Nishan M. Aghajanian, 92, "Tailor to the Stars" died Saturday, September 8, 2007, at Allen Medical Center in Oberlin, following a brief hospitalization. He was a 69 year Oberlin resident who welcomed decades of customers to his shop off Tappan Square.
Mr. Aghajanian was born December 18, 1914 in Arapkir, Turkey. Six months later, he lost his father and two uncles in the Armenian Genocide of 1915. When he was about nine, his mother and grandmother packed up Nishan and his sister and moved to Istanbul.
Their journey started on horseback for two days, then in an open truck through military checkpoints. After several weeks, they arrived in the city of Samson on the Black Sea. They later traveled by small boat to their new home, Kinaliada (Kinali), which is one of the Princes’ Islands off Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. They lived with his mother’s uncle and his wife. When his uncle died in 1927, young Nishan left school to start working in Istanbul as an apprentice tailor. For the first six months, he was paid nothing. After proving his capabilities, he was paid the U.S. equivalent of 25 cents an hour.He learned quickly and well, making mostly custom made or hand sewn garments. At age 16, he opened a custom tailoring shop with a business partner in Istanbul. The shop was initially located upstairs, but grew so rapidly they moved downstairs to street level and soon became one of the busiest tailoring shops in Istanbul.
In 1936, an uncle in San Francisco suggested Nishan and his family move to California. "When you are 21, you have adventure in your heart." he once said. So, again, his mother, grandmother, sister and Nishan packed up their world and set off in search of a better life. They stayed in San Francisco, where he worked at I. Magnin for about a year. They then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked for "Irene", a designer for Hollywood stars, at Bullock’s Wilshire. Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, and Delores DelRio were among their many customers.
When his sister married a man from Cleveland, his brother-in-law suggested that Nishan move closer to them. In 1938, he and his mother and grandmother moved to Oberlin and he opened a tailoring shop in the Martin’s Inn Building. His business drew customers from as far away as Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and California.
He met his wife, Alice, on a trip to Boston in 1940. They married in 1946 and settled in Oberlin, where they raised their four children, Lisa, Paula, Edmond and Nishan. When their children were young, the Aghajanians were active in The Suburban Club, an Oberlin dinner and dance club, and Nishan was a member of Wildcat, an investment club of Oberlin businessmen. He loved to ballroom dance, and loved hosting family and friends in their home.
After he retired, Mr. Aghajanian’s vocation became his avocation as he continued making custom suits, skirts and coats for his family. His other favorite pastimes and pursuits included listening to classical music, the arts, history, nature/bird watching, and spending time with his family, including six grandchildren.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, A. Alice, children, Lisa of Lexington, MA, Paula (Chris) of Oberlin, Edmond (Marcia) of Westlake, and Nishan of Chevy Chase, MD; grandchildren, Meredith, Adam, Miles, Noel, Ben and Will; sister, Anahid of Beachwood; nephew, Armond of Rocky River; and niece, Margaret (Chuck) Semarjiam of Lyndhurst.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Musegh and Mary Aghajanian.
Visitation will be at Cowling Funeral Home, 228 South Main Sr., Oberlin on Thursday, September 13, 2007 from 6 to 8 P.M. A Memorial Service will be Friday, September 14, 2007 at 11 A.M. at Christ Episcopal Church, 162 South Main St., Oberlin. The Rev. Fr. Brian K. Wilbert will officiate. Interment will be in Westwood Cemetery.
Contributions, in lieu of flowers may be made to St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church, 678 Richmond Rd., Richmond Heights, OH 44143 or the Armenian General Benevolent Union, C/O the church.