Studio Visit: threeASFOUR Look Into the Mirrors

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Published September 7, 2010

 

ALL PHOTOS BY SEAN THOMAS

 

Entering the Chinatown studio of design collective threeASFOUR is like walking into a funhouse on the moon. Formerly an abandoned factory, the walls are painted silver and covered with Savereflective tiles and waves of swirling mirrors. From the ceiling hangs a swing and an array of shimmering disco balls and, outside the windows, strands of crystals refract the sunlight to project rainbows throughout the space. It’s a far cry from your average sewing room, but only such a place could house Gabi Asfour, Adi Gil and Angela Donhauser.  “Once upon a time, there was a prince and two princesses,” laughed Donhauser when asked how the trio first assembled. Their fashion fairytale began back in 1996, when Asfour met Gil and Donhauser on the street. “We became friends first,” explained Gli. But not long after their initial encounter, the crew joined forces with Kai Kühne and the original collective, Asfour, was born. A veritable nebula of controversially creative personalities, the group quickly fostered a reputation for outlandish runway antics; their first collection, shown in 2000, was presented in miniature form on twirling, wind-up hula dolls rather than runway models, and come fashion week, they always seemed to prefer unconventional settings, like the roof of Dietch Projects or the National Arts Club, to the traditional Bryant Park runway. “We think that the clothing is part of the environment and we create an environment for the theme of each collection. It’s important how the clothes are presented,” says Gabi of their always elaborate show settings. 

 

 

In 2002, their artistic aesthetic, masterful draping, and knack for texture won them the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Grant. And although Kai Kühne left in 2005 to launch his own line (thus, their current name, threeASFOUR), the remaining three designers have forged ahead to continue their 10-year tradition of intellectual performance fashion.  Priding themselves on conceptual over commercial value, threeASFOUR’s collections are built upon complex, cerebral foundations. Fall 2010, for example, materialized after an investigation of Alchemical practices. The show was a ritualistic, cult-like performance during which models clad in bronze, gold, and silver dresses of twisted rope and braided leather circled around a neon green Pentacost projected onto the ground.  Spring 2011 is, for its part, inspired by mathematics and, as Gabi puns, “the holes within the whole.” It promises to be a wearable, scientific game of connect-the-dots. Focusing on flow, the designers reveal that the neutral, black and pastel collection will fit together like a puzzle; each arm, neck and leg hole acting as a joint to connect one look to the next.  In addition to this characteristically ethereal yet calculated concept, texture is a feature. But don’t expect treated leathers or knobby knits. No, ThreeAsfour’s Spring textures are inspired by geometric formulas, naturally. And while we’ll just have to wait until their September 14th performance to understand precisely what that means, we know that pieced-together layers of plastic circles will be in the tactile mix. If you haven’t yet received your save-the-date for the upcoming show, you can grab a sneak peek at the collection during Fashion’s Night Out. In partnership with the MoMA Store, the designers will be incorporating a selection of spring looks in a new rendition of their SS2010 Cut Piece performance. But this time around, instead of enlisting a lone model to slice and dice the clothing off her peers, the collective will recall Yoko Ono’s original performance and ask audience members to participate. When asked who they had in mind to view the theatrics from the front row, Donhauser simply replied, “God!” We wouldn’t expect anything less.