Creating a clothing line was an inevitable, natural continuation and evolution of my work. I’ve toyed with the idea for years but it never seemed like the right time. I studied fashion design at high school in my hometown Bratislava and even as a practicing artist I always looked for part-time jobs in fashion retail, just because I loved playing with clothes so much. I have always worked with the concept of identity, self-expression and self-creation in a visual way. I see fashion and clothing as means of communication and I have used my research of the traditional Slovak folk dress and its symbolism in my recent photographic/ collage artworks. Not to mention the pure joy I feel when composing outfits for myself when everything else in the world seems too much to deal with. So, following a few difficult events, I moved back to my motherland and things somehow fell into place.
Moving back to my hometown after just over 11 years of living abroad, during a pandemic and while dealing with grief and loss made everything difficult and overwhelming. I tried focusing on work but even that became almost impossible. Being back after such a long time, I found it hard (and still do) to find my place here. The first few months in particular, I felt like a tourist, with very little emotional connection to this country and its culture. Which is ironic, considering I’ve used the image of the Slovak folk dress as a visual code in my work for years. So I did what I always do when stuck and just read and researched and made notes and read some more. I desperately wanted to form a bond with this place, so I kept my research of the traditional Slovak folk dress going. In one book, I came across this quote, claiming that there was no such thing as a traditional Slovak dress, because every girl and woman in every village and town wanted to look original and different from their neighbor’s. I found this so funny and inspiring and it made me think, if I was to create my own folk dress, to represent me and my values and my culture (which is a mixture of my Slovak roots and adoration for 19th century Pressburg (or Poszony, Presporok or todays Bratislava) and love of British 80s New Wave aesthetic), what would it look like?
And so the first odd Janko collection was designed in my attic apartment I was renting at the time.
Odd Janko is a bilingual play on Divný Janko, the main character of the radical 19th century poem Divný Janko (1844) by poet Janko Kráľ; And our work is a celebration of the dramatic ballad of the first Slovak goth. We look at the character of Divný Janko as a concept; an embodiment of Romantic individuality, not as a literal person/man, that is why our items, mostly femme in aesthetic, are gender non-specific.
The clothing line itself is a melange of eccentric, classy and strange, and so Odd Janko draws on elements of Slovak decorative folk dress and romantic Austro-Hungarian heritage of Bratislava. The ballad itself — characterized by nature symbolism, contradiction and auto-stylized disquiet — is an expression of the struggle of the individual against insurmountable odds. We combine a dramatic, enchanting aesthetic with modern day values for disenchanted, environmentally conscious consumers.
I knew if I was going to do this, the entire process would have to align with my values. I knew I wanted to produce everything locally and source materials that were planet friendly. It’s been a huge learning curve and such an amazing process to go through. I have met so many amazing people along the way and I’ve only just started what I think it’s going to be a life changing project.
It’s been an emotional reconnection with my heritage and definitely a challenging year full of obstacles but here we are… if you want to join me on this adventure, go follow odd Janko on Instagram: odd Janko (@odd_janko) • Fotky a videá na Instagrame
Models: Milena and Hugo from Mix Models Managment agency
Makeup & Hair: Olivia Norovska
Art Directior: Mima Chovancova
Photographer: Richard Kucera Guzman from Richie studio
Photo Editor: Mima Chovancova