3sixteen has always been a vessel for us to share meaningful inspiration points that help shape the brand’s aesthetic. Sometimes it’s a painting, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s furniture, and sometimes it’s a record. The specific one in question is Provocative Percussion Volume 2, a studio album by Enoch Light and the Light Brigade. It wasn’t the music that captured our attention, though, but rather the cover. At first glance, the idiosyncratic polka dots conjure the feeling of the rumbling percussion; you can imagine these black circles jumping around to the beat. It’s a masterfully minimal way to capture the feeling of the record. As we dove deeper in our appreciation of the album cover, we discovered that it was designed by none other than the Bauhaus legend Josef Albers.
Albers has long been a favorite artist of ours. Born in Germany, Albers quickly became an influential student at the legendary Bauhaus school. The short-lived Bauhaus, only operational from 1919 to 1933, shattered the longstanding rigid ideologies of the art world by bridging the gap between craft, art, and artisanship by elevating functionality and mass production to the forefront. The resulting unification of these topics produced some of the most unique European artists of the time. Albers was also the first student invited to join the faculty there. After the Bauhaus shuttered, Albers and his wife were asked to teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, another groundbreaking arts education institution, likely the most revolutionary program of its kind in the United States. Both these institutions championed the intersection of different creative mediums with commercial projects which was seen as a way to democratize art as well as upholding the idea that art is central to life. So it’s fitting that Albers would at one point apply his art to a commercial product - in this case, a record sleeve.
After sitting with this record artwork for some time, we knew we wanted to use it as a jumping off point for a print. We quickly approached our friends at Studio Mast, knowing that they’re also big fans of Josef Albers, to use the artwork as inspiration to develop a pattern to be applied to our SS22 collection. We asked Travis to share a bit about his process in designing the print for us:
“When Andrew and Wes approached us about helping with a Josef Albers shirt, I was immediately on board. Some of my earliest design education centered on his groundbreaking color-theory work; later on, though, I fell in love with the entirety of his work, especially his creations with lines and shapes. As François Bucher said in the book “Despite Straight Lines,” Albers’ work is “deceptively simple yet immensely sophisticated.” His quest to make the most sophisticated work with the simplest forms has always been a guiding principle for me. So working with the 3sixteen team to create a shirt inspired by one of my design idols was terrific.”
With the tenets of the Bauhaus in mind, we wanted to marry the crisp edges of the finished artwork with the handmade feel of the work of Indian artisans. There are two colorways of this shirt: indigo and black. The base indigo color is hand dyed in natural indigo vats in India in the same way they’ve been doing it for generations. The design is then discharge printed onto the fabric, effectively bleaching the design in. Over time, the indigo base will fade and melt into the pattern which will look quite special. We created a second colorway pulling directly from the color palette of the actual record artwork. Our fabric printers used the same discharge process, leaving a sharp natural colored design against a black base. The best part about discharge printing is that there is no layer of ink that sits on top of the fabric, making for a more comfortable hand in the warmer months. We’re excited to now release this 3sixteen-exclusive color way both in-store and online on Monday, May 30th, at noon EDT. The indigo version is currently available both in-store and online.