Interview: ThreeASFOUR x Epson's cymaSCOPE Capsule

April 26, 2018 10:00 AM

All clothing design involves an amalgamation between form and function and a negotiation between art and commerce. ThreeASFOUR, the avant garde design collective founded on the Lower East Side in 2005, has consistently favored an output that is more form than function, and more art than commerce. In fact, they see themselves as artists whose chosen medium is fashion, rather than as fashionistas who dutifully study trend forecasts and roll out one fan-friendly collection after another, year after year. 

But if you get the aesthetic of threeASFOUR, then you get threeASFOUR. You will make it a point to acquire a few of their pieces each season which will remain in your archives forever. ThreeASFOUR clothes never go out of style because they were never in style. But the woman or man who is bold and savvy enough to incorporate ThreeASFOUR into their wardrobe is always stylish. 

I could tell you about a cone-collared car coat sculpted in leather and wool from F/W 2010 or the luminous peach dress with a  patterned texture reminiscent of a puffer fish’s skin from S/S 2007. But the clothes themselves are just a part of the creation process. Before a single piece of muslin is draped, the manifestation of a new garment begins with a philosophical exploration involving sacred geometry, consciousness and cultural coexistence. Yep, I’m not exactly clear on all that either, so I figured it would be best to query threeASFOUR themselves (Gabriel Asfour, Angela Donhauser, and Adi Gil), and let them explain everything in their own inimitable fashion:

 

ThreeASFOUR was one of 13 design teams to participate in Epson’s “Digital Couture Project” during New York Fashion Week F/W 2018 which showcased looks produced using Epson’s textile printing technology. How did you become involved with the project, and what inspired you to use the cymatic photographs of Linden Gledhill as your print and palette?

We were introduced to Epson by Mandie Erickson from Seventh House. It was a natural collaboration for threeASFOUR, a chance to experiment with their Sublimation Printing technique. We have been immersed in sound geometry, exploring different themes of the subject and Cymascope-measuring the geometry of sound in water fit right into that series. Throughout our research, we discovered the powerful images of Linden Gledhill who was photographing water vibrating through sound, and he agreed to collaborate on this collection.

Was the production of a capsule collection a natural offshoot of the Epson project or was that part of the plan from the beginning?

ThreeASFOUR saw this collection as a special project that took place between seasons and took this opportunity to introduce similar future collaborations as exciting surprises between seasons.    

CymaSCOPE pays homage to archetypal threeASFOUR silhouettes: the layered puffer coat, the fitted black dress with an asymmetric hemline, etc. Did you reproduce classic ThreeASFOUR designs with the printed textiles, or create entirely new looks for “Digital Couture?”

For the project, threeASFOUR introduced these digital prints in a selection of classic silhouettes, intended to appeal to our long time customers.

Did your design process differ from garment to garment or in general, did you start with the printed textile and then begin to carve out the silhouette, or did you start with a silhouette and match it with a suitable print? 

We started with the prints and then assigned the different styles then went into placing each layout specifically to the pattern and garment construction.

Are the 10 looks in the CymaSCOPE collection for sale from retail stockists or can collectors contact the atelier for purchasing information?

We are offering these items only in few select boutiques worldwide as well as through personal made-to-order

I love the way the tights and shoes match the dresses in several of the looks. Would collectors be able to procure the entire look or is that more of a runway feature?

For this collection we created shoe covers that are incorporated in the leggings and bodysuits and those are offered for purchase only through our atelier.

In the past, you’ve produced garments using a 3-D printer. Did that technology inform your work with the Epson textile printer in any way or are the processes completely divergent?

The processes differ as they require the use of different computer programs.

The threeASFOUR design collective is often described as a group of artists who have chosen fashion as a medium, and indeed your work is in the permanent collections of The Museum at F.I.T., the Cooper-Hewitt, the Met Costume Institute and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. How do you balance your creative exploration of form with the fashion designer’s mandate for functionality, and the marketplace’s demand for affordable price points?

ThreeASFOUR considers garment creation primarily a way of expressing a feeling or a message. Then, if the garment has a possible wearable outcome, the team will work on it further (through a few iterations) considering its functionality on and off the body.

We have been following ThreeASFOUR for a long time, and remember the old days when there were, in fact, four of you! How have you three (Gabriel, Angela and Adi) maintained such a strong working relationship and friendship for more than a decade? Are there particular points that you often hit heads on and have to work toward a compromise, or have you learned to function as a single unit? 

Since we were three, the dynamics changed to a triangular relationship where the rules of the game are determined by 3 individual players (and not the 4 we were used to). At threeASFOUR we function mainly as a family with agreements as well as differences but in a threesome there is not the chance for equal sides to get in conflict. It is always a majority: two versus one.

It has been about a decade since your Circle Bag appeared on an episode of Sex and the City, and people are still talking about that bag! Would you consider a mass-produced luxury handbag to both extend your brand’s reach and to generate revenue to support your more avant-garde work? 

Yes of course, it is in the planning. We are looking into handbags and shoes as an extension of the brand and the business.

Unexpected collaborations– with Yoko Ono, Travis Fitch, Patricia Correa Velasquez, and now Epson and Linden Gledhill– take your aesthetic into new directions and continue your creative exploration into consciousness and cultural coexistence. Who are you looking to collaborate with for upcoming projects? Can you hint at what you are working on for next season?  

We just had a super exciting collaboration / cultural exchange with the National Museum of Art & Ministry of Culture in Cuba as well as the Rockefeller brothers in New York on a retrospective fashion show that was held in Havana on April 13, 2018. More to come…

 

INTERVIEW BY KAREN FRAGALA-SMITH

 

PHOTO CREDIT: THREEASFOUR

 

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