Written by By Mia Elka-Ostrovsky
The words on this article are mine. These are photos from a book titled “Piecing Together a Fashion Statement.”
Mia Elka-Ostrovsky, one of a collective of photographers and writers working in London, has known about fashion since she was very young.
Her understanding of and curiosity around the fashion industry started while she was growing up in a household where a woman “always wore make-up — and made-up, too.”
“A stranger would approach her and her husband would pick up the magazines. She got it around, around age 14,” Elka-Ostrovsky says. “I had my first fashionable diary when I was 15. It was full of things to draw, doodle, but also keep. And the idea of an ‘appeal’ — what’s right and what’s not right.”
The fascinating and layered nature of Elka-Ostrovsky’s collection is therefore not surprising to those who know her, particularly since she was self-taught.
The photographer spent several years collaborating with digital artists Alex Bowden and Nesta Paterson to figure out where and how to project her thought processes into imagery. A blend of manual and digital work is behind the quirky visuals she created on such projects as “Piecing Together a Fashion Statement.”
“Why do you dress up on a Saturday morning? It’s not an acceptable thing to do, but if you want to go out then you’d better have something nice to wear,” Elka-Ostrovsky says. “Being comfortable and having some peace. In my head, that would be a warm wash of color, and dark lipstick.”
Beyond creating imagery in which images communicate a “fashion-lite” identity, Elka-Ostrovsky says the work documents the evolving female identity across the globe.
“It’s about a shift. A shift from women’s resistance to ‘We’re taking our birthrights back’ toward someone who’s enjoying it and getting dressed up.”
Elka-Ostrovsky is the owner of Rock and Squeak , an online store selling outfits that “steer towards longevity — so they fit in with history,” she says. The site began as a way to “play around” with a collection of vintage clothing found in New York. When her niece and her friends showed interest in the “distilled fabric” of her work, Rock and Squeak began expanding into a media project.
According to Elka-Ostrovsky, she recently photographed a 38-year-old woman, a model, whom she had worked with in the past. The old connection led to this stunning photograph and set the tone for her upcoming book, which she will be shooting in June.
“There’s a degree of trust that you need to show someone because people do look a little bizarre in their 80s,” she says. “Some photographs are meant to be visual poems, but I don’t really work that way.”
As an embodiment of this, her archive of work illustrates that just as artists could “find style in any medium,” so can female fashion customers — as long as they want to and follow through with the process.
“I’m not just interested in fashion shows and flashy merchandise. I look at fashion as a lifestyle. The average consumer doesn’t have the patience for the long-form narrative, so I’m interested in clients who are investing in themselves,” Elka-Ostrovsky says.
Elka-Ostrovsky’s desire to tell a story is derived from her desire to stand out. In her own work, the volume of details is one element of keeping the product “interesting.”