Q&A: Patrick Assaraf on His Collaboration with Masai Ujiri

When we had the opportunity to work with Masai Ujiri, a Canadian treasure, we immediately thought of Canadian designer Patrick Assaraf. A collaboration born out of similar values and tastes only made sense. Little did we know, the two had already met! We caught up with Patrick for his perspective on the collaboration.
Patrick Assaraf at his Toronto studio.

How did this collaboration happen and what was your first discussion like?

Masai happened to meet my nephew, Aidan, in November of last year and he told my nephew, I really love Patrick’s collections and I love his quality and the aesthetic. He’s definitely very fashionable and he has a lot of awareness of that world. He has really beautiful style as a man.

Harry Rosen proposed that maybe we could do something together and were very pleasantly surprised to find that communication had already started between myself and Masai!

We had a very nice Zoom call which started the collaboration and I found out more about where he’s coming from with his Giants of Africa non-profit program and other projects. We had one or two meetings here at my studio and we discussed some ideas. This platform is extremely important to Masai and we set out to create something meaningful to him, which is why he chose to highlight the word “Humanity” across the chest in his own handwriting. It’s a message that reminds the world that there is more that unites us than divides us.

And it’s a message you were already passionate about as well?

This past year has brought a lot of serious issues to the forefront, including Black Lives Matter and I’m very happy to help express Masai’s message of humanity and to have Harry Rosen amplify it. I find that we are quite respectful of each other in Canada, but still have a long way to go to make things more equitable. People often express themselves through fashion, so we thought it a great way to help Masai communicate something so close to his heart.

Simplicity is really a cornerstone of your brand, so it sounds perfect.

The aesthetics are simple, yes. I started with a simple T-shirt nine years ago and then over the last three years I have started to build a more expansive collection. Masai’s lifestyle suits my brand and aesthetics very well. I believe in elegance; I don’t believe in Woodstock, as we say.

Larry Rosen (left) discusses the collaboration with Masai Ujiri and Patrick Assaraf (all in masks, of course).

What defines elegance for you?

That you don’t look like a fool. [Laughs] The difference between elegance and foolishness is a fine line. Even the fit and the way I design my collections, they have beautiful aesthetics and elegance but still shape. I always say: I love the comfort of Yohji [Yamamoto], I like the lifestyle of the north American man and I love the taste level of the European man. I combined the three together.

What else can you tell us about the collection?

The collection is black and navy and with a very subtly raised “Humanity” typeface on the t-shirts and the hoodie in Masai’s handwriting (that’s mirrored by Masai’s handwritten “manifesto” on the Harry Rosen website). It’s made in a beautiful ponte fabric that I developed about five years ago; it’s a very fine and very soft an active fabric. It’s all very simple so you can focus on and appreciate the message in Masai’s handwriting on the garments.

It’s the first time I put a logo or a graphic on any of my designs –– only because Masai won a championship though! [Laughs] But really, when it came to Masai, he’s so sincere about the message I thought it was a complement to the collaboration. The message is the most important thing.

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