In Today's Thursday Styles, our Critical Shopper menswear specialist Jon Caramanica expresses his disappointment with Joseph Abboud's first New York boutique on the corner of 49th Street and Madison Avenue. Essentially, he has pegged Abboud as a purveyor of the tastefully bland, contrasted with our shopper's continuing affection for what sounds like a typically flashy V2 Versace Classic suit from the late '90s purchased post-college in service of indeterminate career goals.
This is a vaguely Kaczynski-esque reminiscence with tenuous relevance, but it does suggest that our shopper does not remember that there was a time when Joseph Abboud was America's hottest new menswear designer, a GQ favorite with an in-store shop in Bergdorf Goodman's men's department (in both the original version and in the new Men's Store). At that moment, he was on the forefront of cross-pollinating American classic style with Italian sprezzatura before most men had even attempted to pronounce the name Ermenegildo Zegna, and labels like Isaia and Kiton were yet to be discovered. Eventually a partnership with Italian mega-manufacturer Gruppo GFT sent Abboud, aesthetically, into a pit of homogenized Euro-style from which his brand never really recovered, bringing him to the innocuous grays, taupes and earth tones that you still see in his new store. This is what our shopper Mr. Caramanica is judging him on when he says, "On the left wall are racks and racks of suits ($795, mostly). They are handsome, a little stiff, not risking imagination of any sort."
Having been separated from his own brand by the kind of corporate machinations that bedevil so many designers these days, The Shophound was hoping that Abboud's reunion with his label and the opening of his first New York store —under the unlikely auspices of Men's Wearhouse— would have sparked some kind of creative resurgence, but it turns out he has simply picked up where he left off with pleasant but predictable upscale clothing. While Abboud is pushing the suits, it's ultimately the sportswear that catches our Shopper's attention, when he says, "much of what was in the rest of the store was surprisingly warm." You won't go too far wrong at Joseph Abboud. It seems to be a safe place for men who can't be trusted to pull together a new outfit without steady guidance, but apparently, it will never offer the thrill of an off-price suit from a Versace diffusion line.
Critical Shopper: Joseph Abboud Provides a Guiding Hand for the Suit Averse By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Joseph Abboud 424 Madison Avenue at 49th Street, Midtown