Joseph Abboud is an iconic American mens clothing brand, but not necessarily one that held clout with the younger, hipper set. Slim cut suiting with a bohemian/creative edge? Nah. Not them. Enter creative director Bernardo Rojo, who, beginning with this past season’s spring collection, has given the old guard brand a very new guard look. The GQ Eye sat down recently with Mr. Rojo to discuss the fresh facelift, Francis Bacon and fashioning detachable cashmere collars.
The GQ Eye: We’ve seen this a lot recently – a storied brand takes a new direction in order to bring a fresh perspective to contemporarymenswear. How do you keep the brand’s integrity while also putting out clothing that will be exciting and cool and different for your brand?
Bernardo Rojo: Giving a new direction to Joseph Abboud was a great and exciting challenge. The first thing I did was look at what the brand was known for: textures, patterns, a relad attitude toward dressing and masculine styles. I then began to update the collections, bringing back that same feel and heritage, but in a modern way. There were certainly some issues with fit and silhouettes that I felt were outdated, so we remade the patterns, making them slimmer, but keeping the comfort and functionality. I introduced a softer construction to the garments and researched new fabrics and details that make the pieces stand out in the contemporary market…
The GQ Eye: This doesn’t look like any Joseph Abboud we’ve ever seen. Is the aim to go for a younger demographic and to introduce the brand to a new set of consumers?
Rojo: This was one of the biggest challenges we faced while trying to maintain our current customer and evolve his wardrobe without alienating him. At the same time, we had to design a collection that was going to be new and contemporary enough that it would attract a fresh clientele. The clientele we’re shooting for is more aware of fashion and we have to acknowledge that.
GQ: What are some of the signature or key pieces from the line? Can you tell us about them and how they came to be?
Rojo: One of my favorite pieces is the deconstructed double-breasted jacket with detachable cashmere knitted collar. Protection against the elements was a huge theme for us and men in the fall tend to put up the collar of their jacket to keep them warm… What could be nicer than feeling knitted cashmere on the back of your neck?
GQ: You mentioned protection against the elements; what’d you look to as inspiration for this fall collection?
Rojo: Our inspiration for our design is definitely that protection element, so we took a look at protective equipment and gear from alpine sports, equestrian, military, motorcycling racing; really extreme sports in general. We looked at Mark Rothko’s use of monochromatic colours as an inspiration and Francis Bacon for the use of masculine strokes and highlighting accents.
GQ: What will be crucial for you as you continue to develop the new image of the brand?
Rojo: As always, the support of the retailers is crucial for the success of the brand. Also, we can’t forget a strong marketing campaign, similar to the one we are launching for fall 2011: “Made In The New America.”