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Paid Actor: "Costume as expression of the human psyche…"

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We've been following the work of artist Dessislava Terzieva and Paid Actor for a while now and was initially drawn to the performative aspect of fashion-in-character.  O+W spoke with Dessislava about Paid Actor, repurposing artistically and future projects. 

Tell us about Paid Actor. 

Paid Actor is a conceptually led clothing line which employs a multitude of media to create one-of-a-kind garments. It is a wearable extension of my fine art practice; most of which is rooted in collage and found object sculpture. 
I am essentially taking preexisting elements and reconfiguring them to create something new, unique and ready to wear. As a response to fast fashion and the environmental damage of the current state of the industry - I use dead-stock fabrics, found materials and vintage garments. I enjoy working within these limitations and approach it as a fun creative challenge “What can this become?”… I strive to bring things back to life by making the overlooked desirable again.


Tell me about some of the conceptual ideas surrounding Paid Actor. 

Costume as expression of the human psyche…

“We are all actors, audience, observers and co-participants. Perhaps the idea of 'staged authenticity' or social life as theater, is less about seeing social interactions as an endless parade of interchangeable masks, and rather about making use of various personae, all equally valid. This is what sociologist Erving Goffman argued; social life has a front and a back stage, and on both we perform. On stage, feeling self-conscious, we are aware of the machinations we employ. Back stage, we pretend not to be. But inevitably, we never stop performing. In other words, self-presentation, whether in person or online, is always a negotiation or dialogue between self-identity and the social realm. We consume, shop, and get dressed in order to construct or enact an identity. Maybe, instead of the sharp line between 'fake' and 'real,' the multiple identities we perform every day are more akin to an endless dress rehearsal where no role, or persona, is more authentic than the next. We are lovers, friends, bosses, peers, professionals, parents and children and every role demands slight adjustment to its costume. For most of us, these roles are all real, and all performed.” -Anja Aronowsky Cronberg 


Was the idea for Paid Actor conceived in Detroit? 


Paid Actor is the third and current installment of wearables I have been creating since 2012. I started off as ‘Lawless’, which was a line of remixed business apparel I conceived while working abroad in India through an international human rights program I was part of during my law school days. I felt too creative for the environment I was in, and needed to express it outwardly through wardrobe (which included tie dyed power suits and button up blouses!)

It then turned into ‘Ruled by Venus’, in which I first began experimenting with printing my 2d artwork onto wearable garments. I wanted my work to exist beyond the internet, as well as outside of the white wall gallery space, or the homes of my collectors. I was interested in seeing it embodied, and living freely in the world through somebody other than myself.
Paid Actor is a refined fusion of these two previous projects.

Are there Specific Influences or Ideas that brought it to life?

Paid Actor was conceived in Detroit. The name itself was inspired by a legal services billboard which had the small fine print at the bottom “*Paid actor. Not a testimonial.”

It amused me that, rather than having a real person who has benefited from their service speak and advertise for them, they had to hire an actor to do that very job. It began as a humorous jab, yet becomes more and more relevant and real with time.

We are constantly being sold lies through mass marketing. It is merely inescapable. We find ourselves relentlessly encouraged, if not pushed, to purchase things we do not need, and will soon dispose of in favor of something newer and more exciting, yet just as unnecessary. It is a cycle which exploits the consumer and seldom leads to true fulfillment.

I aspire to create clothing which speaks to the wearers’ individuality – something which stands out and that they feel powerful wearing. The following of trends and short lived fads is a dead end road. Longevity lies in the cultivation of your own personal style. You do not need a lot of money to look like ‘a million bucks’ – you need better decisions coming from a firm understanding of yourself and what works for you.

Furthermore, in a world of mass produced goods, it is increasingly important to know who made your clothing. It is as rare as it is special to know its story, firsthand, and therefore have the ability to share it with anyone who inquires – and they will, as good fashion is a wonderful conversation starter and icebreaker.


Where is the showroom? Does it revolve? 

The showroom is located inside of Electric Studios in Tech Town (51 Harper Avenue). It is currently open by announcement or appointment. The next public showing will take place mid-May. *(See below for show information)


Any new projects in the works?

Yes! I am collaborating with friend and artist Tony Katai on a 7 segment short film. We will be debuting the second ‘episode’ on May 17th at Electric Studios alongside a new *Paid Actor collection, as well as new 2d and 3d works by me.

Additionally, I collaborating with friend and artist James Oscar Lee on a line of mixed media leather accessories. We will be debuting our collection in June.

Onwards, I will be taking my practice to Europe mid-summer, where I will create a new collection using materials and garments found throughout my travels.

 Photography by Jade Lauren. 

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