Based in NYC, Abasi Rosborough is a progressive, forward-thinking men’s brand that’s really aiming to get men to think about new ways of dressing. The two designers behind the brand are Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough; they met at F.I.T. and they have experience from revered menswear brands like Engineered Garments and Ralph Lauren. Their design aesthetic infuses elements from activewear, architecture and traditional ethnic regalia into expertly tailored garments – all made in NYC. We caught up with the AR guys at a spring preview of their new S/S 2015 collection dubbed CHRYSALIS. Read below …
What is the overarching philosophy and design concept behind Abasi Rosborough?
Abdul: AR is about pushing menswear forward. It's about taking classic archetypes and adjusting them for today's modern man. We started with tailoring and infused the best of activewear and functionality. We are looking to modernize old traditions.
Engineered Garments & Ralph Lauren are certainly two of our favorite brands. You both worked there before starting your label. What things did you pick up from these stops to apply to Abasi Rosborough?
Abdul: Engineered Garments is a Japan-based company and they have a very zen way of operating. They are really great at bringing people through the ranks and nurturing them. The brand pulls from a lot of Americana references like fishing, hunting, heritage, but they try to push it forward and tweak it. Although we are not so referential with our starting points, there are valuable tidbits from the past that we can incorporate and adapt for the future.
Greg: Ralph Lauren is also referential towards the past. At Ralph, we had more of a capitalist approach and we were constantly concerned about fabric pricing and the business aspect, but I learnt that it was always about storytelling. Whether you are in clothing, movies or any field, you have to tell a great story.
To be a design duo, there obviously has to be a lot of synergy to make it work – what is it about your alliance that makes it come together and do each of you have specific roles within the business?
Abdul: Greg and I both operate in two different head spaces, but we are able to come together and see eye to eye. I am more of a spatial, broad stroke, intuitive thinker and Greg is very practical, administrative and technical. It's a blessing to have the yin and yang when we design. Although we come from two different starting points, there has to be a discussion and debate to weed out the ideas so we come to best possible endpoint. We joke sometimes about the roles and say that I am the creative director and Greg is the design director. I'm more involved in the artistic, intangible aspects and Greg is much more nuts and bolts. He makes sure we have the technical, architectural and anatomical elements.
You mentioned that it took years of planning before the actual launch of the brand – can you enlighten us a bit on what this planning period comprised of?
Greg: We started meeting for coffee and having a dialog about menswear regarding where it's been, where it's going and we decided we wanted to start making some prototypes. The intent was to push a new menswear aesthetic for the 21st century. We talked about how the suit and shirt were really designed in the 1870s and we are still doing the same thing 140 years later. As designers, we thought we can do better than that. The planning over multiple years was trying to create new prototypes that were interesting, and to understand the body structure, the architecture of the body and how we can integrate those elements into the clothing itself. It was really a creative time to think, plan, research and that eventually became the brand. There is enough clothing in the world - we only wanted to create a new brand if we had something to say.
Who is the Abasi Rosborough man?
Abdul: We want to be all-inclusive, but the AR man is very directional, has a point of view and very reductive. There is a certain type of man who will be attracted to that; someone that's worldly, someone that has their finger on the pulse. We try make clothes that are timeless and defy trends but at the end of the day. we want anyone who understands AR to wear it
How important is functionality in the clothes?
Greg: It plays a huge role because the original design intent was to make clothes that were more functional, more comfortable, simplified, reductive - so instead of looking at menswear classics, we are really studying the body and laying our archetypes on top of that - making shirts, jackets, coats that all play well together.
The Japanese are definitely killing the menswear scene right now – brands like Blue Blue, White Mountaineering, Beams, Visvim – do you keep an eye on what’s happening in this lane?
Well yeah - it's very difficult to ignore what the Japanese are doing. I think it all stems from their culture. They really take time to understand detail through study and pay homage and respect to certain eras, and it reflects in the clothing that they make. They are best at refining things that exist. The Americans are great at innovating and creating new product. Because we want to service the Japanese and other people around the world, we have to make sure our designs are made at a high level, because they are the ultra-critics. If you can secure their dollar, then you can secure anyone's.
Your S/S 2015 collection is themed CHRYSALIS – can you break down the science on that and what you were trying to accomplish with it?
Greg: Well, as a word Chrysalis means a protective barrier usually referencing a cocoon. The symbolism behind that is the butterfly in the cocoon hoping to emerge soon. With us being a young brand, we feel like we are still emerging - within the chrysalis - growing, developing, perfecting what we do. Also I pulled the word from a book I read 1Q84 by Murakami and it was a major theme in that book - I thought it was really relevant to our brand as well.
What are the main themes that inspire your creations/new collections – is it travel, nature, art, futuristic concepts?
Abdul: The main theme about AR is crafting clothing that align with the body. When you look at a product, you may not see an obvious label but you can see that we are doing a certain sleeve, panel or pocket and we are constantly building upon what we started. At the end of the day, it's about looking within ourselves. It's always going to be the same vision executed from different angles
Greg: On our tumblr, you can see our inspirations: art, photography, architecture - the world has really adopted western dress as the norm but there are amazing histories of dress in the Middle East, Asia, West Africa and we like to look back and think of other methods of dressing.
Your brand is still very young – what do you see coming up for you in the next few years?
Abdul: We are young but we have a point of view. At this point, it's about spreading the awareness of what we do. We've been going strong for two years and we've had a lot of interest from international buyers and stores. Stateside we are still relatively unknown. We are trying to educate our customer and stay pure, stay devoted, stay focused. We want to spread the word and let people know that there is a new way of dressing.
Greg: Keep trying to grow the business in a meaningful way that's organic and authentic to us.
Where can people find your brand?
We are mostly international now - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Dubai, Kuwait and Lagos. Also we have our clothes on our website. We just picked up a store in Los Angeles, it's our first American stockist called H. Lorenzo.
Lastly, 2015 is quickly approaching, what is one thing you want to do better in your life for the New Year?
Abdul: For 2015, the world is our oyster and we want to take what was successful in the past and refine that and make it better. With the mistakes we made, we want to make sure we mitigate those - nothing too specific. It’s a mentality of reflection and getting better.
Greg: Just keep staying positive and being authentic. Starting a business is a grind. There are hard days, frustrating times and stress galore - but at the same time, I keep focusing on the fact that it's all worth it and these are the types of risks and opportunities that life is about. We are proud to be doing what we doing and want to keep telling a great story.
Visit the Abasi Rosborough website here.
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