By  on August 6, 2007

NEW YORK — After more than two years on the sidelines, designer Joseph Abboud is back in the men's wear game.

Abboud, who exited his namesake company in 2005 after a falling out with current JA Apparel chief executive officer Marty Staff, will launch a label called Jaz in fall 2008.

Armed with a hefty personal fortune, Abboud has negotiated agreements to acquire a shirt-making facility and a sportswear firm to manufacture and market his new brand. He has also lined up three key licenses for the launch: Jack Victor for tailored clothing, Cardinal of Canada for outerwear and J.S. Blank & Co. for neckwear.

"The gun went off, and it turns out the racehorse is still a racehorse," said a jubilant Abboud of his return to men's wear. The designer had been forced into relative exile due to his noncompete agreement with JA Apparel, which expired on July 13.

Abboud is acquiring shirtmaker Alden Street Shirts of Fall River, Mass., from owners George Nova and Albert Metivier, which has made high-quality dress shirts since 1936, including private label shirts for retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York. The company will be renamed Herringbone Shirt Mfg. — after Abboud's longtime holding company — and Robert Kidder, a veteran of Hathaway and Ike Behar, will head it up as president.

To produce Jaz sportswear, Abboud is acquiring the assets of Elmsford, N.Y.–based Merrill Sharpe, a family-owned business founded in 1944. The company will be renamed Herringbone Sportswear Co., and will continue to be run by current president Andrew Schwartz, who will report to Abboud.

Merrill Sharpe produces sportswear under the Riscatto men's wear brand, which is sold in about 350 specialty store accounts, and also manufactures private label products for catalogues like Bullock & Jones and the Tuttle Collection. Those existing businesses will continue, and Abboud is already thinking of ways to tweak and improve the Riscatto line.

The purchases of Alden Street Shirts and Merrill Sharpe are expected to close in the next month or two. Abboud declined to reveal a purchase price for the two companies, but said it reached "well into the seven figures."

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