Libena Rochova is one of the Czech Republic's best-known fashion designers, whose work has turned heads both abroad and at home. Last October, viewers were able to see "Dialogue" - an acclaimed exhibition featuring twenty-nine of her designs at Prague's Kampa Museum. Now, Libena Rochova has taken the show a step further: in April, seventeen of those pieces will go on exhibit at the Czech National Building in New York City.
Gita Fuchsova is the site's director and earlier this week she talked about how the fashion designer's work was perfect for New York.
"The Czech National Building in the future will be a place that will lobby for the Czech Republic so that means that we want to present things that display a connection between the Czech Republic and the US. And when I saw Libena's show at Prague's Kampa Museum last October I thought to myself 'this is definitely an exhibition that must be brought to the United States'. It's a dialogue: a dialogue between Libena's work and the sculptures at Kampa; ba dialogue etween Kampa and the Czech National Building; a dialogue between Prague and New York."
The show at Kampa last year contrasted Libena Rochova's dresses and gowns and other items with modern sculpture but the latter will, not go on display in New York. Instead, organisers commissioned filmmaker Viktor Vokjan to capture those pieces digitally in a multi-media piece to be aired at the Czech National Building in the Big Apple.
This week organisers in Prague also gave journalists a taste of what to expect in New York, with models displaying some of Rochova's most elegant shimmering designs - sweet silvery-orange and blue metallic evening gowns; this, at her Prague studio. The Czech National Building's Gita Fuchsova again:
"It's 'typical' work by Libena Rochova which means that it's a combination of her art. I won't call it fashion because I think of haute couture more as 'art'. Also, there again there is dialogue: a dialogue of material and jewellery, and the models in motion, and Libena's imagination. A permanent dialogue or dialogue in motion!"
The designer herself told me about some of the items that would be featured at the Czech National Building:
"There will be three parts to the work: the first part will be evening gowns with expensive fabrics with silk and lace and so on. Second will be luxury gowns ready to wear, with jewellery and beads. And the last will be worn by the dancers: paper work, paper sculptures, or paper objects."
JV: You are well-known for working with different materials, avant garde materials: do you have a preference?
"Yes. It is paper. Paper, because this material offers me many different possibilities. I have to say it is paper!"
Paper is the material of choice for Libena Rochova in all her most striking conceptual designs: paper wrapped around the female body like so many twisting Mobius strips, sometimes accenting, sometimes "refracting" the female form.
"When I was young I wanted to move between art and fashion, more art than fashion. My favourite thing was to prepare materials for dancers. Other opportunities than just the catwalk, so yes, I wanted a challenge, the possibility to go in different ways."
One note of warning: the show at the Czech National Building will take place only between April 12th and 15th and it is being technically described as "a happening", as the event will also feature special choreography by New York-based choreographer Dusan Tynek, with dancers wearing Libena Rochova's designs. The show will be short only for practical reasons: the site in upper Manhattan is undergoing extensive renovation. Gita Fuchsova once again:
"We chose to bring only projects that can be installed as 'happenings' because the building is still being renovated: all events must be very special. The public attending must wear hardhats because the building is still a work site, we can't use it everyday."
But, says the fashion designer: the rawness of the site under renovation will contrast nicely with the elegant evening wear. Along with that, wearing hardhats to an avant garde happening: what could be more New York?
"I have to say I like New York! I was there maybe ten times. My friend told me 'You can love New York or hate New York: there are no two ways'! I think I like it. I have to say that this town has a lot of energy and is a new experience, and I would like to stay there for some time next year, to show my work."
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events