by Simona Hergreaves & Olivia Moreau
Vitosha mountain has many stories to tell. The city of Sofia is often the vehicle for those stories. So when artist and photographer Omi decided to take on the folklore of Sofia, we decided the best way to express the truly contrasting aesthetics of Sofia is through modern urbanization and abstract expressionism. We contacted Prima Ballerina Katrina Petrova, and ballerina Anastasiya Nedelcheva along with model Ivena Zagorska, to become the protagonists in that story. With the help of Bulgarian-born, London-based designer Svetoslav Kolchagov of Kolchagov-Barba and his excellent dresses, we set off on a visual spirit walk. And the end result is an editorial, that blurs the line between expressionism and photography, that addresses the true nature of art as a form of variation be it in the form of a symphony or an aesthetic homage. The end result is a fable for Sofia, of Sofia.
Kolchagov-Barba as a brand was born in 2011 when Emilio Barba approached Svetoslav Kolchagov to create their own brand. They crossed paths during Paris fashion week in 2011 and soon “Kolchagov/Barba” was born. The KB brand focuses on a sense of aesthetics that is predominately a mixture of couture and functionality. Svetoslav’s philosophy is firmly rooted in his experiences as a designer for bigger houses. He wants to create clothes that are fashionable now and will remain so ten years down the road. His ability to fuse strands of classic and modern tradition into one cohesive narrative is the foundation of his line. That is why this project in its entirety hinged on Kolchagov-Barba's ability to produce functional couture-esque clothing as the poses of the ballerinas are deeply rooted in positive and negative movements that vary greatly from traditional models poses and postures. And the movement generated through the clothes created by Kolchagov-Barba provided ample evidence that functional couture is truly the equipoise of dressmaking.
The dresses chosen for this editorial were shown as a pre-release treat for Kolchagov faithful in Sofia during the Golden Needle award ceremony which celebrates Bulgarian fashion, home and abroad. The dark flowers, the singular flow of the dresses seemed like a perfect homage to a city under a mountain long fabled for its history, the gloomy winters and sun-soaked summers are built around that history in this historic city.
Yet to view Sofia under the Vitosha, to view Kolchagov-Barba through the singular aesthetics, to view Omi's work through the prism of binary arrangements would do all three of them a great disservice. They are layered, they are soaked in moody blues and a sudden explosion of color. Like the city, like Omi's catalog of art, Kolchagov-Barba is a nuanced experience. This editorial could be a celebration of any of these three elemental aspects, yet it is a celebration of all three brimming with quiet confidence of artists firmly rooted in their crafts and a city that has seen history come and go. The idea behind a photo-series like this where photographs are viewed as a piece of music and then using method of variation is presented with entirely different aesthetics is not new. What is new is that the introduction of mixed media from paint to de-coloring to recoloring as forms of expression. What used to be an auxiliary process has become essential to the aesthetics of these photographs. And that is why the merging of these diverse threads into a singular one has taken us by surprise. And we like surprises.