French-born artists Celia Elmasu and Nelly Zagury founded their design brand Holy Faya with the goal of merging elements and cultures through 3D printing. Their work includes costumes, decor, jewelry, and art direction for short film. The two best friends met in Paris where they studied art before moving to the U.S. to pursue their individual creative careers.
Over the phone last month, Elmasu explained to The FADER that their company's name means “holy fire.”
“Faya” is a Jamaican word," she said. "We are fascinated with exoticism and we love the idea of diversity. It was a way to create a real mix of worlds. 'Holy' belongs more to the western mythology that refers to religion and the “Faya” represents passion and something that’s never ending. We chose the idea of fire because for us of all of the elements it’s very psychedelic in a way that you want to look at it but it’s dangerous and you can’t get too close. It’s a new religion and a love for people.”
Their latest project, called "The Black Crook", is a whimsical rap video infused with flamboyant colors and gems, and features a music from KillASon. Holy Faya spoke to The FADER about the inspiration behind their most recent visual, how Missy Elliott inspires their vision, and their desire to make people believe in magic again.
What’s the inspiration behind the name “The Black Crook?”
Elmasu: “The Black Crook” is the first musical ever which was in New York City in 1866. So we took over the name because it was a mix between theatre and a dance company. So we took over the scenario and we got inspired by it. We modernized it and now the whole story happens in Brooklyn through our eyes and a very diverse, multicultural, and colorful scene. You can imagine the whole scenario in the context of the United States in the 19th century it was of course a bit racist. We really enjoy putting our own values which are the exact opposite of it on it. We take different characters and draw a new narrative and only keep the most important which is for us the characters. It’s a mix of all of the stereotypes and tales that we grew up with. There’s a sorcerer, there’s a princess and there’s an impossible love story. They’re inspiring and that’s what’s inspiring for us. The idea we had was to do a hip-hop musical and create crazy characters and props dealing with the whole story.
Why hip-hop? What about the genre makes it the perfect platform to use to merge these different elements of art?
Elmasu: We are both French girls and we both grew up with hip-hop culture. It just makes sense because that’s what we love. We love the culture and when we say, “hip-hop” we’re talking about everything. We’re showing musical reference but the future of hip-hop is the future of diversity for us. It represents a very multicultural background and a lot of values that we love and that we want to showcase. The influences are very different and we listen to a lot of music but everything works together when we talk about hip-hop because of the diversity but also because of the revolutionary effect of the hip-hop culture.
I read on your website that both of you like Missy Elliot. What elements of her creative style are you all inspired by?
Elmasu: We really get inspired by Missy Elliott and also FKA Twigs because she wears our 3D jewelry on stage. She’s also a big influence. Also, Tyler, The Creator. We’re also crazy about Busta Rhymes, Stromae. Our love for hip-hop is because we feel there is a lot to do in this field because it has been driven by cliches so many times. That’s why we admire the work of Missy Elliot because she puts so much fantasy in her work.
Zagury: There’s a lot of fairy tales that come in, mythology, representation, a lot of past mixed with the present. We love the idea that you can create from mixing past and future and she does it very well.
How’d you decide to use 3D printing as your medium to create your pieces?
Elmasu: we have different backgrounds. She’s sketched ideas on a piece of paper and the very first drawing we came up with for the princess character, I used the printing. I’ve used the printing before because it’s been around for 20 years, it’s been very normal for me to use. We found a space close by my apartment in Brooklyn that has a couple machines in a tech share setting and we borrowed three printers to use and fell in love with it right away. This type of printing is a little different because it uses bioplastic and a very wide range of colors.
Zagury: The cool thing with 3D printing is the color but it’s also magic to see the 3D printer working from scratch.
Elmasu: When you talk about being born again, you see the product being created in front of your eyes, layer by layer and it’s magical. It’s also a tool and a reminder for us to be super free. It’s all about mixing.
A lot of your skull pieces have a lot of pearls and intricate stones. What do you want the aesthetic of that to inspire?
Zagury: We want to speak for the youth and we want people to believe in magic again. So every design that we create we want people to be like, “Oh my God, I have no idea how it’s made but this object is telling me a story.” It’s not only about wearing something cool but it’s a statement but I’m going to travel with this piece. It’s kind of like a genie lamp that opens up a totally new universe.
What was the magic that you recognized in each other when you made the decision to come together for this project?
Elmasu: I’m a little bit in love with this woman. She makes me dream and brings magic to my everyday life. She brings meaning to what I design. She gives me a lot of good energy and she’s also fearless and limitless. She has this big vision that I just want to follow everywhere.
Zagury: We are best friends. Since I met her, she always has this very super positive vibe that allowed me to dream. Yes, of course I’m the dreamer and I’m a bit crazy sometimes but she’s the one that makes it happen. She’s more down to earth in someway but she is so incredibly positive and has such a crazy energy that anything can happen. She allows me to dream big.