You’ve probably seen Sasha Frolova—the model, actress and artist has posed alongside Karlie Kloss and in campaigns for brands like Mansur Gavriel, between movie roles and a part in Netflix’s hit sci-fi series, The OA. But constantly seeing yourself through everyone else’s lens can be exhausting. That’s why Frolova turned the camera on herself, wearing clothes from friend and frequent collaborator Savannah Davis’ latest collection for LA cool girl brand, Cleola. The series explores identity in an industry marked by facade, with Frolova stripping away the illusion of fashion photography to showcase herself and her process. The images are both cathartic and nostalgic, with a rawness that’s unapologetically radical in an age of selfies and Instagram filters. Much like Davis’ designs, the photos capture the undefinable innocence of somebody just starting to figure out who they are. But Frolova doesn’t hold the same uncertainty—she knows exactly who she is, in other people’s photos, and her own.
View the exclusive images, above, and read more about the artist and Cleola, below.
Sasha: What goes into conceiving a Cleola collection?
Savannah: When I’m designing a collection it really starts as a story—‘Who are these girls? What kind of person am I making clothes for?’
Sasha: That’s kind of how I get dressed—like, ‘Who am I today? What do I want to present to the world?’ That’s why getting dressed for auditions is fun. Dressing the character is figuring out who they are.
Savannah: That’s what I’m trying to make clothes for—characters.
Sasha: I remember when you were first designing the collection, you called it ‘Princess Cowboy.’ Maybe I resonated with it because of my cowboy sheets and pink satin pajamas—it’s so specific, but the type of girl that belongs in it is so varied.
Savannah: She could be anyone. The whole point of my clothes is that the wearer is given the pieces to be able to create whoever they want to be—it’s open to multiple interpretations of an identity.
Sasha: People should be able to express themselves and learn something about themselves through an outfit. That sounds stupid but why should it? Why do fashion and beauty have to immediately imply vanity? I want to fucking feel pretty because it makes me feel good, and I should be allowed to feel good without being made to feel guilty for it. Even today, when I was modeling, it felt like a refreshing escape because I could step into the fantasy of something that is inherently meant to look good.
Savannah: That’s why I make clothes—to actualize the fantasy world I wish girls could be in all the time, this fun place where everyone wears cute clothes.
Sasha: Does that affect your design process?
Savannah: When I start designing stuff, I immediately imagine it on the person that’s going to wear it. I imagine what the photoshoot is going to look like. That’s what matters to me—creating the entire narrative. I want a story, and when you look at the photos, I want you to feel like you’re part of it.
Sasha: That’s sort of what we did with this photo series. The concept was a commentary on the dependency of illusion to create fashion. Because the trampoline, the shutter release cable and film borders are fully revealed, so is the process—it’s honest and transparent. And being a model/actress, the shutter release cable has been a really empowering way for me to indisputably claim an image as my own.
Savannah: Do you find there’s a difference between acting and modeling?
Sasha: With acting, I don’t questions someone’s interest in me, because it doesn’t feel like me as much as my ability to empathize and take on another life. But counter-intuitively, sometimes the more modeling jobs I get, the more my self-perception is shaken. Stepping on set and being crafted by hair, makeup, and stylists for their concept, can make you feel beautiful. But when you walk away, you’re left with what it means to be yourself again. Like coming down from a high, that can be really rattling if you’re not in the right place—that’s what I was trying to counter with this shoot.
Sasha: I’ve heard you say you like people pulling Cleola for different projects because you like seeing how people interpret the pieces. I wonder if it’s because, in some ways, it’s like people interpreting the girl—or what you were feeling when you designed the piece.
Savannah: It also tells me a lot about what the other person thinks when they see that girl, in my designs.
Sasha: It’s almost a way to see your creation, through someone else’s eyes. I think a lot about the construction of identity, and how we’ve been taught to understand it as the way you see others, the way you see yourself, and the way others see you. But ultimately, I think it’s largely about the way we perceive others to be seeing us. At the end of the day, people are going to judge the book by the cover because it does actually dictate what’s inside. What you wear shows your choices, and what you are consciously or subconsciously communicating about your insides.