We’ve long been fans of JA Apparel, the company that owns the Joseph Abboud clothing label. In fact we’ve blogged about the company three times, and in May I had the privilege of meeting Tony Sapienza, President/COO, while moderating a manufacturing conference at Kellogg. One of my favorite quotes at the conference came from Mr. Sapienza while discussing outsourcing. His perspective:
I am very familiar with outsourcing. The Portugese have been outsourcing clothing manufacturing to the U.S. for over a century!
As we noted about his efforts at JA Apparel,
Sapienza, president of the Joseph Abboud suit factory, and Pepicelli, who runs its union, are working hand in glove. Union and management are collaborating to revamp timeworn garment-making methods in favor of manufacturing techniques pioneered at Toyota Motor Corp. Their goal: Survival in the face of cheaper foreign competitors.
Our third post goes into considerable detail on their efforts, and we applaud their desire to keep manufacturing in America. But now things get interesting.
The Wall Street Journal this morning tells us the story of how the real live Joseph Abboud, the clothing design genius behind the original clothing line, left JA Apparel two years ago. His non-compete agreement is now expired, and he plans on launching a new product line of his own. The problem? He doesn’t own the trademark of his own name, so he’s calling his new line "Jaz." JA Apparel poked a subtle preemptive strike at Mr. Abboud with an ad in a trade publication, with the tagline,
The finest trademark lawyers in the world wear Joseph Abboud.
This will be an interesting quandary for Mr. Abboud and his Jaz line of clothing. The clothing is very high end, with suits starting at $895, shirts at $145, and ties at $115. Not typical knuckle-dragging manufacturing wear, to say the least. As if you’d ever catch a shop floor genius in a tie anyway. Ties were required at one of my first jobs in the mid-80’s, on a shop floor filled with exposed high-speed equipment and hydrogen torches. I learned very fast that clip-ons looked better than a neck cast.
Back to our story. It looks like Mr. Abboud may have learned a thing or two from Mr. Sapienza and JA Apparel.
His [Joseph Abboud] new line will be made in North America and Italy. He says he intends to spend a "significant seven-figure" range tp acquire a shirt factory based in Fall River, Mass., and a sportswear manufacturer in Elmsford, N.Y.
Although his top line, and presumably bottom line, are higher, I’m guessing he plans on leveraging lean methods to be competitive from those new facilities.
Abboud… and Abboud… made in America. Competitively.