Behind the Seams with Joseph Abboud
The menswear designer on Bedford, Boston, baseball, and his local life.
(page 1 of 5)
It’s a gorgeous Friday morning in early August as I zip up I-684 to Bedford with Lily, one of our summer interns, next to me in the front seat. Lily is from Manhattan so I’m trying to explain the whole Bedford vibe. “It’s a bit like Hollywood East but without all the flash,” I say. “It attracts all the mega-celebs who want a more laid-back luxury,” I add, tossing out the laundry list of high profile denizens: Richard Gere, Ralph Lauren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Martha Stewart, new kids on the block Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds—and renowned men’s fashion designer Joseph Abboud, to whose office we are headed. We pass horses grazing in pastures behind low white wooden fences and some weathered barns and houses framed by crumbling old stone walls and then we come upon sleepy little Bedford Village.
Here’s a grassy expanse and there’s a cluster of small buildings—all of life’s necessities: a gourmet shop, a monogrammed gift boutique, a movie theater, and, just farther up the road, Gere’s swanky Bedford Post Inn. “You have arrived,” my GPS announces at a two-story white clapboard Colonial building. We swing around back, as instructed, and, as I pull in next to a sexy little bronze-colored BMW convertible sports car with its top down, a back door opens and Abboud greets us like some dear friends whose visit he’s eagerly anticipating. Having just finished his very candid memoir, Threads: My life Behind the Seams in the High-Stakes World of Fashion, at 11:15 the night before, I do feel as if I know him far better than my typical interview subject.
“What’s he like?” my sister asks later, after reminding me yet again that her husband has a couple of his shirts—information that I keep to myself during the interview. “Charming,” is my answer. Abboud is warm, friendly, and very much a gentleman. So much so that before I can dash off a thank-you-for-your-time email the following Monday, the designer calls me instead to say how much he enjoyed our chat and the direction of my questioning. Nice.
But back to this summer Friday. With no entourage in sight—no assistant, no over-eager PR person, not even an intern—Abboud ushers us inside, fretting all the while that he can’t offer us a cold drink because the office kitchen hasn’t been stocked. But would we like him to run over to the Meetinghouse Food and Spirits across the street to pick something up, he asks? It wouldn’t be any trouble at all. And while he seems quite sincere—the wealthy, world-famous designer is shaping up to be the prototypical Mr. Nice Guy—I’m eager to get started and so decline. As I set up my laptop and tape recorders, he asks Lily about her plans to return to college. Nice.