August 28 2014

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Parsons’ Electronic Symphony


“If we’re presenting this project for a bunch of 30- to 80-year-olds, I’m not going to go crazy and show some sort of Thierry Mugler suit,” said Gabi Asfour at Parsons The New School for Design. “What we’re proposing is an update on the orchestra’s classical wardrobe.”

Asfour was referring to a yearlong project between Parsons and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in which the latter’s musical director Marin Alsop challenged students to reimagine the future of symphonic showcasing. Asfour—who, in addition to teaching, runs his own label, Threeasfour—oversaw the initiative’s fashion and design development in collaboration with Sabine Seymour, the director of the Fashionable Technology Lab at Parsons.

“We have three performances, starting with projection mappings on a pianist,” he said. Asfour and his student team have created a diaphanous ivory gown (“You’d better have white stockings on show day!” Asfour told the performer), on which animations of waves and wiggling digi-worms dance in tandem with the performer’s keystrokes. The second act applies sensory technology directly in the clothing. Two percussionists will wear reflective-sleeved oxfords, embedded with transmitters that generate projections based on rhythm. Asfour and co. also streamlined traditional orchestra garb. For instance, there’s a repurposed men’s Halston jacket with mesh vent insets, and a bow tie grafted from cutaway shirt fabric.

Eco-friendly practices—like using repurposed materials—were a focus, too. “It’s really trying to look at fashion from a different perspective, one that doesn’t have as many limits,” said graduating senior and student project manager Renee Sunden. “And we try to push the sustainability standpoint.” Music to our ears (and eyes), indeed.

The Future of Orchestral Garments will be presented on Sunday, May 5 at The New School’s Arnhold Hall, 55 W. 13th St. It’s free to the public but requires advance registration.

Photo: Courtesy of Parsons

Dept. of Culture