Ones to Watch: Abasi Rosborough
Designers Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough met studying menswear design at FIT before Abasi went to work for Patrik Ervell and Engineered Garments and Rosborough for Ralph Lauren and Simon Spurr. The two launched their brand in 2012 after years-long discussions about how to reinvent men’s suiting for better fit and flexibility. I asked Rosborough (pictured below, left) about how it all came together and where he and Abasi see it going.
What made the two of you decide to start a new brand now?
After a year into the working world, I was itching to start a creative project outside of my full-time job at Ralph Lauren. I had an idea I wanted to talk about and Abdul was the first person I thought of. I wanted to discuss the future of menswear—how would it evolve? The men’s suit was developed in the 1880s in Victorian England and has hardly changed at all in the 130 years since. What would the next suit look like? What would we want it to do? How would it move, breathe, and flex to adapt to the needs of 21st century man? Those were the topics we discussed then and still discuss now. We starting making prototypes to see what we could come up with and after a few years, that project evolved into Abasi Rosborough. Once we had the jacket, shirt, trouser, and coat prototypes in a good place and performing up to our standards, then the first collection for AW13 was a natural step for us.
How did working for Ralph Lauren and Simon Spurr prepare you for striking out on your own?
Ralph Lauren develops the eye to see little details, teaches the importance of branding, and most importantly, compels the designer to become a story-teller. Those were incredibly valuable lessons and working there was a wonderful experience as I had great mentors and an unbelievable garment library at my fingertips. Working for Simon Spurr was interesting because it was a start-up: it was a great experience to see from the inside what worked and ultimately, what didn’t work.
How would you describe the collection? How important are functionality and ergonomics to Abasi Rosborough?
The collection is truly the synthesis of fresh ideas and elevated fabrics. We worked on tons of prototypes and testing to get the garments to where they are. Everything is actually “designed.” What we mean by that is that we didn’t take existing patterns or standard archetypal menswear designs and simply insert a new fabric with a twist. We actually built the patterns from the ground up so they have our fingerprints and signature details all over them. All of this was done to achieve maximum comfort in that the garments breathe, flex, and move while still balancing an air of sophistication, dignity, and gravitas that men expect from their clothing. Functionality and ergonomics are the beating heart of our design process: what does the body need? How can we accommodate the body better? How can it still look elevated? A lot of our process comes from studying our favorite designers: Dieter Rams, Ray and Charles Eames, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid.
What categories are you doing? What are your price points?
So far we are doing tailored clothing, shirting, coats, denim, sportswear, and cut-and-sew knits. The price points are “designer.” We strictly make garments in the United States, we use high quality textiles, and superlative construction techniques.
Who are your retailers so far?
Isetan (out of Tokyo) launched the collection the first season. The second season we were also bought by The Swank in Hong Kong and a new concept store called Mahani in Dubai.
How are you promoting and selling the collection? Trade shows? Fashion Week? Are you the sellers or are you hiring sales people?
We are promoting by reaching out personally to stores and buyers that we want to work with. And the press we have received has been extremely helpful. But we are embracing our obscurity for now. We haven’t participated in Trade shows or Fashion Week because we haven’t felt it was appropriate yet. We are acting as our own sales agents as our brand is very much our passion and injected with our ideas and we need to show the garments and tell the story in our own way.
What’s the theme for fall 2014? What are your most popular items?
Our theme this season is a continuation of the design aesthetic with influences from 1960’s era minimalist art and the structural ingenuity of organic architecture. Our must-have item every season thus far and for the foreseeable future is the ARC Jacket (our tailored blazer). It’s an incredible garment and the full expression of our ideas for evolving menswear. It’s fully hand-canvassed with concealed ergonomic pockets inside and out, a streamlined lapel and body, a carrying strap and an incredibly comfortable fit. And it’s reversible.
What are your goals for the next year or two? Where do you want to be in five years?
Our short-term goals are to continue telling our story, building our business, and gaining exposure. In five years, we would like to be carried by the best stores in the world, open our own store in NYC, and finally, to have created an awareness in menswear that there is an alternative to “classic,”—a new paradigm has begun.
What are your strengths? What is your process working together?
We are like yin and yang—we are thinking along the same wavelength but many times in opposite ways and we balance each other’s ideas out. Our working process is much like a design critique—we propose ideas and then brainstorm ways to enhance them and challenge each other on everything. It creates a tension but is productive and always exciting to see what new ideas come forth.