You are a musician and designer. What is prevalent in your life? Would you put first: music or making haute couture clothes?
Music is my inspiration for everything — writing, designing, and my whole life is based on music. The scientific name is synesthesia; music has colors, textures, and volume, just like fashion. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to choose — it’s all an art.
Your single UR Moving Me became number 21 on the Billboard Dance Chart. Have you expected this?
I was thrilled to see that my song reached number twenty-one. You never know how people will react, if they will like or dislike your music, so I was very happy to see the song got so far.
When did music enter your life?
? Music was always in my life; my mother would sing her melodies around the house, and I would listen to all kinds of genres of music, writing down the lyrics to popular songs so I could sing them around the house. Music can bring us down memory lane, music can put us in a good mood, or music can put us in a melancholic mood; MUSIC IS ALMIGHTY.
At the Evening of Fashion & Music at Carnegie Hall, you combined your talents as a singer and designer in a unique way, performing the entire album with a live string orchestra during a runway show. Was it an exciting event for you? Were you happy with it?
? That show was something that I had always had in mind for many years beforehand, but it had felt like a fantasy. After the show it felt amazing, but beforehand there was so much work that went into producing and performing the show that I didn’t have time to be nervous (or excited!). I was doing about fifteen different jobs at minimum; although I had a great team, I was still handling many different aspects myself.
You have to be willing to get your hands dirty and work on the nitty-gritty as a creator. There were many things I was happy with, but there were also many things I wish had gone differently. Dealing with those feelings is something that you have to be able to do as a performer. There are so many things I would do differently if I was putting on the show now, but I am still very glad I did it; it was a wonderful learning experience, and I gained so much knowledge and so many skills from working on it.
Initially, you designed clothes for yourself, for your own performances. Did you think this would eventually turn into a brand?
I don’t limit myself ever to wondering if something will or will not become something larger; I always set big goals for myself, and see things as the bigger picture. Of course when I started designing couture dresses for myself for my performances, I did not immediately have a brand in mind. By the time I created my first collection however, I was beginning to think of those larger picture ideas.
You changed your brand name to Eltara Casata. What is the meaning behind it?
Originally my brand was called simply Radmila Lolly Couture, as I already had name recognition and a following. I always had in mind to have a separate brand name, and finally decided to implement it because I was having so much name recognition for my music brand, so I decided to split the two. I wanted my fans to be able to find my content for each aspect of my brand more easily.
As for the meaning of Eltara Casata, “EL” stands for Elizaveta, my grandmother – she was a dressmaker and a seamstress. “TA” stands for Tatiana, my mother, who is a dressmaker and visual artist. “RA” stands for me, Radmila! Fashion is something that has always been in me since birth, thanks to those women, so it was wonderful to be able to incorporate that into my brand name. The other part of the name actually came from a dream – I woke up one morning with the phrase “Eltara Casata” in my head, so I looked it up and “casata” actually means house in Italian. That is how Eltara Casata by Radmila Lolly was born.
Whose opinion do you value the most? Who is the first to see your new collection of clothes or hear your new track?
Well, I only treasure the opinions of people who have my best interests at heart, and who support me at all times. This is because I know that they always want the best for me, and their feedback matters to me. It really depends who I show my designs or compositions to first; often, it’s my mother, Tatiana, my partner, John, or one of my team members.
Who do you look up to in the fashion world?
I love 90s glamour fashion, so I really love Gianni Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, and so many others. I admire Stella McCartney for using all vegan products, because I myself am vegetarian. I am disappointed that so many designers still use leather, and think that there are so many exciting options out there for plant-based leathers.
Music and haute couture are two expressive arts. In your experience, how do they complement each other?
I think that on a daily basis, we all live in a world filled with sound and color. I think that music and fashion are just enhanced versions of that. They’re both methods of communication; you can communicate through music, the same way you can express yourself through fashion. You can say the same sentence, but put the emphasis in different places and have it sound different; in the same way, you can express yourself through different art forms and have it mean the same thing.
Would you say that your music and your fashion style are similar? In what way?
When I create music, and when I create fashion, it’s a very similar approach; I don’t conciously think, I just feel. I just let go, and creating art is a meditative state for me. I’m in my own space, my own world, and it feels good to actually get a chance to be creative. A lot of my work is the business side of things, so when I get to just create it’s a way to deal with my anxieties from other parts of life, and keeps me connected to my internal peace.
Who orders your clothes for a special occasion? Who has already attended awards ceremonies or red carpets in your creations?
In the past, one of my goals was to do costume designs for films. Now, I am finally getting into the cinematic world, where I get to create costumes based on the characters and story. Same thing with my music, I have started creating film scores and recordings. I have had a lot of celebrites that have worn my pieces for red carpet events, editorials, and ceremonies. To name a few, the model Maria Borges, Jaslene Gonzalez from America’s Next Top Model, Carla Morrison at the Latin Grammy Awards, Natti Natasha for her single cover for Antes Que Salga El Sol with Prince Royce, as well as dressing her for her performance at the Premio lo Nuestro. My collections have been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, L’Officiel, and Elle, to name a few.
How would you describe a person who would feel at ease in your clothes?
I think my designs have elements of elegance, complementing each individual’s body shape, as well as fun! I am an artist that likes to play with actual designs and shapes more than I like to play with different fabrics; I want the engineering of the dresses to be unique, not just the fabric and color.
What should a person’s style reflect in the first place?
I think you have to feel comfortable in your own style; we all need to feel comfortable, but if you want to try something outside of your comfort zone you should go for it! Fashion is supposed to be fun. You can try to expand slowly, trying a new color or style one step at a time.
What are you like in everyday life? What style of clothes do you prefer?
It depends what I am doing; I am always comfortable in a gown, I’ll wear it into the pharmacy if I have to! I can also wear workout clothes and sneakers when I need to. Lately I have been playing around a lot with mixing styles; in the past I always had a very classic style, but now I’m experimenting with mixing in younger styles with it. I want to have fun with my style, while still remaining authentic to myself.
Your songs became the soundtrack to the film Honor Up by Damon Dash. How do you work with filmmakers as a fashion designer? Do you design clothes for movie characters?
With “Honor Up” my music from my last album was selected to be used in the film, it was not composed specifically for that film. Damon Dash liked the music, and thought it would complement his film. I have no problem communicating with cinematographers when I am composing or designing specifically for a film, I am very comfortable with the film world because I direct and produce all of my own music videos.
In your Instagram account, you launched a new project: you design haute couture dresses inspired by music submitted by your followers. How involved is your audience? And how would you describe the results of this project?
I did that project when Covid first started, and everyone was at home. I always knew my audience, but it was really nice to get to connect with a lot more of them, and demonstrate how my art forms are connected. I really enjoyed doing it, and people really enjoyed seeing it. It sparked a lot of conversations, and it made people feel like they could reach out and connect with me.
You are writing a novel. What is it about? Is there anything from the world of music and fashion?
My novel «DIVA» is based on the dark tales of two protagonists, following their lives from the 1930s to the 1970s. It includes a novel, an audiobook album, short film, and couture line. I started the project in November 2014, when I wrote the novel’s first chapter. After developing the novel’s characters, I realized that I wanted to create an album to go along with it, but at the time, I did not compose my own music; I had always assumed someone else would be composing it.
Since then, my musical journey has led me to compose my own tracks, and now I can tell the story of her novel in yet another artistic medium. The album’s production began in 2018 when I started working on the self-composed 32-movement programmatic album and couture line that compliments the novel’s storyline. I shot the novel’s promotional trailer last summer. I also directed and produced the short film «DIVA»; some of the music and poetry was dedicated to my late uncle Victor. I partly grew up with my uncle (her mother’s brother), who was very close and dear to me.
Unfortunately, he had developed PTSD from war, which turned him into an alcoholic, eventually taking his life. His passing was very hard for me. He was a musician and played guitar. After he died, I felt a strong connection to him and feel almost as if his musical talent was transferred to me. I know he couldn’t be the strongest uncle on earth, but HE IS my strongest angel, that always watches over me.
I think my designs have elements of elegance, complementing each individual’s body shape, as well as fun!
How do you find time for all your endeavors? What drives you?
You have to be very disciplined, and know how to dedicate time to what is really needed. Sometimes you have to eliminate as many distractions as possible; I’m in the middle of doing that myself. I’m trying to focus my energy only on what is really important, and building my team to handle the work that comes with the business side of things. You have to remind yourself every day that you are further than you were the day before, and pace yourself. It can be overwhelming at times, but regular hard work pays off.
All creative people need rest and emotional reboot. What do you do to replenish your resources?
I’m honestly not good at relaxing, I feel guilty when I take even 30 minutes off. I don’t really take vacations or extended rests; I try to take day trips if my friends ask me to, but I find myself still working in the car on the way there. I do feel like it slows me down. I know I have to get better at that though, if you don’t rest enough it can make everything harder.
How goal-oriented are you? Do you like to test yourself for strength and set ambitious goals?
Yes, I am very ambitious, and I do have larger goals than most people in my position would have. When I started to drive, I had a Hummer H2. Everyone told me it was too big for a first-time driver, but my perspective was that if I could drive that, I could drive anything. I believe in pushing yourself to do hard things; you learn so much, and when you prove to yourself you can do the difficult thing, it really builds your inner confidence.
Can you share your creative plans for the near future?
At the moment I’m finishing the DIVA project, I’m also finishing the pilot script for my show “Life is a Bridge” that I will be shooting this fall. The next thing I will be releasing is the Miami Beach house remix of my song “Magic” with DJ Mike Tee, it will be out in September.
Talent is a gift that takes hard to work to develop. What advice would you give to people who have a gift, but for various reasons do not dare to prove themselves?
I think that talent is very important, but what is even more important is consistency and working on improving your skill. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work on your skill consistently, you won’t get anywhere. I recommend that you create a routine, create a timeline, create goals, and don’t be afraid to network. Create charts for all aspects of your business, and be willing to learn from those around you; your competitors could become your colleagues. However, make sure you stay true to yourself throughout that process; don’t lose sight of the reason that you’re doing all of those things (and stay humble while you’re doing it!).