Various Roots

City Native Helps Artists Find Their Voices

The City Palace, Jaipur, was constructed in the early 1700’s and is currently home of the Jaipur royal family. It’s the main tourist attraction in India’s ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur as it contains ornately decorated rooms and incredible architecture unique to that region of India. Andrew and Adrienne McDermott frequent the grounds on their trips to India where they source materials for their non-profit clothing brand TheRobeLives.com. Submitted photo

They travel abroad and learn about art, fashion, music, and other creations.

Andrew McDermott and his wife Adrienne have created a company, Various Roots, that is more than a company.

It may be a movement.

“We want to play a role in breaking stereotypes to fight bigotry and increase openness meanwhile funding the production of artwork that the creators may not otherwise have access to,” Andrew said.

The Jamestown native noted that he created the brand name in 2006 for a streetwear company he tried to start.

From left Jayme Van Tonder and Tatenda wekwaTenzi. Submitted photo

“I’m a person from various roots; having grown up in Kingston, Jamaica, and then Jamestown, New York and having parents of different ethnicities,” Andrew said. “I’m Jamaican (Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Irish) and American (Albanian, English, and French). I found that my interests and personality came from influences all over the world, and thought that given the tens of thousands of years of diaspora, that everyone must be that way.”

He said when he and his wife were exploring the purpose and cause behind the brand they were creating, one of the main foundations was that if more people only knew where and who the things they loved in their lives came from it might make them more open.

“We hope to create and share art that gives people pause, shifts a stereotype, breaks bigotry, or sends them on a Google search tirade to learn more about a new culture or place. This purpose fit with the original Various Roots concept well, we both love it, and chose to use it for this company,” he said.

Various Roots funds socially-conscious projects created by artists from around the world whose communities are under-represented in American media to encourage openness and inspire curiosity.

“We believe that diverse media helps more people to see themselves in other people and everything around them. Our artists, regardless of where they come from create works that mean something – drawing attention to universal / global issues like feminism, equality, inclusion, abuse of power, violence, effects of poverty, and wellness,” he said. “We choose to work with artists from Malawi, New Delhi, or Peru, and distribute their works in the US and Europe to be a conduit for cross-cultural interest, curiosity, and hopefully, interaction.”

Various Roots, he said, is a remote (digital nomad) company — operating out of his and Adrienne’s computers as they travel the world full time. “Our artists and the producers we work with are based all around the world. The garments that we sell are made in Tanzania, South Africa, and India,” Andrew noted.

More information on their non-profit clothing line is at therobelives.com.

He said as a child, he had an unrelenting aspiration of living a James Bond life that drove a deep interest in traveling and spending time with people whose lives he knew nothing about. “In 2014, my wife and I packed up our apartment in Manhattan to chase that dream, which she also held. It’s not a life for everyone — it’s definitely trying — but it’s exactly what we want right now,” he added.

Various Roots is behind the launch of “Wolf At Night,” a song by Jayme Van Tonder of the South African band Slow Jack, and Shona songstress Tatenda wekwaTenzi. McDermott collaborated with Slow Jack guitarist Hannes Muller writing the lyrics. Andrew said he met both Tonder and Tenzi while walking down Clifton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.

For more information on Various Roots, visit instagram.com/byebyeadrienne, instagram.com/heyheyandrew or variousroots.com.