If you’re going to introduce a new sneaker into the world in 2017, the era of the endlessly iterative sneaker collaboration, it better turn heads. Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough, the co-designers of Abasi Rosborough, are doing just that with their new Arc Tabi boot, which debuts exclusively here. Though it’s their first piece of branded footwear, Abdul and Greg have been making a name for themselves in New York’s men’s fashion scene since 2013—garnering an LVMH Prize nomination along the way. Their clothes, often accompanied by socially-aware campaigns, are form-fitting and functional, resembling that the avant-garde of Rick Owens, minus the exaggeration. And though their sneaker looks like it requires a user manual, Abasi Rosborough’s ninja-basketball-chelsea boot hybrid could be the next punk-ish high fashion footwear to catch on (like Rick Owens’ infamous Geobasket).
The most striking feature of the sneaker is, of course, the traditional Japanese split “tabi” toe. First introduced to high fashion by Martin Margiela in the late-’80s, the tabi toe is supposed to promote natural movement—Greg and Abdul say you can actual play basketball or skateboard in the Arc boot. Can you really ball in split-toe boots? You’ll have to act fast to find out, as the first colorway is in an edition of 50, and available on the Abasi Rosborough site, SSENSE, Isetan, and IF Soho. Below, we talked to Greg and Abdul about how they developed the unique silhouette—and how to style them.
GP: What was the design and manufacturing process like? The tabi toe is pretty advanced, style- and production-wise, for a first shoe.
Greg Rosborough: I went to a karate store on 6th avenue and bought some karate shoes for one of our first photo shoots. They were a bit novel, but we didn’t want it to look perfectly conformist with a cap-toe shoe or something. And then we had people emailing and saying, when are those coming out? So we went to a bunch of different factories to see who could create a sole with the independent toe segmentation. And the thinking behind the design was to take our favorite shoes—which are an Air Jordan, a Japanese tabi shoe and a chelsea boot—and bring them together as one in a way that makes sense for New York City. In the canon of American shoe design, horrible pun aside, this is a step forward. Our foot is this thing that doesn’t really require shoes, besides protection. Stiff soles and the toe cap has atrophied all the muscles in our foot, which was the thinking behind the five-fingered shoes from a few years ago. We were thinking, the Japanese tabi was designed for a reason way back when. Let’s take the idea which was about more natural foot movement, mix in some elements that’re culturally relevant, and put something new out there.
Abdul Abasi: Japanese construction workers wear tabi toe boots when they’re navigating on scaffolding. That makes sense, but how do we adapt that to New York? Being in the military I always wore boots—and I love the notion of ankle support and isolation of the ankle in basketball. So I think it’s a confluence of all those ideas. Greg was actually the first to say we should do a tabi, I was like ahh that’s a little weird, but we gotta give credit to the shoe designer Chike Walker. He made a prototype that I wore around and wear-tested, and we refined and purified it from there, removed the laces and things like that, took things we didn’t need off. I think it really completes the Abasi Rosborough look. Designers like Thom Browne or Rick Owens, when you see their footwear with the clothing, it’s the full package, the full kit. It really complements our designs—the lines and functionality mirrors our apparel. And like our line it has natural fabrics, natural rubber, all natural materials that biodegrade over time.