"Fashion is Dead" says dozens of designers, journalists, and twitter enthusiasts over the past decade, and to a degree they have been right. This argument revolves around the idea that mainstream fashion has entered a hyper-meta state, relying too heavily on nostalgia. The prevailing belief is that everything has already been done, and anything new is merely a direct reference to past designs. It is a fair assessment considering that many designers seem scared to take risks and instead settle for producing repetitive and easily consumable clothing.
So, when events like Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week come around, there's a desperate desire for designers to break away from this one-dimensional approach and demonstrate that there is room for new ideas in fashion. As it went on, it looked as if the event would be filled with safe choices again... that was until designers like threeASFOUR emerged. ThreeASFOUR pushed the boundaries, showing that the ability to take inspiration beyond the confines of past fashion, and served as a reminder that fashion is far from dead.
Founded in 2005 in New York City, threeASFOUR emerged from a creative collaboration between Gabriel Asfour, Angela Donhauser, and Adi Gil. With diverse backgrounds in architecture, fine arts, and fashion, the trio infused their pieces with a unique blend of artistry and technical innovation. Drawing inspiration from geometry, spirituality, and cultural heritage, threeASFOUR quickly gained recognition for its experimental approach to clothing construction, which is evident in their recent Fall 2023 Couture collection.
The collection showcases a fusion of technology and craftsmanship. Taking inspirations from nature, technology, and unconventional textiles, threeASFOUR manages to put forth sci-fi adjacent designs that would make James Cameron jealous. Fractals, geometry, and the abstract representation of the human form all serve as additional sources of inspiration throughout the collection.
This latest collection delves into the concept of a parallel universe, which is a similar theme as their fully digital lineup in the previous season. ThreeASFOUR received immense attention for this previous fully digital collection, and unfortunately for those who sought after the clothing, it did not exist in the material world.
“When we had the fully digital collection, people did not believe that the pieces were digital; and they were really insisting,” said Asfour in an interview with Vogue, “We got requests from celebrities, from musicians, from tons of stylists, from all over the world, and it was really sad not to be able to give the pieces to anybody. This season we made an equally digital as physical collection. So every single piece that you see digitally or physically has a duplicate.” Their digital fashion partner, Placebo, allows the brand to bring virtual designs to life. The aim is to confuse the viewers, blurring the lines between what is real and what is not.
Discerning between the real and digital is becoming increasingly important as technology advances. We have entered an era where artificial intelligence can produce art and photos that look genuine, and some already struggle to discern reality from AI. ThreeASFOUR set out to explore this changing landscape through their juxtaposing looks. The opening look, an organdy dress adorned with light-filled tubes, looks like it could be from an alien video game, but it is completely real. However, this outfit also has an immaterial "sister” look, showcasing the ability to create complimenting designs through different means.
While exploring the relationship between physical garments and machines, threeASFOUR affirms their commitment to manual craftsmanship. They utilize computer programs in their creative process but do not let them dictate the final results. They compare it to driving a car, where the human remains in control rather than being driven by the car itself.
Proving this ability to work with a machine rather than have a machine work for you, they showcase a design that features fabric with 3D-printed frills. Created through a collaboration with designer Alessandro Zomparelli, the team made something that felt both natural and mechanical. Utilizing a machine to print organic shapes with an inorganic material then placing that on top of a natural fabric plays with so many levels of dichotomy that it is easy to get lost. This exact confusion was one of the major goals of the brand for this collection, wanting the clothing to feel alien yet still have a sense of familiarity.
ThreeASFOUR emphasizes the importance of technical prowess combined with manual craftsmanship. During a period of immense technological advancements, they set out to show the power of working collaboratively with technology. While they embrace computer programs in their creative process, they maintain control over the final results, refusing to let AI dictate their designs.
ThreeASFOUR's couture collection challenges perceptions and invites contemplation about the role of technology and craftsmanship in our ever-changing world. Through harnessing the power of machine and using it in tandem with typical design processes, the brand forces the viewer to digest clothing that contradicts itself. By blurring the lines between real and virtual fashion, they continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of design.