A few hours before Abasi Rosborough’s first runway show, Elon Musk sent a 119,000 ton rocket into space containing a Tesla Roadster. For all intents and purposes, it is the most powerful rocket to date, and a significant middle finger to the law of gravity that could determine the future of space travel.
But what does that have to do with a fashion show? Who can really think about clothes when everything—including new forms of currency—is becoming digitized and exists merely as a construct representing value? That’s the question designers Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough sought to answer in their impressive eleventh collection.
“It’s about the duality and the dichotomy of things,” says Abasi. “The images that we used for this season show the progress of humanity, but at the end of it, we don’t know if it’s going to be a utopia or dystopia.”
While the five-year-old label has a few seasons under its belt, this was the first occasion where the design duo had the opportunity to express themselves through a fashion show. Abasi, a true clothing enthusiast with an appreciation for Martin Margiela, learned the ropes at influential menswear label Engineered Garments, while Rosborough honed his craft through stints at RLX, Ralph Lauren’s performance-oriented label, British designer Simon Spurr, and New York menswear brand Bespoken.
This collection builds on themes established in the brand’s SS18 collection, “Hyperobject,” which includes prints from photographer Justin Brice Guariglia—aerial landscape photographs taken on NASA flight missions over Greenland. In those clothes, Guariglia’s work is meant to show the impact of global warming, and reinforces a sustainable message through ethically-made garments made of natural fibers.
Here, the clothing’s duality is highlighted through interesting contrasts with bright colors and bold prints. Cobalt blues, stark yellows, and bold reds break apart a black, navy, and camel color story, partly inspired by the discordant color theory of artist Clyfford Still.
“Where is humanity going?” posits Rosborough. “Are spaceships taking us to our dystopian future or our utopian future?”
The message is driven home with abstract typeface taping that says “UTOPIA” on one side and “DYSTOPIA” on the other. Foreboding graphics include a silhouette of a SR-71 Blackbird stealth jet adorned with NASA graphics. For all of humanity’s potential to explore the unknown, do we seek to own it or simply appreciate its very existence?
The show itself felt less like a rocket launch and more like an alien spacecraft returning to its home planet after a long sojourn. As much as the show was a new beginning for Abasi Rosborough, it also marked a certain homecoming.
While the CFDA provided Abasi Rosborough with the Cadillac House show venue, the designers had to think creatively about how to execute the show itself. So the two called in favors from friends, family, and students at the Fashion Institute of Technology (of which the two are alumni) to help them out.
The soundtrack was a collaboration by Abdul Abasi’s younger brother, distinguished heavy metal guitarist Tosin Abasi, who plays in djent band Animals As Leaders and just launched his own line of guitars, and singer-songwriter Kelela. The two met in Washington, D.C., and created music together back then.
“I think we’ve always felt that we had a contribution to make, or some sense of individuality, boldness, or creativity,” says Tosin Abasi of his family’s artistic gene pool. The music composition was more about creating a dreamy, atmospheric soundscape, and to let Kelela’s vocals lend the show an otherworldly feel.
For Kelela, whose success in her field has come at a much faster pace than her friends, she sees the opportunity to work on the show as the universe’s way of slowly making things right.
“It’s sort of like having faith in your homies and knowing that they will kill it one day, and then they just do,” she says. “It manifests itself on the outside and shows everybody. All of that goes into making big things happen and then bringing it together again. Like something like this.”
Now check out another promising young New York fashion label: BODE.
- Photography: Thomas Welch