By  on January 28, 2008

NEW YORK — Joseph Abboud doesn’t believe in small entrances. 

In realizing the first collection for his new men’s wear line, Jaz, which debuts to retailers here this week, the designer went big, showing an expansive collection of tailored clothing, bottoms, sport shirts, furnishings and outerwear that in its scope and depth seemed more like a presentation from a multimillion-dollar brand than a launch. And the energetic designer is already prepping for more.

After only one day of selling, Abboud was feeling upbeat about his burgeoning luxury label, detailing plans to flesh out the brand with footwear and leather-goods licenses within the next 12 months, as well as innerwear and home accessories at a later date. “That would complete the Jaz line,” he said. “We need to find the specialists to take those categories on.” 

Abboud has already signed three licenses for the brand’s launch: J.S. Blank & Co. for neckwear, Cardinal of Canada for topcoats and Jack Victor for tailored clothing. 

The designer also expressed longer-term plans for a women’s business, retail units and a return to runway. “I’d love to get back into women’s again,” said Abboud, who rejoins men’s wear after a two-year hiatus following his departure from his namesake company, which he exited after a falling-out with the CEO of JA Apparel, the company that owns the Joseph Abboud trademark. The designer was clear on his distaste for business plans and was mum on timelines, but he won’t be showing in Bryant Park in 2008. 

“It’s too soon for runway. I don’t want mixed messages,” said the two-time CFDA award winner, adding that it would take time to develop a runway collection. “It will happen organically. In a market defined by business plans and focus groups, I like to go by instinct.” 

Joseph Abboud, the brand currently owned by JA Apparel, was a staple on the runway through the early ’90s, but has not shown in recent years. 

Encamped at the London Hotel in midtown through the middle of this week, Abboud showed a line that lived up to plans first unveiled by DNR this past August. Employing his trademark balance of European elegance and American practicality, Abboud has created in Jaz a line of easy luxury that has deep roots in classic men’s wear. Tailored clothing ranged from gray flannel striped suits and cashmere herringbone jackets to printed velvet sport coats. The considerable assortment of 60-plus knits included slubby fair isle sweater vests and a six-ply, natural-dye turtleneck. There were surprises too, as in the skinny neckwear (the thinner version topping out at 2 3/4 inches), and the bold-colored sport shirts printed in paisley, botanicals and engineered patterns—a departure for a designer known for straightforward textures and earth tones. Abboud also showed his private label collection of dress and sport shirts, called Herringbone, which are produced in the Massachusetts factory he purchased earlier this year. Shirts for Jaz are also produced at the factory. 

Marketed as an opening luxury brand to better specialty stores and high-end department stores, Jaz may be untested, but Abboud is sanguine about its future, despite a looming lawsuit with JA Apparel for trademark infringement, and a jaundiced business environment. “I launched another line in 1987 in a terrible economy and that worked,” he said. “I don’t let market forces dictate my plans.”

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