Olya Petrova Jackson’s Fashion Line, Ab[Screenwear], Declares RGB The New Black – Forbes

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Photo by Jason Lasswell and courtesy of Ab[Screenwear]

Ab[Screenwear]

Art and fashion have always intermingled, but what happens when you toss in a heavy dose of tech and all the contemporary philosophical conundrums that come with it? It would probably look and feel a lot like the stylishly flashy, forward-thinking fashion line, Ab[Screenwear], which made its New York Fashion Week debut earlier this month at Postmasters Gallery in Chinatown.

For all the high-concept themes and influences that founder Olya Petrova Jackson incorporates into her clothing, like her original code-based language system for the various layers and materials she uses (multi-colored dichroic polyurethane panels, shearling, leather, wool, and precious furs), or her vociferous dialogue with Kurzweil’s theory of singularity, the looks are strikingly chic and completely ready to wear.

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Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

“That’s body,” says Petrova Jackson from inside her stylish and minimal Brooklyn apartment, which she shares with her husband. “That’s part of me being a fashion designer, everything else is concept and artistic expression.” For those familiar with the designer’s prototypes and sample items, which she’s been developing for over three years, one can’t help but wonder if she faced external pressure to create more traditional, palatable works to lure the mainstream fashion status quo. “Hell no,” she offers in her delightfully self-aware, Russian accent. “That’s judgment that I don’t care about. If I did, I would have faded away years ago.”

Ab[Screenwear]’s Fashion Week presentation, geographically speaking, was divided into two halves. On the west side of the gallery, three contemporary movement dancers, each in a unique look, played off each other in a slow motion contemplation of our relationship to inter-personal space, sound, light, as well as the various materials interacting with their [our] own flesh. This triumvirate appeared to be led by the actor/model/dancer Elliot Sailors, who brought a ferocious physicality to the proceedings.

One is apprehensive to use a word like androgynous to refer to Sailors, especially in 2017, as [her] confidence seems to obliterate any third-party speculation as to exactly who or what she is. Sailors was joined by the elegant Elanor Bock and transgender model Indya Moore. Their improvisational performance took place in front of a video art piece by Kurt Hentschlager called “Cluster.” The video features a trippy, kaleidoscopic vortex of contorted limbs, pulsing and undulating outward in concentric circles like a human mandala.

One is apprehensive to use a word like androgynous to refer to Sailors, especially in 2017, as [her] confidence seems to obliterate any third-party speculation as to exactly who or what she is. Sailors was joined by the elegant Elanor Bock and transgender model Indya Moore. Their improvisational performance took place in front of a video art piece by Kurt Hentschlager called “Cluster.” The video features a trippy, kaleidoscopic vortex of contorted limbs, pulsing and undulating outward in concentric circles like a human mandala.

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Model Indya Moore. Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

What’s most interesting about Ab[Screenwear]’s presentation (a clear standout), is the fact that this three-person movement performance, though lovely and at times hypnotic, was in some ways a clever diversion from the real performance taking place on the east side of the room between the audience and Petrova Jackson’s 13 models, all partially frozen on light-box pedestals in a seemingly traditional standing presentation. This format has become commonplace in the fashion world, as it’s less fleeting than runway and provides more time and access to the fabrics, cuts and overall looks. The audience is able to move face to face with the models, as if they were living, breathing mannequins, open for consensual objectification and game for countless up close and personal photographs, detailing every inch of their bodies.

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Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

“You don’t usually come across people who would allow that intimacy,” says Petrova Jackson of her model brood. In Ab[Screenwear], the designer turns the tables back on the voyeur, as many of the models, who rarely if ever speak, were fit with thin translucent dichroic polyurethane panels that housed their iPhones, which were set on record and trained back on the viewer, igniting a mutual sense of awareness between the model and fashion enthusiast, while commenting on our collective dehumanization in the face of advancing technology. “The girls totally got it,” Petrova Jackson continues. “I call this ‘Post Language.’ It’s not about perfection of the physical, emotional, or spiritual, it’s about our imperfection. It’s telepathy. Some people get it, some people don’t, but that might mean they’re not connecting consciously.”

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Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

Where other fashion lines over the last few years have gone out of their way to celebrate the complexity and vast spectrum of skin color as a means to deconstruct race, Petrova Jackson asks us to contemplate the evolutionary stagnation, not only of fashion, but of the human species collectively. “What I’m trying to explore is; if you put that [polyurethane screens] over your body and it has all the capacities your phone has, to switch, choose, project, absorb with your fingertips, it might give you a completely new dimension as a human.”

Much of this incredible material was cut and incorporated by one of Olya’s most vital collaborators, Tereza Barabash. Hailing out of Lviv, Ukraine, a cultural hub renowned for its weaving & textile industry, Barabash has won a golden medal at the Textile Triennial in Warsaw, both in 2013 and 2016. The designers would use NYU Fulbright scholars as fabric mules to send repurposed strips of the polyurethane, leather and other materials back and forth to each other. “That’s me coming from an Eastern European, post-soviet block. It’s manic. I would keep it in boxes for months, cut it into thin strips, and send it to Theresa with a courier.”

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Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

Maiyet

Petrova Jackson, who speaks five languages, grew up in Moscow and eventually studied Byzantine and Modern Greek Philology at the Lomonosov Moscow State University (“The Harvard of Russia.”). She eventually made her way to Parsons where she studied fashion design. A series of internships followed at Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Oscar de la Renta, the highly ethical Maiyet (where Olya also worked briefly), and Ralph Lauren. Petrova Jackson eventually won the Creative Summer Competition at RL in 2013, which helped her land a design job at Ralph Lauren Double RL. Though she delighted in the occasional sit in with the man himself, Petrova Jackson knew she had considerably more to say. She soon began prepping for Ab[Screenwear] and now seems to be hitting her stride, which, in hindsight, may stand as one giant leap forward on the road to singularity.

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Photo by Jason Lasswell. Image courtesy of Ab[Screenwear].

Hyphen Labs

“Everyone has an opinion about fashion,” says the designer, who has already begun collaborating with other tech-meets fashion entities like the female-driven Hyphen Labs. “It’s what makes it a great vehicle for thought. Art and technology often requires access. With fashion, if you’re tuned, and you find the right language and medium, you can transmit a lot of information and launch all kinds of conversations.”

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