Beyond the Fringe

Exploring Extreme Beauty With the As Four Gang

Be that as it may, sometimes too much is too much, even for this crew. Ange directs everyone's attention to a circa 1750 English court dress called a robe à la française, a richly embroidered sky-blue dress, twice as wide as it is long, that makes you look like you have a table under your skirt. "If dresses were like this today, you would have to have different cars, different elevators, different everything," says Ange, who has emerged as the social historian of the group. Now Kai spots a case full of lotus shoes, meant for bound feet, that are displayed next to X rays of horribly deformed bones. He grabs Gabi's arm. "You have to look at these. It's so sick! Like dolls! It's like canceling the foot completely." Gabi stares and murmurs half to himself, "It can be distracting, though, the foot, when you're designing."


Skirting the absurd: a circa 1750 English court dress
(photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The As Four collective at the Met (from left): Gabi, Ange, Adi, and Kai
photo: Jay Muhlin
The As Four collective at the Met (from left): Gabi, Ange, Adi, and Kai

Someone suggests finding out whether the Met cafeteria sells alcohol, and As Four troops up the stairs. On the way out, Adi muses about whether anything she's seen has the potential to influence her own work. She shakes her head. "I like to look, but it doesn't really affect me. I get more ideas from old movies." Ange says that, actually, she goes to toy stores for inspiration. "I go to the Barbie dolls and look at their clothes. They were better in the '80s, though. Really, we would like to design for the house of Mattel." Gabi is off again about how political the museum is, deciding who gets to be in an exhibit and who does not, but Kai is slightly more sanguine. "It's OK, but it's too dark in there. For extreme beauty, you need more light!"

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