Going Hollywood at Joseph Abboud

How a Madrid-born, London-trained fashion designer is bringing new life to classic American menswear.



Bernardo Rojo’s makeshift West Coast office is the poolside restaurant at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip. Makeshift isn’t quite the right word: The view of Los Angeles over the pool from the landmark art deco hotel’s perch on the hill is panoramic, and when the weather’s nice (even when it’s not), only a killjoy would pass up the chance to meet with Rojo.

Though he’s based in New York City, Rojo, creative director for menswear label Joseph Abboud, has long had his eye on Hollywood. For Joseph Abboud’s fall 2012 line, Rojo focused on the 1930s and on the kind of style coincidentally exemplified by the onetime residents (Errol Flynn, Howard Hughes, later Frank Sinatra) of his preferred hotel.

“Particularly on the West Coast, there was a Hollywood glamour,” he says in his thick Spanish accent, in a deep voice just low enough to invite one to lean in. “That period, particularly in men’s fashion, was so elegant, so I wondered why it was forgotten.”

Featuring big lapels and strong, square shoulders, the designs of that era are more suited to American tastes than are the super-slim suits from many contemporary European designers. Rojo updated the ’30s sensibility with modern twists, including moving the armholes higher and softening the shoulders.
Joseph Abboud began as its founder’s namesake line in the 1980s and has always taken pride in being thoroughly American, with all the clothing produced domestically. But Rojo draws distinctions between his American sensibility—on display with deconstructed shapes in earth tones, soft blues and grays—and the red, white, and blue of another notable fashion house.