Fashion Institute of Technology alumni Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough set up Abasi Rosborough three years ago to renovate menswear design. Vivian Chen caught up with the creative duo during their first Hong Kong visit to launch the collection in Harvey Nichols.
(GR= Greg Rosborough AA= Abdul Abasi)
Q: Can you tell us about the brand’s philosophy?
GR: There are more than enough clothes in the world for the next 200 years. So if you’re going to be a new designer, you better have a reason for doing so. A traditional suit designed in the 1860s in London is over 150 years old. It’s not working anymore because you have no range of motion. You cannot raise your arms, and there are all these outdated details. So we wanted to develop a men’s suit for the future. We created panels so [the wearer] can breathe and move in the suit. That’s how we got started.
Q: Did you start the brand with the vision of making it global?
GR: Initially, we wanted to [remain as] an American brand – everything was made in New York and we would probably just sell in America. But then our first [clients] were from Tokyo, Dubai, Kuwait and Hong Kong. So we had to think of the brand in a global way immediately, which was great. I think our message has been resonating.
Q: Some designers approach the theme of modernity with innovative fabrics. What is your approach?
AA: All the fabrics we use are natural. For us, instead of looking at the new polyester-based innovations, we look at fabrics and fibres that have existed for centuries. For example, wool is one of the most interesting and functional fabrics. It keeps you warm in the winter and keeps you cool in the summer. It’s odour-resistant and anti-bacterial. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel by using polyester-based materials, we use natural fibres. We also use natural fibres because we believe that a garment has a life of its own, and as the wearer wears it, it is [reshaped according to his body] and becomes part of him. So we believe these fabrics are the most modern.
Q: Can you explain to us the ergonomic considerations that go into your designs?
AA: Everything is done in reference to the human body and anatomy. We actually develop the patterns [directly on models instead of mannequins]. We have seams that wrap around the body, and everything is done so that it accommodates motion and movement. So it’s about draping and interacting with the body, rather than creating a form for a body to slip into. What we do is targeting. You don’t need stretchy fabric all over. You need flexible fabric where your arm moves, but in other places we put in floating chest canvas for strength and structure. So it’s about targeting areas and solving the problems in those areas.
Q: What’s your design process?
AA: We use our own design details in everything we do, because for us once we develop that pocket, we don’t need to make another pocket, or once we develop that sleeve, we don’t have to make a different sleeve. That is the best sleeve we could make. It’s like a tool kit. Every time we come up with a new way of doing something, we implement it in everything. We change the entire architecture of what we’ve done and we move on, rather than just making details for the sake of doing so. Every time we do something, there’s a justification behind it, there’s a reason behind it.
Q: What do you think is a good design?
AA: I’d say the paper clip.
GR: I think the [mobile] phone. Our entire life is run through a handheld device now. That’s amazing.
Q: Tell us something that we don’t know about the brand.
GR: Let’s talk about how controlled we are. Abdul writes every single label.
AA: It’s hand-written. We’re not to make a million pieces and we won’t be able to do it forever. For us, all these little touches [such as the handwritten labels] are valuable to a customer.
Q: How do you think men’s fashion has evolved?
GR: Men are taking more risks in fashion than they ever have. We live in this picture book world where you can see street style from Hong Kong, Stockholm or New York instantly from Instagram, Tumblr or Snapchat. Men are [more] exposed to the world of fashion now, and I think it’s a new thing.