Nelly Zagury
Dec 1, 2017 · 8 min read
Amina by Holy Faya / Starring Kokie Childers / Photographer Tian Liu / Beauty Christine Herbeck

Hey friends,

I feel the need to share my experience as I’m moving forward to new adventures.

Putting words on my feelings, sharing what I’ve learned, and closing a chapter of my life. This is also a chance for me to thank all of you for supporting Celia and I during these past two years…on fire ;)

Two years ago, I started Holy Faya with a dream

Celia and I shared one dream: creating fantasies with soul (holy) and boldness (faya) for all. We didn’t wanted to narrow down our spectrum of creativity — jewelry, videos, costumes… Let’s be opportunistic, we wanted to do it all.
Together we were stronger. We were two creative minds with no clue of how to deal with a brand or business in general. Somehow we were a bit realistic too, we gave ourselves one year to prove we could create great things for inspiring people.

Me & Célia Elmasu / Picture by Gabrielle Houeix

Step 1: That’s a jewelry collection

Surrounded by two prowling cats, first in a Brooklyn kitchen and then in a real studio in Sunset Park, we created a visual universe where the Virgin Mary held her fiery heart amongst tropical flowers…

3D printing gave us our independence, we didn’t need anyone else in the creative process. I’d draw, Celia would design it in 3D, we’d print and let the magic happen. We mixed bioplastic with gold, mother-of-pearl, leather, crystals. Holy Faya was born. The pieces were light, bright as crystal and as colorful as candy. We mixed know-how with various cultures, until we figured out models and eventually a collection.

Working closely with the singer Nirina Lune, from prototyping the collection to making our very first music video & photoshoot together, we gave a rough & beautiful reality to our fantasy.

Aloha, Aka & Ahi Pua Necklaces from Holy Faya collection

Step 2: OMG… FKA Twigs loves it!

We dreamed big and let our inspirations encircle us. We designed the first pieces by imagining an urban princess, of mixed race and wildly passionate. A young woman dreaming of Hawaii from Brooklyn, a bit as Doisnier Rousseau painted the jungle from Paris. The singer FKA Twigs was an inspiration. We printed out photos of her and would draw directly on her image. We created a special model just for her. And then a spur of the moment decision led us to meet her at a concert that she gave in Brooklyn.

We got to meet her at the end of the show. She was sweet, quiet, and seemed charmed by our work. She wore the pieces with a smile.

It was crazy, she was part of our workshop as a Muse, and there she was wearing our jewelry! She went on stage numerous times with Holy Faya necklaces and earrings. We were incredibly happy, I’ll never forget that moment. When you dream of something and it finally happens, it’s amazing.

FKA Twigs wearing Holy Faya / Picture by Guang Xu

Step 3: The NY Times covers Holy Faya ;)

I met Killason at a dance battle when I was passing through Paris. He’s a super talented artist — he writes, composes, sings, acts with an energy that is just crazy. His musical universe and way of being in front of a camera perfectly fit a character that Celia and I had bouncing around our heads…kind of a sorcerer pimp, an evil, crazy alchemist, a prince tortured by love: The Black Crook.

Marcus was up for a collaboration. He came up with the music for The Black Crook. We worked on the costumes and decor. It was a real collaboration, brains melting together, and we were really excited. Then we had 3 days of shooting in our workshop, together with Batz the dancer and the magician Alexandre Degardin on lights and cinematography.

The images were superb, we worked hard to have the video, an expo and premiere at TheChimney NYC gallery. Teaming with DE 1989, we had a list of journalists, telling them about how the clip came together. The media was talking about our work and we were interviewed by The NY Times & theFader. Anything is possible.

The vidéo:

Step 4: Shit, promoting is hustling

Creating the clip with Killason helped us to be a bit more known, and some people ordered pieces online from our site. We worked hard, as manufacturing them was delicate and expensive. 3D printers are very sensitive, and we spent our time printing, polishing and assembling the pieces.

The rest of the time, we went out to talk to the boutiques, but man! All those meetings, trying to convince retailers… I really had the sense I was wasting my time. I realized I really didn’t like it. What I like is imagining, creating, telling stories, making music videos.

More than selling piece by piece, Celia and I figured that we should try to find a big brand that we could collaborate with: imagine, prototype, storytell, and they take care of the rest. I was invited to LVMH to present Holy Faya, and the idea of teaming up with a big brand seemed obvious.

Me presenting Holy Faya at LVMH Lab, Vivatech 2016

Step 5: Let’s collaborate with a brand

We got inspired by the Beats by Dre brand. Both mainstream and closely linked to the music world, we wanted to offer them a new earphone design — an object that was both feminine and prized, that gave the impression of listening to…jewelry ;)

We carefully studied the Beats identity, we sketched, assembled, 3D printed, until we had the pair of earphones that we had dreamed of wearing. I saw a bolt of lightning in the subway, a love story where Beats, as Cupid, murmured in the ears of two strangers sharing a ride.

I met Lola Carter through mutual friends. Lola’s an acrobat and hoop dancer at House of Yes and the Box. I saw a few of her shows and fell in love. She’s absolutely brilliant. She has the charisma and class typical of eastern women in old Hollywood movies.

Lenny Grossman was there for the shoot, bringing together a young and motivated team to give life to the project. The result is striking. Our community believed that we really had a collaboration with Beats! We sent the video along to Beats. And they responded — with a letter from their lawyers asking for the film to be taken down. We must not have gotten it into the hands of the right people… We were disappointed but decided to change the project and keep on showing it. We changed the name and modified the logo. Anyway, time to move on!

The vidéo:

3rd Eyes by Holy Faya, starring Lola Carter & Femi Olagoke / Picture Thibault Le Masson

Step 6: Love & activism

Celia and I kept on struggling to convince brands to work with us, but we were together. Life in NYC as a young creative entrepreneur isn’t easy, but it’s full of surprises and incredible meetings. We felt like we were living in a Broad City episode.

Pretty naturally, we were attracted to causes that really resonated with us. We wanted to celebrate diversity, especially as Trump was pulling in more and more support and innocent people were being killed for the simple fact that they were black.

Contemporary artist Rashaad Newsome, leader of the voguing community (a dance movement historically created by black and Latino LGBT dancers), ordered some custom pieces from us. We got involved in various projects, eventually finding ourselves making art for the Bernie Sanders campaign. We collaborated with #BlackLivesMatter, taking a lot of joy in working with them for free and producing a jewelry series that was distributed at the Afropunk Brooklyn festival.

Then our last project, “Wata Protector”, promoted the movement against the construction of oil pipelines on sacred native land #NODAPL. We worked on the collaboration with choreographer Kaner Flex, and I’m super proud of it.

The vidéo:

Wata Protector, Holy Faya X Kaner Flex

Step 7: Babe, we’re broke!

Ok, so, we almost only did things we loved, but there still wasn’t enough money. Let’s face it, it’s been more than one year now, either we keep on wishing brands will come and ask for a contract, either we go and harass them until they want to work with us….Neither of us wanted to harass anyone.

And Celia had a surprise coming… the most beautiful, most amazing creation you could imagine… She was pregnant!
Our wild and crazy lifestyle was about to end… Celia would need to settle out a secure environment for this new human being.
Alright. It was time to make a decision, save our friendship and say goodbye.

A taste of our Brooklyn Good Bye Party featuring Tropical Jawn:

Célia Elmasu, picture by Marzia Gamba

Step 8: Rebirth, like the phoenix

Being your own boss, doing everything yourself and determining your own goals, it’s the work of an artist just like it’s the work of an entrepreneur. But I think it’s even more the creative freedom and pirate spirit (and less my ability to create a business) that I share with entrepreneurs… ;)

I left for 3 weeks in Colombia, I threw myself into the Medellin salsa culture, met artists at Mompox and rediscovered a bit of serenity in the jungle of the ciudad perdida. Traveling pushes you to travel more. And my love for kitsch and entertainment pushed me towards the West Coast. I had a few friends in Los Angeles, I went there and…free, no attachments, I let my pirate side be seduced by the city’s charms. I think there’s a lot of treasure out here.

In the Sierra Nevada jungle:

At the Ciudad Perdida, Sierra Nevada, Colombia

Step 9: L.A. vie est belle

Inventing stories, designing storyboards, designing, creating costumes, accessories, jewelry… Creating, now and forever, things that bring cultures together and speak to so many, questioning and opening doors, stimulating dreams and fantasies… That’s what I want to do, here and now.

I’m here to jump on thrilling projects.

Hit me up.

Nelly Zagury

Nelly Zagury

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I’m an Artist from Paris, France. Currently living in Los Angeles.