If art is inherently political, then menswear label’s Abasi Rosborough’s new collection “E Pluribus Unum” serves as a powerful reminder that fashion, despite modern mass consumption and production, is at its core still incontestably art. The presentation of the collection on the label’s site features quotes from legendary protesters, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, interspersed with different looks and outfits, many of which also bear reference to rebellion or a disruption of the status quo. “E Pluribus Unum” ultimately shows us that Abasi Rosborough’s garments are a reflection of our time, of current unrest and the desire for change- at least as much as they are a reflection of the designers themselves.
Abasi Rosborough was started by Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough. With Rosborough referencing his prior career in sports and Abasi drawing from many years of service in the U.S. military, the pair have created a line that blends these differing experiences harmoniously and in a distinctly modern approach to menswear. Rosborough also pulls inspiration from his Scottish origins and Abasi, his Nigerian, though the two have also made a point of drawing inspiration from a variety of locations and cultures across the globe.
So what exactly is “E Pluribus Unum”, as both a saying and as Abasi Rosborough’s latest collection? In broader terms, it is a Latin phrase that translates to “out of many, one”, and it is considered to be the “traditional” or original motto of the United States. For Abasi Rosborough, though, “E Pluribus Unum” is an exploration of political dissatisfaction and journey through protest, all conceived in terms of cut, line, color, and fabric.
While the timing of such a collection is undoubtedly precise- that is, “E Pluribus Unum” is by its nature a reflection of the current political atmosphere both in the United States and the world at large- the clothing itself appears to draw inspiration from a variety of eras. Outfits presented next to Tolstoy quotes seem evocative of peasantry, of working classes and styles present during the Russian Revolution, leaning on dark colors, long coats, fingerless gloves, combat boots, and loose cloth caps. Similarly, a particular garment in the collection- that is, the red and black coat which falls to the model’s thigh and possesses a thick strap connecting the two sides of the jacket, appears referential to uniforms worn during the American Revolution. Still other looks feel more recent, like the red plaid kerchief tied around the lower half of a model’s face, which to an American viewer in particular might elicit some of the imagery and emotions of the Ferguson protests of 2014 and 2015.
Keeping in mind the designers’ backgrounds in the military and in sports, perhaps Abasi Rosborough was the brand best suited to produce “E Pluribus Unum” . Here, the frustrations of subjugated peoples have been interwoven with professionalism, a sense of purpose; Abasi Rosborough has turned the fashions of those so often deemed criminals, thugs, and troublemakers into a collective uniform, one that appears to draw not only from the fashion of protesters, but from the uniforms of the military and athletics, as well.
While it’s true that “E Pluribus Unum” calls upon global influences, it is also distinctly American. There is purpose in the collection’s many references to communism and civil rights- movements which, historically speaking, have been and continue to be discredited in the U.S. as being “un-American”. More specifically, there is purpose in pairing these references with references to the American Revolution and the founding of the nation, from the one soldier-like strap of the one red coat to the titling of the collection after the original motto of the United States. Through “E Pluribus Unum”, Abasi Rosborough almost seems to be suggesting that protest and rebellion are essential qualities of the United States, rather than violations of the country’s larger ethical standard.
First launched in 2013, Abasi Rosborough considers itself to be eco-friendly and is currently based out of New York City.