LOS ANGELES–With collections titled — “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Arachnophobia and Black Flowers Blossom” — just to name a few, it is safe to say LA-based Valerj Pobega is not your average designer. Raised in a household of artists in the Sardinian city of Alghero, Italy, Valerj was exposed to the power of creativity throughout her childhood. Before her successful solo career as a designer, Valerj was sought after as a model by fashion houses as big as Valentino, Fendi and Egon von Furstenberg. Soon after, she succumbed to her desire to become a designer. She eventually left Italy for Los Angeles, California, where she now resides with her equally creative partner, Mattia Biagi. As a pair, this duo is unstoppable in the world of grunge art and avant-garde design. Hand-painted silk pieces, leather body harnesses and bronze “drip rings” made from melted bullets, have become staples in Pobega’s varying collections. With a loyal following of stylists, celebrities and taste-makers, Valerj has dressed several A-list stars — from pop artist Selena Gomez to rock star Ozzy Osbourne.
BACO’s Kelsey Riggs interviews Pobega on her artistic inspiration:
Q: Would you consider yourself more of a fashion designer or an artist? Do you believe there is a marriage between the two, or a separation?
Pobega: I like to consider myself an artist that works in fashion. Yes, the two definitely go hand in hand, especially in my case, as all the silk fabrics in my collection are hand painted by me.
Q: What inspired the unique spelling of your name?
Pobega: It’s actually a funny story… when I was born and my dad went to register my name, it was supposed to have a “y,” but the person working at the office wrote it down using a “j.” Soon after, he realized and offered to fix it, but my dad said to leave it as it was, seeing that it was was more original. Right away my father knew this would surely solidify the fact that I would one day be an artist!
Q: What has been your favorite collection thus far?
Pobega: I really like them all, as they all represent specific conceptual research and a current obsession of that moment. If I had to pick one I really like, it would be the “Arachnophobia” collection.
Q: You are best known for your use of hand-painted silk in all of your designs, is that your fabric of choice?
Pobega: It’s my favorite fabric and also the one that translates my ideas best, especially when I use hand painting.
Q: You and your husband Mattia are some of the most creative people I have ever met. Do you find that you inspire each other when it comes to your own creative practices?
Pobega: Thank you, and yes, we inspire each other and definitely share a very similar aesthetic.
Q: What is your favorite part of the design process?
Pobega: My favorite part is the obsessive research that goes into making it [the collection] a reality, after a great idea sparks.
Q: I wear the bronze drip ring you gave me every single day. It is my favorite piece, and I love telling people who it is made by, and what it is made of! What inspired you to use melted bullets?
Pobega: I’m so happy to hear it is still your favorite! You have one of the first ones! The dripping shape resembles some of my signature paint drips on fabric. I decided to use vintage melted bullets, as it was part of a collection based on pre-World War II German cabaret, which unfortunately was put to an end when the war began.
Q: In the past, you have mentioned a desire to be part of something more than just exterior presence. How do you maintain separateness from an industry very solely grounded on the basis of physical attractiveness?
Pobega: It was referring to the fact that I started my career as a fashion model, which was fun and gave me experience and a glimpse into how this industry works, but I always knew deep inside of me that it wasn’t to be my final career… a career based just on exterior looks. I knew I had much more to say, as an artist and designer. I knew I wanted my own voice to be heard and not just to be molded from someone else’s designs and ideas.
Q: What was the best advice you ever received from your parents about the work of artistry and creativity?
Pobega: To be original and to believe in my ideas.
Q: What are your thoughts on Italian fashion versus American fashion?
Pobega: They both have amazing pioneering designers that helped to shape what fashion is today.
Q: If you had to choose three people, places or things that you believe deeply influence your work, who, what or where would they be?
Pobega: New York (I go often for work and pleasure and it is always magical and inspiring). Vivienne Westwood (I have always admired her talent and how she set her own rules, and I’m definitely setting my own as well). Andy Warhol (My favorite artist… he was so ahead of his time).
WHO: Valerj Pobega
HEADQUARTERS: Los Angeles