I chanced upon an autobiography of Joseph Abboud , the story of a designer turned entrepreneur. Needless to say , I picked it up as I believe that every entrepreneur’s venture story has some hidden leanings which can be applied across industries, contexts and business opportunities.
The book , to begin with tries to remove some of the false notions about the fashion business. I had this notion that fashion entrepreneurism is nothing but cashing on a trend that’s in the market and keep moving on. Another notion that fashion biz personnel are more market driven rather than self driven. These and couple of other notions were thoroughly dispelled by charming , witty and an informative description of the world of fashion by Joseph Abboud.
JA’s mother was a seamstress herself, but it was more a bread and butter stuff and nothing that she could relate to. So, in a way JA was exposed to the fabrics at a young age. He started his career as a salesman at a clothing store, where he thoroughly enjoyed the process of making the customer choose the right clothing for their personality. From the beginning JA had this immense belief that clothing and personality go together.This clear cut sales approach where he had customer’s intrinsic nature in mind while selling made him the best performing salesman in the store.
His lucky break came when he was recruited to work for Ralph Lauren, one of the highly acclaimed work places for any designer.Murray, his boss was the mentor who helped JA understand various facets of technical and business aspects of fashion industry.JA spend a considerable amount of time in the operations aspect of the business learning merchandising aspects, applying and experimenting with various channel tactics, dealing with copyright violations, recruiting designers for various assignment, managing the supply of the clothing for various fashion seasons, negotiating deals with various models who would be the brand ambassadors, etc. His portfolio of works and the successful performance in all the areas made him the associate director for Mens suiting’s at Ralph.
Next, JA decided it was time to move on and start his own venture as his head was exploding with ideas and Ralph was a place which was becoming a huge organization which was struck a little bit by “Innovator’s Dilemma”.Along with his friend, he launched JA label clothing and made his sales mainly to the speciality stores in USA. Two years after introducing his label, Abboud joined forces with GFT USA Corp., a subsidiary of the international conglomerate Gruppo GFT, to form Joseph Abboud Apparel Corporation. It has been a spiraling ascent ever since. In four short years he captured all of the industry’s top honors, including Menswear Designer of the Year two years in a row, (1989 & 1990), from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, (CFDA).
Under the current licensing arrangement between Joseph Abboud Worldwide, Inc. and GFT USA Corp., GFT manufactures and distributes a wide range of Menswear products, including formal wear, tailored clothing, furnishings, and sportswear, under the Joseph Abboud diamond and rectangle label. Other licensed products include men’s footwear, accessories, eyewear, fragrance, as well as a bed and bath collection of home furnishings.Worldwide, Abboud’s men’s collections are available in Canada, Mexico, and Australia through distribution agreements; in Jakarta, Indonesia with a freestanding Joseph Abboud store opened in January 1996 and throughout Japan via a licensing agreement with Onward Kashiyama signed in 1995. To date there are sixty in-store boutiques in Japan. Abboud’s Menswear is also available in select stores in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Amsterdam.
The secret behind the success story of Joseph Abboud is echoed in the following statement
“Creative life isn’t about ego gratification.But about curiosity – what-ifs and what nots.
That’s what drives me forward and forces me to challenge and overcome obstacles”