Five Fash­ion Brands Vie For CFDA, Lexus Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive

This year’s brands will par­tic­i­pate in a nine-month busi­ness res­i­dency with men­tor­ing from lead­ing ex­ec­u­tives.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY ROSE­MARY FEITELBERG

Five con­tenders are vy­ing for the top award in this year’s CFDA + Lexus Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive.

Com­pet­ing for the top prize of a $100,000 grant will be Abasi Ros­bor­ough’s Ab­dul Abasi and Greg Ros­bor­ough;

Araks’ Araks Yer­amyan; Jonathan Co­hen Stu­dio’s Jonathan Co­hen and Sarah

Leff; Pub­lic School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Os­borne, and Tracy Reese. Win or lose, each brand will take part in a nine-month busi­ness res­i­dency in the Lexus-un­der­wit­ten pro­gram. Sus­tain­able in­no­va­tion is a key goal for this third in­stall­ment, which also aims to spur thought lead­er­ship and mean­ing­ful change. The nom­i­nees, CFDA of­fi­cials and Lexus ex­ec­u­tives planned to toast the com­pe­ti­tion Wed­nes­day night at Blue Hill NYC.

Ros­bor­ough’s five-and-a-half-year- old com­pany has al­ways had green roots. From the start, the founders have used dead stock fab­ric to make their men’s wear, which is man­u­fac­tured en­tirely in New York. Lim­ited pro­duc­tion runs and min­i­mal use of plas­tic bags and other ship­ping ma­te­ri­als are a few other en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guards in place.

Com­mit­ted to ad­vanced tai­lor­ing, the pair strive to cre­ate per­for­mance­ori­ented styles that ease wear­ers’ range of mo­tion. Al­though the pair met at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, they fell into de­sign from di­verse fields. Abasi served in the U.S. mil­i­tary for eight years with a fi­nal as­sign­ment re­pair­ing the mis­sile sys­tem on Apache he­li­copters in the Nether­lands. Ros­bor­ough, a for­mer Univer­sity of Ari­zona bas­ket­ball player, first of­fered un­so­licited de­sign feed­back to Nike after the sneaker gi­ant re­designed his team’s uni­forms. The brand has sup­ported Ros­bor­ough Abasi shows in re­cent sea­sons.

With dis­tri­bu­tion in 27 stores,

Asia is the largest mar­ket for Abasi Ros­bor­ough. Ex­pand­ing footwear is part of the com­pany’s growth strat­egy, and ac­ces­sories, es­pe­cially leather goods and bags, are be­ing con­sid­ered. Hav­ing never wanted to be “a life­less, soul­less fash­ion brand that just has nice items. We want to speak to big­ger themes that are go­ing on around us in our own times,” Ros­bor­ough said.

To that end, the com­pany’s brand­ing has in­cluded “In Plain Sight,” a short video that ex­am­ines pub­lic sur­veil­lance, fa­cial recog­ni­tion and the threat to anonymity. Look­ing to re­lay a sense of “in­tel­lec­tual re­bel­lion” — a sen­ti­ment that has struck a chord with mu­si­cians, ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers of dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, Ros­bor­ough said, “From a brand­ing stand­point, when you put on our cloth­ing, we want you to think of those in­stances of this is what this brand stands for, this is what they speak to, these are the things they care about.”

An­other nom­i­nee, Reese, also spoke of deeper res­o­nance with con­sumers. “I want to change how I work. Our in­dus­try is in such flux. It cre­ates all this op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine what we do, why we do it and how we do it. With 30-plus years in the in­dus­try, it’s not in­ter­est­ing or grat­i­fy­ing any­more to just fol­low the same ole script and rou­tine,” she said. “I want my legacy and my busi­ness to be more mean­ing­ful, and ob­vi­ously more pos­i­tive for the planet and my customers.”

The de­signer will move her back­end op­er­a­tions to her home­town of Detroit to help cre­ate jobs for the lo­cal ta­lent, to be part of the city’s re­vi­tal­iza­tion and to man­u­fac­ture in the U. S. for the first time in more than 15 years. “Learn­ing to de­sign and pro­duce sus­tain­ably is a huge goal. That’s why I’m so ex­cited about the CFDA Lexus ini­tia­tive,” Reese said. “Al­though I have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing and learn­ing as much as I can, to have men­tor­ship through the process is go­ing to make it so much more use­ful, ap­pli­ca­ble and give me the foun­da­tion I need to spring forth from.”

The planet de­mands that the in­dus­try, one of the lead­ing pol­luters, change its prac­tices, Reese said. “I’ve learned through be­ing on the board of CFDA for all these years, that we gain so much by work­ing to­gether. To be sort of a closed or elit­ist com­mu­nity, re­ally doesn’t serve any of us. And it doesn’t open us up to all the amaz­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties that are there when we work to­gether.”

In Jan­uary, the five com­pa­nies will be pre­sented with a mi­cro-award chal­lenge and they will have the op­por­tu­nity for mi­cro-award fund­ing in amounts of $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000, to­tal­ing up to $80,000 awarded. In June, the brand that pitches the most vi­able, vi­sion­ary and im­pact­ful strat­egy will win the Lexus Grant — to­tal­ing $100,000.

A look from Abasi Ros­bor­ough's spring men's wear col­lec­tion.

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