Our Story ... Alexander ... Joelle ... and CustomShirt1.com
Who, What, When, Where, Why, Etc. ... Just In Case You're Interested
Joelle Kelly and Alexander Kabbaz, founders of Kabbaz-Kelly Fine Custom Clothiers, are husband and wife as well as business partners for more than a quarter century. The duo began selling luxury underwear and socks back in the 1970's as a service to their bespoke shirt clients. Today they are the oldest and largest such retailer in the world. Brought to the forefront of the field by their renowned custom shirts, they fondly recall certain turning points in their success.
"Creating Michael Douglas's unique shirts for Wall Street brought us considerable recognition" notes Kabbaz, continuing, "and the television documentaries done about Kabbaz-Kelly served to permanently archive our somewhat obsessive insistence on the quality of our creations.
"It was a thrill when Departures wrote that many considered us the best shirtmaker in the world, as was garnering multiple Robb Report Best of the Best awards. But most importantly to us, it has been our knowledge of how to make top quality clothing which has provided the ability to be so discerning in our selection of the artisans' work we offer on LuxuryClothing.com and CustomShirt1.com.
Alexander began learning to sew by assisting his grandmother. Going by the simple cognomen Lucia, a noted surrealist of the period, she was sponsored to the United States by philanthropists Sara and Gerald Murphy of F. Scott Fitzgerald fame. As did most artists of the 1940's, she plied a variety of trades. Hers included those of freelance shirting designer for A. Sulka & Co. and costume designer for the Westbury Music Fair. It was in these roles as textile designer/costumer that Lucia began teaching her young grandson the rudiments of tailoring. Kabbaz continued to develop his abilities in his teens and early 20's by managing a large fabric store and sewing school. Tailoring his own suits, teaching homemakers to sew, and creating avante garde clothing for the requisite succession of girlfriends honed his agility with the needle. After a break to develop his design talents, Alexander returned to sewing in the field of bespoke shirtmaking. Fittingly, his first press release was entitled Reprieve for a Dying Art ... for that well described the state of American custom shirtmaking in the 1970s.
Joelle came aboard early in the 1980s. Fresh out of N.Y.U., she rapidly discovered a passion for tailoring. An avid flamenco dancer, Joelle soon realized that the bespoke sewing workrooms were good for more than custom shirts and fine furnishings. Lights could be seen burning brightly late into the night as she created custom flamenco skirts for a core group of New York's professional dancers. It became a symbol of status among the group to be known as an owner of one of Kelly's creations.
Moreover, her presence provided the thriving partnership with the ability to design from the feminine point-of-view. This has proven indispensible in their recent work on behalf of not only the new women's lingerie line, but in the very creation of their artisans' ever-expanding repertoire of top quality, unique socks for the distaff.
During her early childhood years in Europe, Joelle learned many of the traditional "women's" arts including knitting, crochet, hand sewing, and hand embroidery. Still an avid knitter, her talented hand embroidery skills saved the day when, back in the 1990's, the artisan who had crafted the monograms for our bespoke shirts suddenly closed up shop. Since then, all monograms have been done here in-house.
"What we offer is not merely about fashion", commented Kelly. "Though much of what we carry is fashionable, of greater concern in most cases is the consideration of timeless elegance. Our carefully crafted clothing, when properly cared for, is meant to last. It needs to supersede the boundaries of any particular season's style and convey an image of tasteful luxury."
Joelle continued, "Although I am always happy speaking with any of our clients, I naturally feel a greater kinship with the women. Actually, I think Alexander is usually quite relieved when he is able to pass the ladies on to me. Just as I would prefer not to have to opine on the pouch shape of a particular boxer or brief, I think he feels more comfortable letting me discuss the fit of a spaghetti strap camisole. In that respect, we make an excellent team."
"The decision to build a web site way back in 1994 was one of our more prescient moves" opined Kabbaz, continuing with a smile, "as it laid the groundwork for CustomShirt1.com and LuxuryClothing.com ... and gave us time to get our ducks in a row ... long before most even realized that the internet had ducks. Our reputation for knowing the clothing field from both the viewpoints of top quality artisans as well as retailers gave us a leg up when dealing with Europe's best makers. Moreover, our 30 years of hands-on experience with underwear and socks - as well as outerwear and tailored clothing - has given us the intimate knowledge of each item so lacking in the typical here-today gone-tomorrow part-time department store sales clerk or customer service phone person. What we've found is that if we simply have the opportunity to speak with our clients by phone or e-mail, as impersonal as the internet may be to most, we can give them a level of assistance and service simply unavailable elsewhere. More than that, we actually enjoy talking with our clients!"
Want to know more? Click here for more of Kabbaz & Kelly's history.