BY ERICA ROSEMAN
There is a certain sense of patriotism one gets when hearing the Star Spangled Banner. Not necessarily before sporting matches, but when it rings true in moments of national unity. One gets that same sense of pride in listening to pioneering American menswear designer Joseph Abboud, who returns to the runway after a fifteen-year hiatus and opens New York Fashion Week: Men’s.
It’s not about being made in America; it’s about being made well in America.
“It’s not about being made in America; it’s about being made well in America,” declares the designer, while sitting among the rich tweed fabrics and dark-toned wainscotting of his Madison Avenue boutique.
A native of Boston, Abboud ventured forth to study at the Sorbonne and later work for Polo Ralph Lauren, in New York, before returning to Beantown, where he worked for the upscale Louis Boston. In 1987, he launched his namesake brand that led to a conversation with Italian super-conglomerate GFT, who managed menswear for the likes of Valentino and Giorgio Armani. “There was an old saying,” explained the designer, “You don’t choose GFT; GFT chooses you.”
Looking for a relationship with an American designer, the company backed Joseph in the opening of a factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts with the shared goal of bringing the quality of Italian manufacturing to the United States. In what would become a defining moment, this changed the course of menswear manufacturing in America. Throughout the years and successive career moves, Joseph’s place, passion and pride have always remained with his namesake brand and the vertically integrated supply chain he built from the ground up.
Today, the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corporation employs over 800 artisans, craftsmen and tailors. The designer enthuses, “Converting a cotton mill to a factory was not only a defining business moment, it also created a work force, many of whom have worked with us for twenty to thirty years. “ He continues, “The community has such a rich history, strong work ethic and wonderful Yankee pride.” It is this dedication to craft and community that underscores what Abboud looks to put forth in his Fall/Winter 2016 collection this week.
Abboud explains his creative process, “For collections, I never start with a product; I start with a spirit for something. This season, it’s American Saville Row.” In this vein, his show will highlight the heritage of American menswear, teaming up his capsule collection with similarly patriotic labels and designers. Expect to see bags by Rawlings, hats from Albertus Swanepoel, ties from Barbara Blank, timepieces by Kobold, shearling outerwear by Aston Leathers, and footwear by Allen Edmonds.
As a young designer, working with such an iconic, classic menswear designer was like working with one of my idols.
Rawlings Accessories Creative Director Viengkham Phommal shares his enthusiasm for Abboud and what he stands for, “As a young designer, working with such an iconic, classic menswear designer was like working with one of my idols.” He continues, “There’s a certain pride in creating something with your own hands, by American workers, that will be passed down from one generation to the next.” New York-based designer Swanepoel agrees, “Joseph was great because he gave us freedom to design. We enhanced his vision of rugged dandyism with classics, and added a few quirky surprises, such as a Western take on the top hat.”
These accessories and accoutrements work back to the main event, the collection. This season, Abboud’s signature tailored clothing story spans from sportswear to formalwear. Think textural bold plaids, ancient matte paisleys, custom military details, and American flags made out of mixed tweeds, reflecting the designer’s “renewed passion for loving what [he does] as a commercial entity and art form.” Expect to be inspired by not only the fashion, but by a quintessential American favorite – the comeback.