A lively, confident memoir seriously explores the realities of the fashion industry, leavening its nuts-and-bolts acumen with personal warmth and just enough of the trade’s time-tested potshots.
Although not neatly divided, Threads does contain two basic strands. The first presents the fruits of the well-regarded designer’s wisdom after more than 30 years in the fashion business. Abboud starts at ground level, with the feel of fabric, “the beginning, the heart, the essence of my clothes.” There is nothing airy about his opinions: he explains just how a knobby knit or one as smooth as cashmere fits into his designs, how each and every one takes its meaningful place in that season’s line, be they primitive patterns or ethnic textures. He talks about how to coax a mill to produce the exact shade you want. And if Abboud is known for anything (other than being a few gratifying steps left of Ralph Lauren), it is the qualities of his earth tones: dusty and melancholy, smoky or veiled. He also offers quality advice on such nitty-gritty issues as how fashion schools should integrate business elements into their curriculum and how to pick models for a show. The second narrative strand unfolds, at reasonable length, the Lebanese author’s personal journey through the fashion world. He paid his dues in an almost feudal manner, working his way from the floor to the coveted position of designer. For each step, he offers words to the wise (don’t trust your friends, be aware of the importance of trunk shows), and throws a host of caltrops into the path of the self-important: “ . . . he was more Calvin than Calvin, which must have had an interesting effect on Calvin,” or, “I hate pony tails on guys.” Excuse me? Would that be . . . Mr. Lagerfeld?
Ought to be required reading for anyone looking to buy a suit or a tie—or, for that matter, a workshirt. (16-page color insert, not seen)