Marin Alsop envisioned bringing a 21st-century understanding to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The large-scale collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra aimed to reimagine the orchestral wardrobe. The project has evolved through extensive study of orchestral performance and vast research of formalwear worldwide throughout the past millennium.

Led by designer and faculty member Gabi Asfour from threeASFOUR, the student team conducted numerous interviews with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and countless fittings on Mannes College of Music students to understand their body movements and the physical demands of orchestral performance. After four years of investigating, designing and prototyping, a new genre of uniform was developed: Active Formalwear.

The traditional orchestral garments were re-worked by investigating the possibilities of new wearable technologies, cutting-edge athletic wear and design that is innovative without losing tradition. Throughout the design process, functionality was the main priority, incorporating hi-tech fabrics such as Uniqlo AIRism to enhance breathability, prevent overheating and provide adequate sweat absorption as the musician performs. Details like stretch-mesh sleeves and arm inserts, stretch jersey side panels and strategically placed asymmetric details were added to enhance movements in specific areas such as the elbows and torso. These details also highlight the movement of the instruments while enabling unrestricted motion during performance.

The Parsons Project was made possible, in part, through underwriting from Ms. Sandra Levi Gerstung and from Mr. Tomio Taki. 

Image by Dimitri Falk, Hyperbolic