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Abboud was born in Boston, Massachusetts. The Abboud family was a working-class Christian Lebanese family that started out in the South End of Boston and later moved to the Roslindale section of Boston. Abboud's mother, Lila, was a seamstress. On a trip to Australia, Abboud discovered that his great-grandfather had owned Australia's largest men's tailored-clothing company. He now has two daughters, Lila and Ari, and resides in Bedford, New York with his family.
Abboud graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 1972, then studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Abboud first started working in the fashion industry as a 16-year-old working part-time at Louis Boston. Abboud stated: "Louis Boston was a huge part of my career. I really landed in a world of very glamorous style, beautiful clothes, just the world of what international fashion was about. If this had never happened, then the rest of it wouldn't have happened." Abboud joined Ralph Lauren in 1981, eventually becoming associate director of menswear design. He launched his own label in 1986. In 1988, JA Apparel was created as a joint venture between Abboud and GFT (Gruppo Finanziario Tessile) USA.
Abboud sold his trademarks and name to JA Apparel for $65 million in 2000. The company was acquired by private-equity firm J.W. Childs Associates for $73 million in 2004, and Abboud left JA Apparel in 2005