Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

There are some things in life which are held with the esteem as performance art in its various forms. From ballet and jazz dance to puppetry and geisha fan dance. In these spaces there is an expectation to innovate or clasp onto tradition. Either way the sheer visceral experience of live performances has been ultimately halted amidst openings and closings of regions and the limitations of a 25% capacity. While we have to think of the safety of ourselves and others, we are creatures who need social exchange and the entertainment of beauty in all of its abstractions.

At a recent socially distance interaction I chatted with Miss Tosh, the world-renowned burlesque performer and designer, who holds a devotional clasp on the tradition of the craft. Her presence has been one which cultivated and champions the contemporary beauty of LGBTQIA+, body positive and POC figures, while shattering the institutional white hetero-gaze which has long been so deeply rooted int the craft’s identity.

Her latest presentation The Beauty of Burlesque, has been one which celebrates the glitz, glamour, and the precision of the art, which affirms that the dimensions of the performer do not fit rigidly in the parameters of yesterday’s performancer. One thing is clear, the corsets are always gonna cinch you in, the crystals will glimmer, and the dances will knock you off your feet. See our conversation below as we speak frankly about the state of burlesque, breaking the 4th wall, and maintaining curiosity in the midst of sheltering.

What inspired you to put this event together?

The lack of authentic diversity in the entertainment industry is was motivated me to create Beauty of Burlesque. This is variatease revue starring diverse artist from around the world. As the founder & producer of the show it was very important from day one that we shine the spotlight on artist that represents diversity in talent & identity, focusing on lgbtqai+, poc, differently abled, and body positivity. 

At the start of the Covid Pandemic theaters shut down and so did live entertainment. Artist didn’t have any where to performer and especially our POC Trans community was facing so much hardship we had to come together as a community and do something to keep the showbiz flame still burning! 

Our annual halloween event is something we all looked forward to, so I created a the first ever Drive-In Burlesque Theater & Virtual Streaming Platform. The first event was on Halloween this year. All the talent donated their performances and we were able to raise funds for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute!

Do you feel like working digitally has been a helpful medium to expand in or has it be stifling?

One of the most beautiful things about artists is that they are resilient! I am so joyfully overwhelmed by the creativity admits this madness. Producing and performing in the first ever feature length Burlesque film was no small feat and comes with its own challenges. But the most exciting part is seeing what new innovative ideas the performers have. We are now able to reach a global audience, which is really incredible! Beauty of Burlesque has really brought the global burlesque community closer together during this hard time.

How do you see the art of burlesque adapt and change with the culture of social distancing?

There is something so special about performing live. Being close to the Audience, and sharing that energy when on stage is something that cannot be replicated. But there is also something magical about film! To bring the traditional burlesque act to the big screen opens a whole new arena for creativity.

What are some mediums and or techniques you have been using to adapt to a digital performance?

I wear many hats in my life and one of them was film. I worked in art departments and behind the scenes, editing, post production ect. These skills I learned always felt like a past life once I began performing full time. Its exciting that I can now combine past experiences with my performance art. There is always a silver lining if we look for it. 

How do you see the art of burlesque adapt and change with the culture of social distancing?

There is something so special about performing live. Being close to the Audience, and sharing that energy when on stage is something that cannot be replicated. But there is also something magical about film! To bring the traditional burlesque act to the big screen opens a whole new arena for creativity.

What are some mediums and or techniques you have been using to adapt to a digital performance?

I wear many hats in my life and one of them was film. I worked in art departments and behind the scenes, editing, post production ect. These skills I learned always felt like a past life once I began performing full time. Its exciting that I can now combine past experiences with my performance art. There is always a silver lining if we look for it. 

In these times of isolation and self reflection what else have you been working on?

I also have a fashion label (MissTosh.com) During isolation I’ve been able to really focus on designing new pieces, sewing everything in my pink garage. I was very lucky to have just moved in with my love right before lockdown in March. We have been nesting and having fun building furniture, painting murals and decorating our home. Im always making something.

How have you been able to maintain and celebrate yourself and your mental health?

With so much uncertainty finding a ways to cope, process and heal can be really hard. I get anxiety, and have non epileptic seizures when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. Maintaining balance by just taking it day. Enjoying a bite of food, feeling the sun on my face, and trying too remain grounded and present. All we can do is try the best we can. 

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Do you have any luxuriant items that have kept you sane and well?

Luxury for me is a cup of tea, a cozy blanket with kitties and my girlfriend snuggled up by me. For the insomnia and deep stress moments I cannot express enough how much cbd/tch oils have changed my life. A few drops and its sweet dreams haha.

What is your next project?

I will continue to produce Drive-In Burlesque shows and virtual events at www.BeautyofBurlesque.com Be sure to tune into our Holiday show, “Merry Stripmas” and New Years Eve extravaganza. Creating safe and sexy ways to celebrate safely at home or at the Drive-In. You can also shop my fashion label at MissTosh.com We will be having a major Black Friday sale of our accessories, dress, and home goods. Everything is handmade by me here in Hollywood, CA. 

Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

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Womxn In Windows | 2020

Womxn In Windows | 2020

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Christine Yuan

In Limbo, 2017

Born in Los Angeles, CA Christine Yuan is an Emmy-award winning Taiwanese-American director. Known for her bold and playful style, and with an instinct for authentic performances that depict organic facets of youth culture and the female experience, she creates worlds that capture the imaginative quality of the human experience.

 Yuan, previously a Creative Director for 88rising, has created visuals for Joji, Rich Brian, Summer Walker, GoldLink, to name a few. Her feature documentaries have won Best Culture/History Documentary at the 2018 LA Area Emmy, Best Documentary at the 2018 Golden Mike Awards, and Best Feature Documentary at the 2017 National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Her commercial work has been shortlisted for D&AD’s Next Director Award, 1.4 Awards Show, Young Guns 15 Awards, and Shoot’s Director’s Showcase. Commercial credits include Prada, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Reebok, Zara, and Tiffany & Co, and more.

Christine Yuan, In Limbo, 2017

In Limbo by Christine Yuan is a visual poem exploring the space between life and death. It is the space where the soul meets the body, before we are born, the first moment we begin to feel, incubating while the spirit merges with its physical form. It is a remembrance of the feminine divine, the birth of the soul and the source of all life. Deeply meditative, as three womxn embrace and pay respect to the earth, water, and sun through movement. Feeling every drop of water, treading the earth softly and taking in every ray of sunshine. The parallel movement in nature conjures up life, reminds us to celebrate and make an example of it. To embrace this earth with spirit and vitality.


Everlane Moraes

Aurora, 2018

Born in Bahia, Brazil and raised in Sergipe, Brazil, Everlane Moraes is a producer, director and documentary film-maker. She makes films that move between fiction and documentary, investigating socio-cultural issues of the Black diaspora, in the search to portray the identities and subjectivities of her characters, combining different formats and genres from video art to cine-essay.

Moraes’ films have been exhibited at the 20th Sundance Film Festival 2020, the 2019 Rotterdam Film Festival, 2019 Documenta Madri, 2014 Bresil en Mouvements, Prise and the 2019 BFI London Film Festival among many other in Brazil and Internationally. She was awarded the William Graves Fiml Fund on Firelight Media this year. Everlane is a graduate of the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV/Cuba)

Everlane Moraes, Aurora, 2018

In Aurora, Everlane Moraes observes the existence of three Black women – from different spaces, contexts, and ages – not concerned with the narrative, but with the essence of their characters. Without a single word uttered during the 15 minute film, with the exception of a final song, we experience and feel the existential doubt that transcends age and beliefs. Each womxn continues to explore her inner conflicts and sufferings at every stage in life and reminds us that we must persist even when we feel displaced. Our belief and desire for a truly free existence keeps us curious from the moment we are birthed to our last breath and beyond. Aurora communicates this in a most subtle and tender way.

Ja’Tovia M. Gary

An Ecstatic Experience, 2015

Born in Dallas, Texas, Ja’Tovia Gary is an American artist and filmmaker whose work seeks to liberate the distorted histories through which Black life is often viewed, while fleshing out a nuanced and multivalent Black interiority. Through documentary film and experimental video art, she charts the ways structures of power shape our perceptions around representation, race, gender, sexuality and violence. The artist earned her MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

In 2017 Gary was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Filmmaking. Her award-winning films, An Ecstatic Experience and Giverny I (Négresse Impériale) have screened at festivals, cinemas, and institutions worldwide including Edinburgh International Film Festival, The Whitney Museum, Anthology Film Archives, Atlanta Film Festival, the Schomburg Center, MoMa PS1, MoCA Los Angeles, Harvard Film Archives, New Orleans Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival and elsewhere. She has received generous support from Sundance Documentary fund, the Jerome Foundation, Doc Society, among others.

In 2016 Gary participated in the Terra Foundation Summer Residency program in Giverny, France. She was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. Gary is a 2019 Creative Capital Awardee and a Field of Vision Fellow.

Ja’Tovia Gary,  An Ecstatic Experience, 2015 

An Ecstatic Experience is an experimental meditation on transcendence by Ja’Tovia Gary using archival material, montage editing and analogue animation techniques. Gary is concerned with challenging the notion of cinema and the role of the artist working with the scope of the medium. Her films examine the legacy of resistance and liberation through spiritual and ritualistic methods, animated by repetitive mark making carried out directly on the filmstock to represent notions of craft and gendered labor practices. Interlaced with scenes from historical events, Gary redefines the feminine gaze; focusing on the Black figure within the moving image.

Kilo Kish

Blessed Assurance: a dream that i had, 2019

Born in Orlando, FL, Kilo Kish is an American multidisciplinary artist, songwriter, and singer who has recorded with the Gorillaz, The Internet, Vince Staples, Childish Gambino, and Chet Faker among others. Her work focuses on personal identity, communication, technology, and the internet.Starting as a student of design at Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, she has been heralded for her cross-medium approach as an artist.

Her work has been reviewed by the New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vogue, W, Fader, and The Village Voice. Kish has also exhibited films, installation work, performance art, and music technology projects. She is currently working on her sophomore LP in Los Angeles.

Kilo Kish, Blessed Assurance: a dream that i had, 2019

‘When I started interviewing the artists, I was so inspired by their willingness to suffer for a calling they found pure. Their audacity made them saintly to me. I wanted to explore belief in one’s art and the way it relates to religious faith and spiritual calling. Creative practice almost becomes a religion. And I think, through it, you become closer to God. I’m happy to explore the act of making as its very own reward. Its very own promise and certainty.’ – Kilo Kish

Originally presented as a multi room installation, Blessed Assurance: a dream that I had takes on a new life as the six individual visual pieces are framed in six individual windows. The captivating visuals mix recorded video, overlaid with punchy low-fi graphics and an animated church reminiscent of a two-bit video game – with accompanying ambient sounds, accessed through QR codes, and transport the viewer to their own physical and spiritual dimension, somewhere between the space Kish imagines and the sky above.  

Kya Lou

Eulogy, 2020

Born in San Diego, Kya Lou is an artist, editor and color grading specialist based in Los Angeles. Her work is at the intersection of ancestral memory, community, landscape and identity. She currently dedicates her time to running COLOURED ONLY, a color grading studio focused on conjuring colors that exceed the frame and trouble the truth.

Lou’s work has been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Residency Art Gallery in Inglewood, among others. She is a graduate of the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Kya Lou, Eulogy, 2020

Eulogy splices open a three hour VHS tape passed down two generations. The tape itself consists of 8mm footage chronicling the personal lives of the filmmaker’s maternal lineage in the 1960s. Using the footage as a point of departure, Eulogy considers family structures as formative to understanding how communities are informed by care, absence, belief and joy. The presentation of this work sits between the one year anniversaries for the untimely passing of the artist’s aunt Gwendolyn (March 1948 – September 2019) and grandfather Robert Francis Baxter (November 1939 – November 2019).  

Rémie Akl

I Am Arab, 2019

A Human, An Animal or A Thing, 2020

Hi, I know you missed me, 2020

Born in Beirut, Lebanon. Rémie is a rising and unapologetic storyteller, she conceptualises, acts, and directs her own works. Her work is a call to action, especially against the corrupt government structures of Lebanon. Her videos capture the political unrest and explain further the reasons for the current revolution in Lebanon. She speaks out against the patriarchy and the diminishing rights of womxn in the middle east. Through her work she brings awareness to the global propaganda against the Arab identity and boldly claims the same identity that has been a reason of shame to so many for so long. 

Her work has been featured on Nowness and ArabAd and has garnered a large following on social media. In her own words “I’m Not a Professional dancer, not a professional actress, nor a professional singer, and i’m definitely not an influencer. I’m only a Human. Who works on being more Human everyday.” 

Rémie Akl

I Am Arab, 2019

A Human, An Animal or A Thing, 2020

Hi, I know you missed me, 2020

Remie Akl is bold and unapologetic. She says, ‘…while most of us are ashamed or afraid to say it out loud because of the foreign propagandas, I am raising my voice. I am Arab. And this video is my debut.’

Arab, an identity usually associated with being Muslim and long held as a reason for shame in the Western world, is being dismantled in these videos. Akl wants to hold men accountable for their attitudes towards womxn and reminds them that they are not needed if they want to curb our existence. In this visually captivating series of videos, Akl reclaims her Arab femme identity, talks about the sufferings of a Lebanese girl lacking a proper nation – knowing that it’s the people who build a nation – and remarks on friends from her country doing very little to encourage progress; merely accepting the situation they’re living in. These videos, Akl states, are a call for change; for a stable, conflict-free and independent Lebanon, where basic human rights and freedoms are secured for all.  

Rikkí Wright

A Song About Love, 2019

Born in Tuscaloosa, AL. Rikkí Wright Is a Photographer and Filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA. Her work explores notions of community, family, and sisterhood, especially among black women, and looks at the way a community can mold or expand our ideas of strength, and beauty. Wright grew up with two older sisters who were her best friends and her source of support through life’s trials and tribulations, beginning with the loss of Wright’s mother at the age of two. Her sisters taught her the power of having women by her side who she could be real with and depend on, and her work seeks to capture this sense of power.

Her work has been featured in the NYTimes, i-D, LALA, Refinery 29 and many other publications. Her film has been shown at black star fest and her clients include girlgaze, Outdoor Voices, Warby Parker and No Sesso.

Rikkí Wright, A Song About Love, 2019

Rikki Wright sets the tone for A Song About Love instantly, as the film opens with the words of Bell Hooks and transitions into the song Say You Love Me. In this spiritual reckoning on the different forms of love in this world, from human to divine, Wright is navigating the contrasts between real and redemptive love and the roots of enduring faith in the Black community.

She is exploring the complex relationship between sexuality and religion; the same religion that has given her and her ancestors strength, music and peace in the most difficult of times, but has not fully accepted her existence. Beautiful and moving, with striking transitions between interviews, music and Wright’s own body, this film is a reminder of the power of faith, the beauty that can come from pain and the search for oneself and our place in society.

Sylvie Weber

The Prophetess, 2018

Born in Southern Germany, of German-Dominican descent, Sylvie Weber’s confrontation with belonging and identity is often reflected in her storytelling, alongside a consistent desire to unveil the character within and engage more deeply with the greater representation and empowerment of womxn through film. Weber’s career has seen her explore various formats of the medium, shorts, music videos, documentaries and advertising.

Weber has embarked on a journey with the NGO, Journalists for Human Rights, to teach aspiring journalists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cover human rights stories objectively and effectively, bringing awareness to the problems they face within and without their country.

Her work has been featured in Vogue, Fader, Rolling Stone and Hypebeast among other notable publications. Her clients include Nike, Nowness, Dazed, ID and many others. The Prophetess has won best documentary short at the Athens Film Festival.

Sylvie Weber, The Prophetess, 2018

In Weber’s film, The Prophetess, the narrative is twofold. The story follow two womxn, Furaha and Venantie, who – in spite of having been violated, victimized, and employed as weapons of a male conflict – use their tender friendship as the source of ultimate strength; a strength so great that it empowers their entire community of womxn to set out for a different future. In doing, so they reclaim their own narrative, ability to control their present and write their futures – devoid of societal pressures. In parallel, Weber weaves through the mythical story of Kimpa Vita—the mother of African revolution in the kingdom of the Kongo (1390–1857)—who continues to give strength to this community of womxn centuries later.

Weber says that ‘as a female director, I wanted to make a statement to global sisterhood, that legions of womxn stand beside our sisters in the DR Congo, who are being silenced systematically, who carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders.’

Womxn in Windows is currently on view to the public from October 15- November 15 2020.

Set up your appointment Here 

Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

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FORT:LA | Witch Houses Trail

FORT:LA | Witch Houses Trail

FORT:LA | Witch Houses Trail

Just as every other adaptation has been in re-aligning and adapting the world to be covid concerned, so has All Hallows Eve. Fortunately, Tinsel town has been well lined with homes which have had various masks from modernist to Spanish, and midcentury to most conveniently witchy! It is with this spirit which Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles (FORT:LA) is presenting a self-guided, self-driven trail of five witch houses/ storybook style homes.

The trail starts with a neighborhood of Hobbit houses in Culver City designed by a Disney artist in 1922.

Joseph Residence Hobbit House Photographed by Michael Locke.

Curated by Amber Benson aka Tara Maclay, our fave slayed witch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer come witch writer.  This socially distanced excursion is a much needed physical scavenger hunt which gets locals and visitors alike to see the happenings of their back yards. Fully aligned with QooA’s philosophy of close-to-home discovery we are so jazzed to take this tour which starts in Culver City and webs it’s way into Burbank.

Amber Benson Photographed by Lindsey Byrnes.

The importance of this and many of FORT:LA’s mission is to preserve the spirit of LA’s idiosyncratic architectural styles, a hodgepodge specialty which stacks varying movements all on one block. This preservation of historical gems is vital in a time when much of the cities design is being victim of developers and homogenous architecture which sets up gallery walled minimalism for a market saturated in austere sensibilities. Scroll down below to see some of our top picks and check out the trail on FORT:LA’s website and Instagram.

Bogart House, which was occupied by Humphrey Bogart for a short period of time. The house has a bit of macabre history, attached, Bogart was living in this house when then-girlfriend Peg Entwistle committed suicide in 1932 by throwing herself off the Hollywood sign.

Hlaffer-Courcier House that was inspired by the classic LA Restaurant, the Tam O’Shanter, Photographed by Michael Locke.

Egasse-Braasch Housean interesting variation of the storybook. This house was affectionately called ‘the castle’ by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who wrote Good Will Hunting while living here. Photographed by Michael Locke.

Columbia Ranch Dwarf Houses in Burbank. Photographed by Michael Locke.

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Catching up with the Burlesque dancer Miss Tosh as she takes her inclusive community of performers digitally into an immersive experience and beyond

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Creative Career Club | Natalie Alcala

Creative Career Club | Natalie Alcala

If there was ever a time to start a community in a post apocalyptic Utopia as LA, it is now. As with many of us, QooA included, the ideas of consumerism and embrace of sybarite takes on work and community have been ever shattered by the pandemic. Though every article has to serve a certain sense of reverence to the current political, social, and economic conditions of the world, a deep sense of modesty over what our self-grandeur had epitomized is now at the focal point of assessment. Leave it to an editorial maven like Natalie Alcala to take it upon herself to utilize this empathic sensibility to respond to her community with her latest project Creative Career Club.

A former fashion editor at Black Book Magazine during the heyday of the blog era, she shifted gears moving on to the fashion bible Racked, taking on the LA branch. It was with her down time with pregnancy that the constantly enterprising Alcala set out to form her Fashion Mamas brand. A work and play driven community which linked women and their children with others in the fashion communities. With this sentiment and having championed working with a diverse array of creatives Alcala reworked her playbook to better represent the creative community she had cultivated hence the launch of Creative Career Club. We caught up with Alcala on the eve of her launch to see why this community is important and where are we going next.

How do you see the idea of community in the modern age as far as IRL and digitally?

It’s all about merging common interest with the human condition. It’s creating a safe space, whether physical or digital or a remix, that fosters honest conversations and non-judgemental support. This can only happen if the community leader and their team emulate this energy when interacting with the community. Encourage questions, sharing of resources, and creative freedom — the magic is in the release of restraint. Most people organically want to hype one another up, and common interest is the catalyst or icebreaker for that energy. I always tell people that if you identify a group with common interests, and you’re a natural connector, and there are no spaces for this group to connect and create together, build it!

 

Why do you feel it is important to express this all inclusive experience for the creatives? 

We are all much more alike than we think. Society and its bad apples attempt to screw with synergy and pit humans against one another for empty causes. During my time as a writer, I interviewed hundreds of individuals from all backgrounds and identities; what they all had in common is that they had a unique vision. Once you reach their soul and learn more about their individual perspective and/or the cool shit they’re creating, it’s so inspiring that you can’t help but gravitate towards it. As a society, my hope is that we can respect, accept, and highlight all the unique backgrounds and identities of this world, but also look beyond that to simply and purely connect on another level. With CCC, we are building an accepting environment to prove that this is possible. The wider net will also foster more opportunities and resources for members, and hopefully diversify their circle in a variety of ways.

Have you ever felt stifled or dealt with people holding back your career due to your gender race or expression?

Absolutely. Especially in the fashion industry, Latinas were few and far between — and it’s still that way. I never felt polished enough or that I looked like everyone else, but my love for writing kept me in that semi-toxic industry. I decided to make the most of it by being unapologetically me — I wore what I wanted, followed my instincts, ignored and sometimes spoke up against the naysayers, and skipped off in a new direction. I’ve never met my father, so my therapist tells me that I feel as if I was born rejected, so that’s why I tend to reject rules. Forging my own path is how I survive in this world, and in a strange turn of events it’s actually made others accept me more.

 

Having started with a fashion career then moving into being the premiere mommy influencer why did you feel now was the right time to launch this project?

I love the targeted community I’ve created for mothers, Fashion Mamas, which is now six years old. I will never stop serving that community, however for my heart and history I wanted to also serve and support all of the creative humans I’ve met in my lifetime or will meet in the future. To know that they now have an inclusive space to connect in, and a media platform where we can share their stories, well it’s filling my heart hardcore — and it’s only the beginning.

Can you tell us more of the what CCC is all about… How do we join in?

Creative Career Club is a creative community for all. I’ve worked six years building a strong and impactful community for mothers, so this new club for creatives of all backgrounds and identities has the foundation of experience. CCC Members are able to meet digitally via our members-only portal and communication channels, as well as IRL at our 1,000-square-foot Creative Clubhouse in Silver Lake. Once the world opens up a bit more, we will host monthly events at the space, including gifting events, open forum conversations, movie nights, cannabis & collaging, and member-matching – a platonic take on “speed dating” but for friends. Our digital resources will be just as experiential cuz I’m a tech nerd at heart, so members from all over the world will be able to connect. We are also launching a media platform, CCC Journal, where I’ll be able to dust off my background as a writer, and CCC even has a merch shop. Creatives of all types can join by applying at creativecareerclub.com/apply.

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Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova has been a well cemented part of Los Angeles’ art and fashion scene. Frequently adorning the most avant garde of dressers around the various art openings and social happenings, is there anything more inspiring than to see Valerie Von Sobel in one of Kononova’s confections. When the pandemic hit, Kononova like the rest of the world slowed down. Focusing on fully envisioned one offs, pushing an endearing sense of more architectural engineered garments craft it out of the most rigid fabrics. It is with this strong and dynamic use of craftsmanship which she has applied into the process of her mask making. Having been anointed “Millinery‘s New Star” with the blessing of Stephen Jones, it is no wonder that her expertly crafted masks take on a whole life of their own.

A gorgeous and luxuriant product that transfers wearers to a place which almost makes one forget that it is a product of function, but rather a storied vision of art. In the time of quarantine and isolation the designer has also explored her adopted home of California. Producing shoots which showcase her designs against the alien backdrop of the many coastal towns along 655.8 miles of Cali coastline.

The pacing couldn’t have been better as she also highlighted the little known Russian homestead, Fort Ross. We got to chatting with Kononova about this project which ultimately matches her Californian dream and Slavic roots. she also provided a delectably addictive recipe for Syrniki, a cottage cheese based pancake which is dosed with just the right amount of sugar to be a tea time treat, snack or dessert.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJ Panda Bear: Where did you shoot these images they are completely astonishing and alien, you mentioned they were near San Francisco.

Aliona Kononova: The first part was in Sedona and around that area as well as around Vazquez Rocks. Second part was around San Francisco and Fort Ross. It was collaboration between me and my friend Yulia Kirillova who also modeled in the images.

BJPB: Yes and you mentioned there were parts that were Russian, was there a town there? I know Solvang is the one that’s all Danish.

AK: It’s really special so Fort Ross is a former Russian outpost in Sonoma county where 19th century Russians settled on the native Kashia Pomo territory. It’s not big but it’s such a nice place next to the ocean.

BJPB: How did you find out about it, I have hadn’t heard of it being from California.

AK: It was in the books In Russia we have always been curious to go and there was never an occasion. So when everything was locked down I think I saw more things than I saw in the seven years I’ve lived here. We just went to San Francisco then to Yosemite, June lake, and exploring all the things around. 30 hours of driving, but good.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJPB: How far was it all from each other?

AK: 2 hours from San Francisco. it was a very cool experience and it was crazy because in San Francisco in the mornings it is really cold and when we went to Fort Ross and it was crazy hot and we were trying to capture the pictures with no harsh sun which was pretty impossible. At some point you hear this church bell and I felt like I was fainting because it was too hot. There was not even one shadow it was all open so there was no shade while you’re shooting for three hours. You really get that heat I was trying to hide in the church but it was closed. We were looking for any shade with the bells it was a surreal experience.

BJPB: With the masks you have recently released they are really gorgeous what was the construction on these?

AK: I wanted something to cover your face but repeating the shape of the face that it would not squeeze your mouth as it is already so uncomfortable to wear these in general. I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible. The lining is so soft and you can adjust the ears. The whole thing can be adjusted to your face, the veil is detachable the little bird is detachable. It has three main inspired creatures: a bird a dragonfly and a butterfly.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

What is the significance of those animals to you and how they relate to the masks?

It all started with the bird, a bird can rise above the clouds and see what is going on in the bigger picture and get over it quicker in that sense. The dragonfly has this unique flight pattern which they adjust in certain situations and that’s kind of what was their inspiration. Of course the butterfly has its metamorphosis, so the idea of the transformation and to take all that moment as a personal growth, to take it towards a positive note I wanted to have these creatures on every mask.

They are so welcome crafted are they both feathers and millinery fabrics?

Depends the bird one is made of feathers, And the dragonfly is made of silk they are like little jewels.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

A little happiness for breakfast to start your day in the right direction, Aliona Kononova’s recipe for Syrniki

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 cup of farmers cheese or ricotta

3 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of flour (or almond flower for Keto)

a generous pour of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

coconut oil

1/2 a cup of blueberries (optional)

Your favorite maple syrup (optional)

Combine ingredients and portion into 5 or 6 servings, pan fry with the coconut oil and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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