by Karen Alberg Grossman
Coach Rob (center) with Lila Abboud, Mindy Scheier, Joseph and Karen Alberg

I recently had the pleasure of spending two consecutive afternoons with Joseph Abboud at his Madison Avenue shop. For those who erroneously assume the life of a menswear designer is in any way frivolous, let me share just a bit about the magnitude of these two meetings.

The first was to introduce Rob Mendez, a very special football coach who just received a special ESPN award for perseverance. He was born without arms or legs, the result of a rare genetic condition, yet he fell in love with football as a young boy (thanks to the video game Madden) and learned how to map out intricate plays with a pencil in his mouth. Pursuing his dreams against all odds, he is now a high school football coach who changes lives with his positivity and is truly the most amazing young man I’ve ever met. Says Mindy Scheier, founder and president of Runway of Dreams, “I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the inspiring and amazing football coach, Rob Mendez. When I found out Rob was receiving an ESPY Award, one of the biggest moments of his life, I knew he needed a spectacular suit. I immediately contacted Joseph Abboud and his team. They worked on a tight deadline and created a beautiful custom suit that helped Rob shine on his very special day.”

Greg, the research scientist, at his Abboud fitting

My visit to Joseph’s store the following day was for a different fitting: two custom suits that were won at a silent auction sponsored by Donate Life Connecticut, a transplant awareness organization close to my heart that Joseph has been supporting for several years. The winning bid was from a young Yale University scientist named Greg who does research relating to organ donation in order to ultimately expand the pool of viable organs. As Joseph explained to Greg how Italian fabrics are washed in the crystal streams of Biella, why notch lapels work with patch pockets and why there are 12 steps for pressing in his Massachusetts factory, Greg carefully selected swatches and ultimately linings for his two new suits. While Joseph liked a certain paisley lining (who know that paisley was a Babylonian symbol for fertility?), Greg went right for an abstract pattern that closely resembled the clumps of blood cells on slides he’s been studying.

Another amazing young man on the brink of important scientific breakthroughs! May the new suits bring you much good luck.