Designer Abboud on his namesake brand and being a Bostonian
Joseph Abboud is happy to be himself again.
Three years ago, the famed Boston fashion designer, 65, was reunited with his eponymous clothing label, after a 2007 court battle led him to walk away not just from his label but from the rights to his own name.
So when Men’s Wearhouse Inc. (now Tailored Brands Inc.) — while employing Abboud as its chief creative director — moved to reacquire the Abboud label in 2013, it marked a homecoming for the designer.
The reunion “has been really brilliant,” Abboud said by phone Tuesday, driving from his New York home to New Bedford, where Governor Charlie Baker visited his factory later that day.
The designer excitedly discussed his return to the label, where he has since worked tirelessly to restore a personal touch and a legacy. Yet, Abboud is similarly enthusiastic about fashion trends, the particularities of branding, and his beloved Red Sox.
Q. What makes a great brand?
A. The best brands in the world know what they are but they also know what they’re not. You have to stay within the guidelines or the goal posts when you’re determining what your brand is. That’s why Chanel will always be such a great brand. I worked for them for two years, and . . . [Coco Chanel] died in  but when you work with Chanel, it’s as if her presence is there every day. Great brands have a legacy because they’ve created a DNA and a point of view that came from the creator of it.
Q. Excited about the governor’s visit?
A. It’s great when any of our politicians, certainly the governor, would take the time to visit the factory — not for me, not for the brand, but for the Massachusetts employees who are there. It means so much to them to get that kind of recognition. We’re very proud that we make our clothes in America, but I’m even more proud it’s Massachusetts, because I grew up in Boston. No matter the fact that I live in New York, I’ll always be a Bostonian.
Q. How has the New Bedford community reacted to the factory?
A. They’re so appreciative. The workforce is a highly skilled workforce. When you have 700 to 800 people in your factory, they aren’t individual people, they’re families. . . . I always say it’s great to be made in America, but our distinction is we’re made well in America. The anchor and the strength and the foundation of the Joseph Abboud brand is that factory.
Q. Tell me about working under the Joseph Abboud label again.
A. Building on that foundation, being the chief creative director, and working at redefining and advancing the Joseph Abboud brand, the platform, has been really brilliant. We’re able to give a customer an incredible value. . . . Because we’re vertical and own the factory, we’re able to bring a better price model to the customer.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of that return, for you?
A. I always think about the work you do. My work is my work, but it’s also what I love. When you see something that was an idea that’s come to life, it’s really special. It’s not an outward, braggadocio thing, it’s a sense of inner fulfillment that you actually created something that people appreciated.
Q. Tweeds and ticket pockets are among recent menswear trends. What do you make of such styles?
A. The ticket pocket was originally a Savile Row detail that the establishment would put their train tickets in their ticket pockets. It happens to be a beautiful, confident detail on men’s clothes. I’ve always loved textured fabrics so when you get to these kinds of historic fabrics, like Harris Tweed, or beautiful flannel, or natural linens, most men have this genetic memory they relate to that. How? I don’t know. Even the younger guy recognizes these things to be very “menswear,” that they have this heritage. It’s our job to know the market in order to change it. That’s staying on top of your game and staying focused on the business you’re in.
Q. You’re clearly busy at work. Are you keeping up with the Red Sox?
A. If I had to put them in order, it’s family first, the love of the design second, and — very close to first and second — are the Red Sox.
Q. What do you think about the team this year?
A. On opening day, everyone’s in first place. I have a lot of faith in the changes they’ve made . . . David Price is an incredible acquisition, and it’s certainly a much better bullpen. Dustin Pedroia will hopefully be healthy, and we’ve got some great young players. If things click right, they have as much of an ability to win this as anyone else.