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LA FASHION WEEK SS18: Get Surreal with Salcmannova

Fashion Week blues are kicking in after another season so we thought we would transport you back to one of our show highlights. This season LA Fashion Week took place in the heart of Downtown LA at the luxurious Alexandria Ballrooms. LAFW is continually reaching new heights bringing in both established and fresh talent from LA and around the world.

This season went beyond showcasing traditional fashion runways by hosting dynamic art and film installations such as Radka Salcmannova’s debut collection. As a multifaceted visual artist, Salcmannova took on the challenge of producing a complex collection within three months. She used silicone armoured designs and face masks to create a synergy between fashion and art, inspired by empowering characters and the creativity of her hybrid team of photographers, filmmakers and musicians. It’s no surprise that Salcmannova’s production was picked up by British Vogue as ‘Ones to Watch’ and we look forward to seeing how her unique artistry unfolds.

Here we feature interviews with the protagonists of this impactful production. Read on as they lure you into their visually entrancing and surreal world that transcends fashion expectations.

“It almost feels like to me that I created an artistic military statement to confirm the character archetype of a female warrior who is present with all the power she has no matter where I am or where I go.”

VISUAL ARTIST/DESIGNER: Radka Salcmannova @rsvisualthing

This season you presented your striking collection during LA fashion week for the first time, with an unusually creative production. What inspired you to create this?

My passion for creative art production comes from the fact I am an artist first. The role of art director developed naturally for me and through film production I began dabbling in fashion design. At first my plan was to approach LAFW as an art director for upcoming fashion shows because I have done it in the past for a few brands at NYFW. After I got in contact with LAFW they offered me my own runway show because they had seen my costumes and creations in a few of my small experimental films.

The offer really surprised me because I had never created a collection in such a large scale. After some consideration I said yes, but on the condition that I would be able to produce and art direct every aspect of the show. I handpicked every artist who collaborated with me on this production. Producing a traditional runway didn’t seem very appealing to me so I aimed to create a unique and interactive experience. I am most happy when my artwork acts as coherent and complex organism that people leave feeling that they were really part of the journey and that they had the chance to see a story and feel all the associated emotions. I developed this approach from my passion for filmmaking. I have been lucky enough to meet extraordinary talented people who wanted to join me and help me with all the production.
My team and I instantly clicked together perfectly. From the video artist, musician and the editorial photographer, we all met at the right moment where everyone was on the same page and the production process flowed very smoothly.

Your work echoes powerful and surreal artistry. Do you have a specific character or story in mind when you are creating a design or image?

Yes, absolutely. I create each of design as a character. That again leads me to the film and story. All the golden designs I created for fashion week come from a short trilogy of films I exhibited in Prague last year. In this trilogy there is a story of 3 characters that interact with each other and repeat the same pattern always in different scenarios.
So for the LAFW production I was creating this collection as a stylized extension my previous work. Through the process the narrative got more intense and specific. But still, the process was very organic and as surrealistic as my typical work. It almost feels like to me that I created an artistic military statement to confirm the character archetype of a female warrior who is present with all the power she has no matter where I am or where I go.

Your pieces involve many mediums, with silicone being a prevalent material in your latest collection. What are some of the mediums and materials you most enjoy using, or would like to experiment with next?

I love the challenge and variation of mixing different mediums and materials. It keeps me moving because you are constantly on the mission of trying and experimenting with different formulas and combinations; it’s always a great moment when you can find something new that works. I love to work with silicone; the material totally fascinates me. At the beginning of working with this material I treated it almost as if I was drawing. You then let it sit and dry and after that you work with it with the mindset of a sculptor; giving the shape and letting the material guide you. Throughout this process I feel like I am creating a character that exists totally independent from me. This is just the beginning for me, from there I like to dig even deeper into my dream world and combine my silicone creations with video production. This may sound crazy but this is totally what I see that is in my head. I see my dresses existing in a highly stylized film/movie.
Maybe one day we all will wear this kind of fashion.

“Writing music is my most honest way of attempting to live in both worlds.”

MUSIC: Huxley Anne @huxley_anne_

How was your experience showcasing your music at Salcmannova’s show for LAFW?

Awe-inspiring, fluid gold silicon, metal lava spilling into reality from a fantastical realm where women are ancient blue warriors. As I wrote the music, I had tried to imagine Salcmannova’s designs coming to life, but the actual experience went beyond everything I had envisioned. It felt perfectly coalesced, the entire production breathing in rhythm.

This year you released your debut album, Ilium, which marked a transformative phase in your creative path. Do you find you are often straddling the line between darkness and light?

I live on a houseboat on the River Styx. Within the duality of darkness and light I see a reflection of my entire process—the numbness I felt when I started the album, compared to the emotional intensity I experienced while finishing it; the weight of mythology and spirit against the brute force of science and capitalism; the liberal arts versus technology; musical technicality against emotive performance; Apollo needing Dionysus; nothing false, all in existence, just truth on different sides of the same blood-stained sword.

How do you express this through your music?

I feel the darkness, the emotional power it holds, often when I am writing. The process of writing through it, of expressing those more sinister, difficult to process feelings is how I hope to find light. It’s almost the only way I get closer to contentment, true happiness. Writing music is my most honest way of attempting to live in both worlds.

What helps you get in the zone?

I work on music almost obsessively, whether it be practicing piano, making drum beats, recording modular synths. However, I think my best ideas come to me when I have a powerful concept I’m seeking to communicate through music. Expressing narratives is something I hold sacred to all art forms. Of course, to do this, I burn palo santo daily and take many baths.

Where do you escape to for creativity?

Creativity knows no bounds; it thrives in the realm of infinite chaos. I can’t escape it; I am attacked by it, at seemingly random points in time and space. Being swallowed by a creative wave is where I’m happiest. I escape from the rest of the world.

“I like to think of the film as almost a chance encounter with something a bit otherworldly.”

FILM: Talon McKee @hallowedtalons

You produced a visually entrancing film for Salcmannova’s show at LAFW. What was the main message you wanted to reveal through your film?

Normally I spend a great deal of time developing complex references, adding layers of symbolism and depth that gives the opportunity for my work to take interpretation and perspective to different levels of understanding. Find me stuck in some obscure book about ancient lore and mysticism anytime I’m developing a project. But not on this film. Instead I let the concepts and meaning build organically on their own, and in the process of making the film I ended up getting enveloped in its luring vision.
What I particularly like about this piece is the simplicity of it; there is something so haunting and alluring about a lone glowing figure surrounded by darkness. It really evokes thoughts of phantasms and apparitions. Ultimately I wanted the garments to be recognizable but also transformed and distorted into a more eerie sensation. I like to think of the film as almost a chance encounter with something a bit otherworldly.

Which films or artists do you feel have played a pivotal role in influencing your style and ideas?

I am always such a fangirl for dark art films. Give me something highly stylized, dripping with horror, beauty, and depth and it will no doubt make ripples into my work. I think horror movies in general are overlooked in terms of artistic value. But movies like It Follows (2014) and The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (2015) harmoniously bring my favorite attributes together. The gripping and stunning visual work in these films paired beautifully with music makes a lasting impression that I strive for in my work.
In addition to art films, music videos bring a wealth of creativity to the forefront. I can spend hours scrolling through music videos getting completely lost in sultry, dark, and luring music. Often when I am working or shooting I have these videos playing in the background to get everyone in the same vein of creativity. Oyinda, Sevdaliza, Arca and FKA Twigs are some of the artists I admire that challenge perspectives of artistic vision and collaboration in their videos.

What impact do you hope to have on your audience with your films?

Entrancing and Impactful; essentially that is all that I want my films to create. I take concepts that don’t always resonate well with all audiences. I don’t want my work to be something that everyone can relate to. Instead, I want to create something that captures the viewer’s attention. When my work plays I want people to stop what they’re doing to watch it. Even if my work is just a few minutes long, I want those few minutes to lure you in. I like the idea that some will leave my work being inspired, being disturbed, loving it, or really hating it. Either way I like the idea of my work making ripples into others creative processes.

“I strive to create work that pushes the boundaries of what people find attractive and beautiful. I like to challenge traditional ideas of beauty, gender and sexuality through my work.”

PHOTOGRAPHER: Lloyd Galbraith @lloydgalbraith

How did you get involved in producing and photographing Salcmannova’s collection for LAFW?

Radka and I met through a mutual photographer friend of ours. I was instantly obsessed with the artisanal quality of Radka’s designs; the degree of detail and the element of obscurity seemed to resonate in both of our works. It wasn’t long before our conversation of admiration for each other’s work turned into talk about collaboration. In my past collaborations with designers I’ve become familiar with production of runway shows, it only came about naturally that we aimed to produce a show in LA. After I lined up a few shoots with a couple of well-known models, Radka was offered to show in LAFW and the production of the event rapidly took its course.

What were some of the challenges and highlights?

We only had about three months to create the entire line and to get the press and promotional material finished. It definitely took a lot of scrambling to get everything to happen, and even more so to get everything to happen within a time crunch. Just laying out all the groundwork for a show can be a tall order at times, so this project really kept me on my toes. My favorite part of the process was producing and shooting the editorial lookbook for the line. We shot at one of my favorite locations, Point Dume’s cliff beaches. I’ve used this location in a number of my other works because the setting is constantly transforming from one breathtaking view to another. The shoot ended up being a crazy day full of hiccups, including a rising tide that threatened cutting our shoot short. Luckily with a little finagling from Radka’s manager, Romi, and I, we were able to convince some construction workers to let us use a private stairway through a clifftop mansion to avoid the waves. We all got our steps in that day and we got an amazing set of editorial photos that I’m excited to have released soon.

Your work is uniquely experimental, sensuous and creative. What is it that draws you into these particular concepts and inspirations?

I strive to create work that pushes the boundaries of what people find attractive and beautiful. I like to challenge traditional ideas of beauty, gender and sexuality through my work. A lot of the time it’s interpreted as something new and experimental but for me my art is just a reflection of my point of view in this world.

What are some of your favourite projects you’ve been involved in or are coming up next?

Radka’s collection was picked up for this upcoming NYFW in February, and I am really excited to continue with this production project to New York. I’m also planning a group art show called ‘Sensory Disruption’ in December featuring 8 other artists, as well as, 2 unreleased photo series and zines that I’ve worked on all of 2017. The themes of the show explore a range of tones from traditional high fashion installations and artwork to a more exploratory digital/virtual reality installations and experiences.

Team Credits:
INTERVIEW by Carmen Obied @fshiftmagazine
Visual Artist: Radka Salcmannova @rsvisualthing | Photographer: Lloyd Galbraith @lloydgalbraith |
Salcmannova’s Manager/Ring Designer: Romi @romi_cxx | Makeup: Omayma Ramzy @miyma_ramzy |
Film: Talon McKee @hallowedtalns | Music: Huxley Anne @huxley_anne_