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NEW YORK — And then As Four became three.
As Four’s Kai has left the design quartet to pursue other business interests amid reports of creative clashes between him and designers Adi, Ange and Gabi, overextended vacations and just simply bad behavior. (The four designers go by their first names.)
A source close to the company said the relationship between Kai and the three designers became particularly challenging in recent months with Kai “all over the place, causing scenes, acting up, getting into trouble.” Kai was said to have been largely absent in the making of the fall collection, preferring to spend his time traveling to Israel and Brazil while the other three worked on putting together the collection. They eventually got fed up and confronted him, to which he snapped and quit.
“The whole thing started before,” Kai said, addressing these claims. “Adi was going to Israel and I decided to join her. There, my passport was stolen and I was delayed from coming back. Not just did I have to get a new passport but also a new visa. Then I went to Germany for Christmas and when I returned, ready to jump into the game, they wouldn’t allow me back into the studio. They said, it’s too stressful. Then I was invited to Brazil, so instead of facing negativity and being mentally tortured by my ex-business partners, I decided to go to the beach and wait it out.”
When contacted about the split, Adi said, “We fight here and there. It’s very difficult to be in a group. He just felt like he needs a change and so he is stopping for now.”
Kai took a less amicable tone. “Too many lies, greed and jealousy around,” he said. “I am just sick and tired of it. I felt abused and used. I love what I did, but I wanted to do more. Lately, a lot of my input wasn’t appreciated, but I like my work to be appreciated. To be As Four was always very difficult. We created something wonderful in seven years, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my own passion and happiness for that.”
As Four started in the late Nineties as an idea laboratory with Adi, Ange, Kai and Gabi living and working together in their Chinatown studio. Their imaginative outfits often draw from a signature circular design, and they sell their collections to such stores as Barneys New York, Nom de Guerre in New York and Colette in Paris. For fall, they offered belted lamé dresses, boot-leg pants and charmeuse gowns with twirls of pleated organza.
The quartet also won much critical acclaim from editors, and they received the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Grant in 2002 and a Fashion Group International Rising Star nomination this year.
Adi said the remaining three won’t rename the group As Three (Gabi’s last name happens to be Asfour). “We would have to call it As More because we have many more people who work with us,” she said. “Kai has to do what he has to do, and this makes him feel better. We are continuing as a group to do As Four. We love Kai, and if one day he really wants to be back with us, we are open.”
Kai, for the moment, has no such plans. He said he is considering an offer to become a New York-based fashion editor for an Eastern European magazine, and he is also launching a company which he plans to call “Myself.”
“It’s going to be very Kai, and it’s not going to be limited to just one thing,” he said. “It’s going to somehow be a fashion collection. It has to be something new.”
He has a particularly unusual goal on top of his wish list. “I would love to take over Etienne Aigner and show the world the gorgeous burgundy and how beautiful Aigner and his world was,” he said.