are expected. Ostrich cutlets, tanned and pulled taut, to be worn across one’s back, are not,” wrote Vanity Fair on its web site.
But, then, what is one meant to wear when hustling for lobbying contracts from despot?
For more than 40 years, Bijan Pakzad, an Iranian immigrant, created custom clothing for some of the world’s most famous men, and the business was taken over by his son, Nicolas, after the designer died in 2011. Nicolas Bijan still operates an appointment-only boutique on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles; the line is available only at the Bijan store and produced in Italy.
Ellis apparently hasn’t visited the shop. “Is it Bi…yan?” the judge asked during the trial, The Washington Post reported. “I can’t recognize these names. If it doesn’t say ‘Men’s Wearhouse,’ I don’t know it.”
In addition to Bijan, Manafort was also a customer of Alan Couture, a now-defunct custom store on 57th Street in New York that opened in 1999. Salesman Maximilian Katzman, son of the founder, testified Wednesday that Manafort was one of that store’s top five customers and spent over $929,000 during the same five-year period. He had met Manafort at Bijan when it operated a store in New York. At Alan Couture, Katzman testified that Manafort had purchased suits, sport coats, outerwear and other items, all custom of course.