NEW YORK — Joseph Abboud opened his first store in his hometown of Boston under then-owner GFT in 1992.
But the 4,300-square-foot flagship that will open Friday at 424 Madison Avenue here marks a whole new beginning for the designer and his brand. It is the first dedicated store to open under Abboud’s new owners, The Men’s Wearhouse, which purchased the label in July 2013 for $97.5 million. If it is successful, the concept could mark the beginning of a significant retail rollout for the designer label.
“In 1992, I was a designer opening a retail store,” Abboud told WWD Wednesday as he put the finishing touches on the store. “Now, we’re retailers opening a retail store. The support system here — the systems, visual and real estate teams — are amazing. I didn’t have that before. This is the first true flagship in New York.”
Interestingly, the store has not even a passing resemblance to a Men’s Wearhouse. In fact, nowhere in the unit will customers find the name of the parent company. Instead, the design and aesthetic is 100 percent Abboud. From the double-sided linen curtains and the ivory herringbone fabrics on the mahogany columns to the cozy, tufted hassocks and wing chairs in classic men’s wear fabrics, the store was designed by Abboud in collaboration with Jeffrey Hutchison & Associates.
“Inspired by London’s Savile Row, I wanted to bring an American curated experience for men to Madison Avenue — a place where they can not only shop, but explore,” he said.
The location, on the corner of 49th Street, was formerly home to a Capital One bank, but the building dates to the early part of the 20th century. As a result, the bronze lights and clock on the exterior as well as the wooden doors are original to the space. “It’s got great bones,” Abboud said. It also has 170 square feet of frontage on the avenue and side street in the heart of the men’s wear corridor, which includes Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, My.Suit and Charles Tyrwhitt.
“This is one of the great men’s wear corners in the city,” Abboud said. “Upper Madison is more boutiquey and uberluxury, but every guy walking to Grand Central Station has to walk by this store.”
Doug Ewert, chief executive officer of Men’s Wearhouse said of the new store, “It is the perfect location and environment to showcase the quality, style and value of the Joseph Abboud brand.”
That brand has become a cash cow for the company, generating sales of $230 million in its first year.
“It’s our commitment to dress men in the finest quality designer men’s wear in America so it was only natural to support the Joseph Abboud brand with its own retail store and expand that product offering,” Ewert added. “Joseph Abboud sets a high standard of affordable luxury, offering collections that have style, quality and enduring value.”
While Ewert said it’s “premature to declare a new rollout,” the company has hinted that it would open additional Abboud stores if the brand performs well in its new home. Upon entering, customers are greeted with a cozy interior that showcases the brand’s tailored clothing, furnishings, sportswear and accessories. Although the 15-foot vaulted Venetian plaster ceilings, stone floors, brass and hand-blown glass chandeliers and wood accents were already in place, much of the interior was red and pink, Abboud said, cringing, and so required a significant makeover to add men’s wear patterns in shades of sepia to complement the designer’s collection.
“It has a grand feel to it,” Abboud said.
Decorative elements range from vintage, classic and modern pieces such as original hand-drawn charcoal fashion illustrations by artist Bill Rancitelli and a vintage terracotta bust — wearing a peak-lapel blazer, bow tie and vest — found by Abboud in a local antique shop in Connecticut. Abboud also created custom-made wing chairs — upholstered in his gray chalk-stripe fabric and leather, trimmed with brass nail heads. A handmade miniature wooden staircase from the 1860s holds cuff links, and shoes — exclusive designs by Allen Edmonds for Abboud — are displayed on an Art Deco-inspired table made of tapered bronze with a deep chocolate shagreen top.
“A lot of the things are found pieces that give the store a little character,” he said.”Everything was curated.”
Fixtures are mostly bronze and open, allowing customers an unobscured view of the apparel, and there will be 40 mannequins in the space. “Guys buy from what they see,” Abboud said. “The visual aspect is key.”
In the rear, near the fitting rooms, is a VIP area where special customers can tuck away for some privacy.
An iron staircase at the back of the store leads up to the Joseph Abboud Custom clothing area on the mezzanine. There, more than 250 Italian fabrics are displayed on specially made bronze hooks. The silhouette options are offered from actual illustrations that Abboud developed for the space. “Creating a suit should be fun,” he said. “The old cards in a box are static and old, and yesterday’s news.”
Prices for custom suits start at $895 with the “sweet spot” at around $1,200, he said.
Custom clothing, produced in the company’s New Bedford, Mass., plant, has been a surprise star for the company. Abboud revealed that last week alone, Men’s Wearhouse sold 625 custom units.
“That’s our competitive edge,” he said. “We have a Made in America product, and the fact that we’re vertical allows us to give great value.”
The assortment in the Abboud store is a more-elevated collection than that sold in the Men’s Wearhouse stores. Off-the-rack suits at the flagship open at $795 and go up to $1,195. The offering at the Men’s Wearhouse starts at around $695. Some limited-edition pieces are also offered at the flagship.
The sportswear is also exclusive to the store and is produced in small runs. It skews toward dressy sportswear with linen shirts, lightweight cotton/linen sweaters and casual pants.
Even so, Abboud believes “tailored clothing will drive the business. There are so many sportswear stores in the area.” He also expects sport coats to be a driver of business. “Our brand has always been known for its sport coats,” he said, pointing to the “soft jacket, made in America” in various classic men’s wear patterns.
The store will also showcase the new Joseph Abboud fragrance in a case inside the front door.
Abboud summed up the store this way: “It’s theater with a commercial bent.”