Research.Newlife chat with Sasha Strovski about her fashion journey—from her passion for fashion photography through her curatorial project, ssickyverse, to Casper—a project co-led with her boyfriend, Denis, that blends bionic and cybernetic aesthetics with everyday wear.
N: We're eager to delve deeper into your captivating professional journey. Can you tell us a little about yourself and shed some light on what initially ignited your passion for fashion and what keeps your enthusiasm alive in this constantly evolving industry?
S: Fashion is the main thing making my mind full of joy and excitement. Somehow, I was born sensitive and full of sadness. Especially the economic crisis and life being in the 90s in Russia, where I was born, impacted that a lot.
Since the age of 13, I've been taking pictures with my film camera, tried to draw pretending to be a painter, wished to study art, but there were no study programs at that time. At 21, I graduated with a degree in strategic management, trying to live an office life in a charitable organization that developed social life in Russian regions, never imagining to be in fashion.
I got depressed immediately after being imprisoned within four walls. One day, my boss asked me to help her with clothes shopping for some event, saying that I had taste. The shopping ended with a series of pictures of Topshop mannequins taken with a phone—against the background of Russian visual reality, they seemed extraordinarily stylish to me. Soon after that I quit my job to become a fashion photographer.
I started accepting jobs where I could learn to take pictures. Time passed, iPhones and Instagram appeared, the fashion industry in Russia was growing.
I started dating my current boyfriend Denis (aka Casper), who was getting himself involved in fashion as a fashion stylist. Our life consisted of people, bohemian and underground parties, working in fashion, making money, and having fun. We also opened a vintage store, thus I've worked as a photographer for 13 years. One day when my revenue from commercial photography became really big and I got a lot of work regularly, I decided to quit photography. I let everyone know that I am no longer a photographer. The reason was that I couldn’t feel the excitement that I came to the industry for.
It was 2015 when I got my first iPhone. And I found it fun to shoot fashion on it. But that turned out to be rather problematic, as nobody wanted to participate in phone photoshoots. I believed it was cool, felt time had sped up, and that brands would soon need faster production because of social media and upcoming technologies.
Life in 2012-2015 looked like pieces of moments that an eye could barely capture. That was what Instagram reflected. Many visual pieces of people's lives were split into digital pieces.
Soon I found that I see Instagram as a new runway where anyone who has a phone can be a model and show their outfits. Any person could be a model, designer, magazine, anything—accumulating social influence and eventually money. It was not only a runway but also a place that now launches trends.
N: Between 2018-2021, you were involved in the fascinating curatorial project, ssickyverse. What inspired its creation, and what factors contributed to its success? How do you view the role of digital curation in today's ever-changing internet landscape?
S: In 2018, I was pretty tired of how hard it was in Moscow to gather a team for phone photoshoots, and there were also no stylists in my city whom I’d like to work with. I also felt emerging trends and vibes in technologies like 3D and virtual reality, and started to post content that I considered relevant at that moment.
I saw new, fresh ways of styling on Instagram, unknown designers, creatives, fashion artists... I started to post them on an Instagram account I called @thats.soamazing (now ssickyverse). I noticed new trends that weren't so popular in 2019 as they are now. I was also impressed that Instagram has made trends flow faster—reaching runways and masses much faster than before.
The response to @thats.soamazing from the audience was fast. I got 30,000 followers in 7 months. Almost all my posts got to the Instagram top page. I went on to interview emerging designers and artists, researched new technologies and vision in fashion, created a website, visited fashion conferences, was introduced to many amazing and very talented people and learned about media marketing. Already in 2019, I understood that digital curation was a role in fashion.
Curator is a transponder and selector with their own vision of what is happening in fashion and the world, what the growing trends are. I collected visuals and made an overall picture of what I felt was coming up and will soon be our new reality.
I felt that curation was very important and considerable. Curators were close to artists via social media, and also had influence. Magazines’ editors, well-known musicians, and creatives followed curated accounts. I guess it is often digital curators who find talent first before celebrities and magazines have them. If your art is lost in the Instagram universe, it is influential curators who can push you. You can go viral with one picture, reach an audience, and maybe some opportunities.
Also, curators create their aesthetic world and offer it to their audience. It doesn't always refer to some topical themes. But I see the meaning only in those things that happen Today and Tomorrow. And I watch them through fashion. While watching fashion, I see all the world’s aspects, understand how people live and think, how society works now and before, I study the world’s history via fashion. On the other hand, fashion is fun, creativity and business, it is everything to me.
N: Your project Casper, draws innovative designs heavily from contemporary science fiction, fantasy films, digital art, and underground fashion, blending bionic, cybernetic, and extraterrestrial aesthetics with everyday items. Can you share the story behind the project and highlight some of its most iconic pieces throughout its history? How was the project brought to life, and what are you currently working on?
S: As I said, curators create their aesthetical world and offer it to their audience. If they can also sell this world, that’s great.
The thing was that I was happy doing it, but I didn’t get money from it. And insta-surfing took almost all of my time. I considered some variants of monetization, but I didn’t like any of the options. Meanwhile, Denis was working as a fashion stylist in Moscow. He was already not interested in what he was doing, as it lost any sense of creativity and truly was just about making money. So, I was suffering that I don’t make money, and he suffered from only making money.
March 2020, pandemic broke out in Moscow. Denis had nothing to do but stay at home creating stuff from old things he had in his stylist’s suitcase. I watched his work progress as we talked about trends, concepts, and media marketing.
That was our lockdown: every day the first thing I saw, opening my eyes in the morning, was a new piece made by him. I commented on all the new stuff, corrected an item's appearance if necessary, or exclaimed that some designs are perfect and it will be bestsellers. At the same time, I considered what personal project to initiate, one that will bring me both money and happiness. I was not aspiring to become a creative and marketing director at Casper originally, I got pleasure from helping and seeing Denis happy.
2020-2022, Denis’ designs became cooler and cooler. He felt the hype, posts went to Instagram's top page, followers grew fast and we started getting first orders from Instagram. Meanwhile, I was also doing some commercial fashion photography, studied 3D, still not satisfied with my activities.
In February 2022, Ukrainian-Russian political situation resulted in a fear of an economic crisis, unpredictable political situation within the country, and blocked Instagram, TikTok, blocked Swift and PayPal. We couldn’t do our business anymore because of sanctions, especially because our audience was abroad. In half a year, we were able to move to Armenia—a sunny blessed country where we could partially go on with our business.
After we relocated, we felt that we had nothing but the Casper project to do. We lost our Moscow local works and Moscow life. I officially joined Casper as a creative director and marketing consultant and contributed my time and efforts to the brand fully. It turned out that Casper being brought to life after thats.soamazing was the monetization I was looking for.
N: Lastly, can you tell us more about your current interests and personal drawing projects?
S: After everything that’s happened in the world and in my life, I’m a little confused and lost, but hope to find new inspirations soon.
I changed the page name from thats.soamazing to ssickyverse because I don’t feel the world is the same and amazing as before. It’s more sickyverse than metaverse.
I started drawing again several months ago, feeling some transformational processes inside. In the drawings, I compile some garments I find from fashion artists on Instagram, using ones that I feel are relevant today. It is some sort of creative direction, I guess, testing forms and styles.
I would like to have a permanent home to allow myself to buy "unnecessary" things for a cozy life, to have a little dog, to keep a stable mental health, grow our business, and continue to explore the fashion industry ♥
All images courtesy of Sasha Strovski.