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Fashion Q&A: Bernardo Rojo, Creative Director at Joseph Abboud

Joseph Abboud founded his namesake menswear label in 1986 in America and with it reflected the tailored, suit-centric Wall Street aesthetic of the money-hungry business world, even earning him the CFDA Award for best menswear designer two years in a row. Abboud has recently gained a new creative director, Mr. Bernardo Rojo (right), who has been working rigorously to update the brand. Though still early into his tenure, Rojo has already injected a healthy dose of modernity and freshness into the brand, and buyers are already noticing. We had a chance to chat with the creative director on his role at the company and his vision for the Abboud man.

OUT: What is your background/training in clothing?
Bernardo Rojo: My first design job was designing all tailored clothing and dress shirts for Alfred Dunhill in London. During my five years there I was fortunate to work with Zegna in Italy as our manufacturer and work with the top pattern-makers and tailors, so my passion for tailoring continued to evolve as did my passion for quality and craftsmanship.

Did you always want to be a designer?
Since I was a kid I always had a passion for design -- I even remember making my own clothes because I could not find the things I liked. I grew up in Spain with a pretty conservative family so it was sort of a struggle to convince them that I wanted to go to design school instead of a university to study law or medicine . But in the end it all worked out.

Who is the Joseph Abboud man?
The Joseph Abboud man is an American -- an adventurous man who is not afraid to broaden his horizons as he becomes a world citizen. It's a man who embraces individualism. It's a man who's confidence allows him to put pieces together sometimes in an unconventional way but somehow make it work.

How has he changed over the years since the company was started?
This man has become more aware of fashion, but that doesn't necessarily means that he follows trends, although he is aware of them. For him it's all about style and artful masculinity.

Since you've been at the company, what are the biggest changes you wanted to make to the brand?
Giving a new breath to Joseph Abboud was a great and exciting challenge. The first thing I did was look at what the brand was known for (textures, patterns, a relaxed attitude toward dressing and masculine styles), and began to update the collections, bringing back Joseph Abboud's heritage in a modern way.

I took a careful look at the fit and silhouettes that I felt were outdated, and remade the patterns, making them slimmer yet keeping the comfort and functionality. I introduced softer construction to the garments and researched new fabrics and details. The biggest challenge I faced was trying to maintain our current customer and evolve his wardrobe without alienating him. At the same time, I had to design a collection that was going to be new and contemporary enough that it would attract a new clientele

What were the things that you felt needed to remain?
The true masculine style that the brand always had.

What is the starting point for you when you design a collection? Is it a place? A feeling? A particular image? Are you inspired by different things each season, or do you have a certain idea that you continually come back to?
It all depends, inspirations come from an art exhibition, a movie, architecture, a trip, or just by going out sitting at a cafe and seeing someone with a great style that makes me think about how to evolve that certain idea into a collection. Sometimes, as creative minds, we see things that perhaps are insignificant to most people and we see them as a great source of inspiration. I always ask designers to keep their eyes open and look because inspiration can come from the most unusual places.

Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Lippmann

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