Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
Photo: Olimpia Dior
A film By Jessica Mitrani
Puppets by Shoplifter
Puppeteers ( from left)
Shoplifter, Jessica Mitrani,
Camera: Erez Sabag
Song: Original Muppets Mana Mana
No longer housed in their memory laden, labyrinthine silver studio space on Forsythe street where last we met them, threeASFOUR are now in a beautifully lit open-plan studio. It’s week two of a three-year residency when I stop by for a visit.
The thing that strikes me about the space is the entire wall of archives — probably over 100 — feet of bankers boxes stacked in a row almost to the ceiling. The archives speak to the history and importance and legacy of threeASFOUR, at the same time as they are focusing on a brand new iteration. Having persevered for long enough to become an institution of New York fashion, it is possible to forget how innovative and how on the cusp of the new threeASFOUR consistently are.
Their latest move is part of a partnership with Mana Contemporary in Jersey City. Adi Gil explains how it came about. “We got this offer to come here and develop a fashion incubator. This art center only has artists nothing related to fashion. We had an exhibition here last summer, and we got closer with the creative person behind the center, and he’s been trying to get us since then.”
Evidently, Mana got them, and they embarked on the new journey, leaving the old studio behind (at least for the next 3 years). Saying goodbye to the old studio was obviously brought up a lot of nostalgia after having been there so long. Angela Donhauser thinks it had been 18 years; Adi claims 19. Finally, Angela resolves the confusion the with: “We sent that kid off to college.” And, as with any college departure, a lot of nostalgia:
ADI: “It was very emotional packing up. We found all these old pictures.”
ANGELA: There’s so much archive. It was intense. The letting go in that sense.
GABI ASFOUR: But at the same time we had so much archive in closets and it wasn’t getting treated very well. It was getting smooshed.
ADI: “And we had leaks. And now we have a storage space in the next building.
GABI: It’s temperature controlled. It’s art storage.
ANGELA: “We’re still adjusting. We’re not used to it.”
ADI: “My house was 5 minutes away from the studio. It was difficult because I knew that I had it so good. I think the biggest dilemma was the distance.”
“In a way we’re the fashion ambassador who will help bring the others forward. We’re also cultural ambassadors. We come from different cultures, and a lot of our work revolves around the concept of unity. So I think that was definitely also important.
Resilient to negativity as they’ve ever been, the trio quickly switch to the all positives the commute provides them, like a chance to get out and see more of the city.
ANGELA: “Sometimes we complained that we never get out because we’re always working. Now it’s different people and we get around.”
ADI: “We’re more out.”
ANGELA: “We sort of lost our exposure to New York City because we were so stuck in this one neighborhood.”
Angela’s final thoughts on the decision to decamp for Mana, are the most poetic: “We lost our foresight on Forsythe”
Not that they ever actually lack for foresight. In fact, even as they are unpacking into new space, they already have plans to move into an adjacent Mana space in a year’s time. And this new space can only be described as Gargantuan, Brobdingnagian even. It’s basically the top floor of a renovated warehouse. Gabi shows me a little video tour of it and the possibilities are clearly endless and amazing: “They want to develop a fashion aspect to get other, younger designers to residencies. They will be willing to give space to other younger designers, and perhaps get other established designers who want a bigger space. He wants to develop a community of creative people in Art, Fashion, music later.”
ANGELA: He wants all the creative disciplines under one umbrella”
GABI: They already have photography, architecture, and dance. So now they’re bringing fashion in.
ADI: This is actually a temporary space. There is a new building nextdoor. And we will have the seventh floor. It’s 15 thousand square feet with skylights.
GABI: He wants us to build a fashion studio type of setup. Because this is all set up for artists. But a fashion studio would involve more things such as a showroom, a changing room, maybe a photo studio.
ADI: We’re going to help them co-design it.
ANGELA: In away we’re the fashion ambassador who will help bring the others forward. We’re also cultural ambassadors. We come from different cultures, and a lot of our work revolves around the concept of unity, which was definitely also important for them.
As big as space is and as grand as the plans are, it’s heartening to know that threeASFOUR still maintains the same puckish joie de vivre that they’ve had since their inception. And if there’s any doubt, consider the video they shared with us after the visit.