Valerj Pobega is not so much a fashion maker as an artist. Perhaps, the Italian former model will take offense at such a description. Commercial viability is not a factor in the handmade, hand-decorated garments she makes in the Los Angeles studio she shares with her husband, artist Mattia Biagi, any more than utility or protection. Since her first collection five seasons ago, Valerj clothes are as much about the illusions she choreographs around them–with often comical makeup as a counter to the beautiful dresses (Spring and Fall '08), in surrealistic photographs (Spring/Summer '09), or a dreamscape video (Fall '09).
Wisps of textile treated more preciously in other hands under Valerj's attention are slashed, twisted, stained and ruched. Yet the outcome is always delicate, elegant. Finishes are less a concern than the final effect, and this can sometimes be frustrating. But these are costumes for the woman, and occasional guy, who can't imagine being constrained by what others will think.
The ties that bind such an M.O. in dress were on full display with Valerj's Spring 2010 "Bondage" collection, widely considered the standout of not only the Gen Art New Faces presentation but of a Los Angeles Fashion Week that dominated most of the month of October.
Silk charmeuse kimono robes and other traditional Japanese separates were deconstructed and ink splashed. The otherwise ethereal clothes were yanked down to a physical tangibility by way of braided ropes tied around the models' faces and dangling menacingly as belts, or configured into corsets with a nod to macrame. Sure, there were instances that bordered on WTF, such as the drawn-out nipple tassels on a white dress. But do away with the sagging sheer hosiery and Converse sneakers, and there is plenty of beauty even in the eccentricity. What appears like a cocoon jacket cut from black vinyl is actually hand-coated silk organza.
As if that weren't enough to provoke buzz, a robust male dancer burst out onto the runway, all a swirl of yards of black-splattered silk and thigh-gripping net briefs, flying and spinning and generally exciting everyone. If that doesn't make a convincing argument about Valerj's (performance) artist leanings, not sure what will.
Alas, the dancer won't be on hand come this Thursday when Valerj presents her first trunk show of the collection at Church, the newish directional boutique in West L.A. But seeing her handiwork up close might prove inspirational.
Valerj Pobega Trunk Show, Thursday, December 3, 3-9 p.m. at Church is at 7277 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90046.
Photos: No. 4, 9 and 10 Courtesy of Valerj Pobega; all others are by Rose Apodaca and cannot be lifted without the written consent of the author.
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