Tatra Pro Interview Series: Eva Staronova

Tatra Pro Interview Series: Eva Staronova

Welcome to our first interview in a series we are calling “Tatra Professionals.” This series aims to highlight artists, authors, engineers, and other creative professionals from Slovakia. Our hope is through this series we can highlight passionate Slovak creators and their impact on the world. We are honored that our first guest is Eva Staronova, who the president of the renowned +421 Foundation, which we’ll let Eva introduce. If you find this interview enjoyable, please help share it on social media, tag us @tatratales and use the hashtag #tatrapro


Tatra Tales: What inspired you to start the +421 Foundation, and what are its main goals?

Eva Staronova: I’d say my inspiration stems from my motto: "Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more." I have been inspired to give back to the communities that have supported and shaped me throughout my life. My initial vision for the organization's mission centered on a combination of philanthropy and culture. I aspired to connect cultures through enhancing relationships between the American and Slovak people. The goal was to showcase the cultural richness of Slovakia through the works of Slovak artists and share them within the art, design, and cultural communities in the U.S.

The continued goal is to create opportunities for mutually beneficial interactions among Slovak and American interests in the cultural sphere and beyond. Our mission is threefold: art & culture (events), philanthropy (charitable campaigns), and education (Slovak Studies Program).

T: Beautiful motto and what a great outlook and it seems perfectly aligned with what you do showcasing Slovak culture. You recently held an event at the Slovak Ball in NYC, can you share the impact and reception of the Slovak fashion?


Eva at the Slovak Ball

Eva at the Slovak Ball

E: The Slovak Fashion Night is one of our signature events, and we normally host it at the New York Fashion Week. This year, we decided to feature it during the annual Slovak Ball in cooperation with our partners at the Slovak-American Cultural Center. We were thrilled to bring the Slovak design team from Atelier71 to New York and New Jersey, where we introduced their waste-to-fashion collection, as well as a traveling photo exhibit titled ‘One City - Many Worlds’.

Our audience of over 500 people received the emerging talent of the Slovak fashion scene very positively, and almost the entire collection was sold off the runway. The meet-the-artist presentation, held a day prior to the show in Manhattan, had a great turnout. I’m constantly reminded that our Slovak-American community welcomes opportunities to learn about new faces in the Slovak arts and fashion scene.

It was a touching moment when the head designer, Monika Lacekova, hugged me backstage after the show and started crying, saying that we spread joy and make dreams come true.

Monika getting ready backstage

Monika getting ready backstage

T: What a special moment for the both of you. I definitely got the sense it was quite a reunion and celebration that night. The event itself was an impressive collaboration with so many different designers, artists, models, photographers and organizers involved. How does your team select and support Slovak designers and models for international events?

E: We select designers with a team of fashion experts and art directors who are on our advisory board. Additionally, Atelier 71 takes a leading role in the selection process. It is our partner organization and is crucial in the process, as it nurtures the young generation of artists and scouts new talent.

Our models are usually Miss Slovakia finalists and professional fashion models. I used to be one, so I have my connections. For this particular event - the Slovak Fashion Night at the Slovak Ball - we also used some of our members who donated their time and supported our event in this way. The proceeds from the ball were to benefit the Slovak-American Cultural Center scholarship fund.

T: I did get a sense of just how strongly connected this Slovak-American community is. Thinking more globally, how do you think events like the Slovak fashion show contribute to the global perception of Slovak culture?

Auction items at the Slovak Ball

The auction table at the Slovak Ball which featured many +421 Foundation collaborations

E: I believe that events like the Slovak Fashion Night (SFN) help project Slovakia's image as a modern, creative, and artistic country. SFN, with its 17-year-long tradition, and it’s my baby :).

T: Congratulations on the 17 years! What a wonderful tradition and event in showcasing Slovak culture. In that context, what role do you think fashion plays in cultural diplomacy, particularly for Slovakia?

E: As one of my former colleagues from the Consular office used to say, 'Fashion is sexy'. I think it is an ingenious, yet not often used, tool for conducting cultural diplomacy.

T: I can’t disagree! It really shows how diverse tools can be used in diplomacy. Keeping on the Slovak fashion scene, what unique perspectives or strengths do you believe Slovak designers bring?

E: I'm really enthused about seeing more and more Slovak designers focusing on sustainability and eco-chic fashion. Even our SFN event featured collections made from fashion waste turned into new, fancy fabrics. This innovation is named "Ty si IQ" (You Are IQ).

T: I’ve noticed the prevalence of the sustainability focus among different Slovak artist, even my language teacher dedicated an entire week to the vocabulary. OK, so if you could host a fashion show at any historic Slovak location, where would it be?

E: I would love to host it in Smolenice Castle. It’s a very meaningful mediaeval castle - I used to spend much time there as a child with my parents, and Nikita Khrushchev spent a night there after his famous “I will bury you” speech.

            Editor’s note:

  • Smolenice Castle: Smolenice Castle is a Gothic-style castle located in western Slovakia. It's known for its picturesque setting and historical significance, often used for cultural events and conferences.
  • Khrushchev's "I will bury you" Speech: Nikita Khrushchev, a Soviet leader, famously said, "We will bury you!" during a Cold War speech in 1956, reflecting the intense rivalry between the USSR and the West.
  • You can learn more about both of these topics from an article on the Slovak Spectator.

T: Well, when that happens let us know, we’d love to see it! Lastly, looking to the future, what projects are you excited about, and how do you envision the growth of the +421 Foundation?

E: I’m excited about our musical division/program led by the wonderful Julia Radosz, an opera diva - spinto soprano. We'll be scouting talent and awarding scholarships to underprivileged young adults who are devoted to and admire classical music. We're also planning a charity opera concert in late March, featuring Julia, to support shelters and crisis centers in Slovakia.

Julia performing at the SFN

Julia performing at the Slovak Ball

T:  Thanks for your time, Eva. We are so happy we caught you between projects and we wish you continued success!

Photos by Martina Milova.

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