About Alexander S. Kabbaz
Authored by Conrad Kabbaz
Alexander Kabbaz of Amagansett, New York, was born on January 28, 1950 in New York City, son of the late Kathleen Colgan and Alexander Kabbaz Sr., grandson of noted surrealist artist Lucia. Alex passed away on July 21, 2022.
Alex attended Calhoun High School in Merrick, Long Island. After graduating, he spent time in Laguna Beach, California, immersing himself in artistic pursuits before returning to the East Coast to attend Stony Brook University, where he majored in engineering.
He began his professional career as a writer for Harper’s Magazine and soon thereafter founded and published Discothekin in 1973. Discothekin would become the foremost magazine chronicling the discotheque entertainment field. Beyond the magazine, Alex was a fixture of the storied disco scene of 1970’s New York City as a DJ for various establishments including the legendary Studio 54. During this time, he served as a technical advisor to Billboard magazine and Saturday Night Fever.
In 1977, foreseeing the decline of the disco era, Alex shifted his focus to bespoke clothing. He apprenticed with the top shirtmaking artisans of the day and found them to be out of step with the times, staid and lacking in innovation. Harnessing his years of personal design experience, Alex reinvented the modern custom shirt, tinkering until he had engineered the perfect garment. He opened his first atelier on 35th Street at 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, later moving to 57th Street at 5th Avenue before finally settling on Madison Avenue at 72nd Street in 1989.
By this time, Alex had gained a reputation as the world’s premier custom shirtmaker, a designation he maintained until his passing. His clients included the late Leonard Bernstein and Tom Wolfe as well as numerous business titans, world leaders, and celebrities. Alex’s talents as a custom clothier were featured in Departures, Robb Report, Business Insider, Slate, and several television documentaries. He also designed shirts and supplied fashions for blockbuster films including Wall Street, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Men in Black.
Alex served for years as president of the Madison Avenue Merchants Association before founding the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District in 1996. He was awarded a proclamation from the N.Y. City Council for his civic efforts in this area. The same year, Alex was the recipient of the East Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Business Service award.
In 1999, Alex and his family relocated from New York City to their family estate in Amagansett. The historic property served as the nexus of the mid-20th century Hamptons artists’ colony, founded by Alex’s grandmother Lucia, a renowned painter who counted Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Willem De Kooning, Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim and other contemporaries among her circle of friends. Seeking to continue Lucia’s artistic legacy, Alex and his wife Joelle founded Artists’ Woods, an art gallery, sculpture garden, and art school in 2000. Artists’ Woods hosted artists for summer residencies, who spent the season teaching classes in disciplines as varied as ceramics, glass beading, and welding to students ranging from early childhood to adults.
More recently, Alex learned of the need for a new community center for local senior citizens. He reached an agreement with the Town of East Hampton where he offered a sizable piece of land to be used for this purpose. Although the parcel was highly desirable for private development, Alex felt it was important to give back to the community.
Regarded as a Renaissance man by family and friends, Alex had many interests.
He was a musician, playing trombone and guitar; an artist and craftsman whose mediums included ceramics, woodworking, and welding; an avid skier, hiker, and tennis player; and a talented cook, making traditional Lebanese recipes passed down from his grandmother Lucia, who was herself the subject of a culinary review by Craig Claiborne of The New York Times.
Alex particularly enjoyed serving as Scoutmaster for cub scout packs in New York City and Amagansett, where he was able to share his interests and love of the outdoors with new generations.
He is survived by his wife and business partner of 36 years, Joelle Kelly, sons Damien, Conrad, Daniel, and Tucker Kabbaz.