As if it weren’t enough to be an award-winning fashion designer with countless accomplishments in menswear (e.g. learning the trade with Murray Pearlstein at Louis Boston, working with Ralph Lauren, designing menswear for Chanel, president of HMX, launching his own Joseph Abboud and Joe labels, designing and building the Black Brown brand for Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, creative director at Tailored Brands with a flagship namesake shop on Madison Avenue, staging Broadway-caliber fashion shows, active involvement in numerous charities…), Joseph is now a radio talk show host on 77 WABC. His show on Saturday afternoons at 5:00 pm is called Threads, with a goal to “uncover the real person behind the designer label, the thought process behind the creativity, and to make fashion less intimidating.”
Last weekend’s show was a tribute to two recently lost legends—Pierre Cardin and Karl Lagerfeld—with guest designer Tommy Hilfiger. Joseph recalls meeting both Cardin and Lagerfeld early in his career, and being highly impressed with Cardin’s business savvy and grace, and Lagerfeld’s irreverence and brilliance. A favorite Lagerfeld quote: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat: you’ve lost control of your life so you buy some sweatpants.” (MR suggests we borrow this Lagerfeld quote to inspire a new dress code in the months to come…)
Tommy entertained listeners with stories of his rise from humble beginnings (he opened People’s Place in Elmira, NY while still in high school, buying well-priced basics at Army-Navy stores and embellishing them, selling fringed vests and bongs, hosting band practices in the store) to recent collaborations with Gigi Hadid and Zendaya. Brutally honest about his ups and downs, he shared how an essentially preppy brand was appropriated by urban kids who wore it their way and launched a major trend. “So, we started putting big logos on rugby shirts which got turned down at Bloomingdale’s but I asked Marvin Traub if we could just use these styles as signage for the Hilfiger shop. He agreed, we put a ridiculous $200 price tag on these shirts and Snoop Dog wore one on Saturday Night Live. This started a frenzy: we sold every piece and buyers from all over were begging for more. It was the birth of streetwear: very baggy jeans, oversized jerseys, big sneakers, backwards baseball caps. This was the late ‘90s, we over-expanded, cool kids got sick of labels and pushed back, and there was a major backlash.”
As Tommy tells it, he asked Lagerfeld how he reinvented Chanel and was advised that to make a storied brand relevant for today, one must go back to the archives. So, Tommy did just that (no problem for Tommy who admits to being a hoarder who saves everything) and managed to reinvent the collection, helped in large part by his business in Europe where he was positioned near more upscale and sophisticated brands.
Tommy also shared the how and why of his venture into adaptive clothing for people with disabilities. And for Red Sox fans, Joseph shared why dozens of sports fans wanted a photo taken with him on an opening day at Fenway Park (no, it wasn’t because he’s a famous designer!) All this and more on Saturday afternoons at 5:00 pm on 77 WABC where this weekend Joseph gets up-close and personal with iconic designer Norma Kamali.
(Download the 77 WABC Talk Radio app and you won’t even need a radio!)