Daemon Concept is committed to pushing the boundaries of fashion and social norms, dismantling the very notion of the expected. Created by Hungarian designer Sophia Rotas, the artisanal jewelry brand celebrates the unpredictable and the avant-garde. Among many things, Daemon Concept looks to a transhumanist future and dystopian renaissance for inspiration (which seems all the more possible in this day and age). The jewelry pieces, ranging from ear spikes to face adornments, transcend category and take on a limitless, self-empowering feel. References to nature and biology are subtly translated through the metallic designs presenting an organic, yet close-to-perfect balance between fragility and strength. To delve deeper into Sophia’s vision as a designer, we took a moment to discuss the core of her brand, which stands for far more than mere embellishment.
What are the ultimate sources of inspiration for Daemon Concept?
I imagine a wilderness of mirrors with diversified perspectives; Daemon Concept does not exist without the community of artists around it. I don’t think you would have guessed it, but right now, my main inspiration for brand strategy is Truman Capote’s unreasonably romantic and precise Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the book, visiting Tiffany’s is like going to a sanctuary, where you are treated like royalty no matter who you are. That’s my ambition: to create that experience in a symbolic way. Our generation has stopped trusting in institutions and religions, yet, the same desires persist. People worship musicians and beauty bloggers and hold them up to the highest moral standards, all in the service of creating personal mythology; a desire for belonging. Luxury stores are becoming chapels by proxy, where brands are worshipped, with the store clerks moonlit as priests and psychologists … so where can we go from here? There’s a whole aesthetic in itself that stems from these shifts of faith … of this whole misplaced trust and responsibility we have to own up to if we want to make things with integrity. I’m becoming aware of this magical realism and the meaning that it gives to our work because, in our plane of imagination, nothing else matters. What you believe is real – and that gives my work a special blend of childish seriousness I intend to never lose.
Your jewelry brand looks to a transhumanist future – can you expand on this?
This idea came from always feeling like some sort of outcast wherever I went. Have you noticed, that although we had a pretty introspective past year, how well people who never had any normality adapted to it? LGBTQ venues, DIY raves, comics, and science-fiction aren’t just means of escapes, but sources of ideas that should be implemented on a proper scale. I have an element of will, of not yielding easily to the pressures of the world. My ambition is to implement ideas that seem crazy in disciplined and calculated ways. It comes as no surprise that the power and grace of trans people are both such an inspiration and a fear to others in today’s society. Imagine the transformative power of a person who literally had to denounce the human shell she or he was born with. Who had the courage to face everybody’s judgement. For me, the answer is very easy when asked if we should have the choice to customize, change and improve anything regarding our own bodies. It’s an easy answer. So, one of our mission statements is “natural beyond nature”. Why be afraid of change, when there is so much to learn?
It’s important to be aware of realities that question your ideas – and I think we are doing a pretty good job of accepting a whole spectrum of parallel truths. I think what’s made Daemon Concept stand out isn’t the statements we’ve made, in terms of aesthetics that convey transhumanism, because there have been many great costume designers and artists such as Enki Bilal, Giger, Eiko Ishioka, and Thierry Mugler, who have already tackled these questions. It’s not about coming up with a new idea, but rather being able to successfully implement the new idea with ease. Fashion is an execution business. So, hopefully, we are slowly changing fashion and society, while accepting more divergent opinions. What seems outrageous to others is our norm. I won’t take shit from anyone who tries to impose their limitations on me.
What words would you use to describe the brand’s jewelry pieces?
People who wear this work will say it’s both armor and adornment. That’s the biggest success we can ask for. Because strength and fragility aren’t displayed here as a juxtaposition. They are not separate, but rather layers that inform one another. It’s like the twin-blade, a perfect, satisfying flow of shapes.
What do you hope people feel when they wear Daemon Concept?
When I first started, everything was done by instinct – but as we evolved together with the artistic community around us and listened to feedback every day, we became more aware of what we were doing. So, our next step is to sharpen and reinforce some of what we do, like fully expressing the aforementioned qualities of armor and adornment, strength and fragility, and explore the possibility that maybe these qualities aren’t really dichotomies at all. Easier said than done. Some of the most fascinating conversations these days are around gender, especially the task of redefining how to be a feminine, bi, or trans femme in a world that has so many threats. It’s not an overstatement to say that women and queer people are under a continuous threat of violence, including the shifting definitions of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’. When we design, we want to convey that you arrive in that power – and also in beauty. I only allow concepts that are associated with elevating people. I want whoever wears this work to feel dangerous and with the same breath, to be able to let their guard down.
The global pandemic changed our world, rendering it closer to a dystopian world, more than ever before. Your first permanent collection happened to be titled “Dystopian Renaissance”! Does a future dystopia serve as an inspiration for you in terms of limitless design choices and ideas?
When I was a little girl my dad used to work in a lab – I always wanted to be an inventor or a scientist. Or, I was busy looking at my Mum’s beautiful Italian Renaissance art albums and always waited for the day I could paint as well as Leonardo or Botticelli. Leonardo Da Vinci was a scientist, painter, sculptor, and astronomer. I never really felt like compromising and dividing my artistic and scientific interests. Today, I think with so much information available, we have a real chance to have several dimensions in our lives and inhabit multiple specialized areas of living. So, every time I successfully implement an idea, I know that I have a responsibility to make the process transparent. For me, coming up with ideas is always the easiest part. And then, creating financial strategies that are able to support the volume and concepts I come up with to overcome challenges – such as making limited products that are made by highly skilled, well-paid people and keeping everything accessible- is where I really see myself excel. I don’t take design inspiration from the dystopia around us too much, rather I want to believe that there can be a new renaissance in spite of everything! I want to see the time when making art ceases to become a privilege, and people can exercise their human right for the poetry of existence.
You started off as a stylist – did your knowledge of the fashion world help you when you started your brand?
There was no force or purely unique reason that led me here. I used to have the craziest jobs, including a magician’s assistant where they would push blades into the box I was lying in. I would say that having very extensive knowledge of the fashion business is helpful in terms of how to build a brand and how to navigate narcissistic behaviors (very similar to lying in a box and trying to avoid blades). But I think the collection is more informed by contemporary art and speculative biology. We don’t work with mood boards or follow too many designers, because the main ambition is to create something ‘new’. We only study the rules of past masters to break them.
Face adornments are slowly making their way into bigger, mainstream markets. What prompted you to create these?
I think Oscar Wilde said it perfectly, “give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth”. Wouldn’t a painted face that is adorned with silver, as one pleases, be aligned to express the soul of the wearer, and be a more reliable mark for connection, rather than something as random as genetics? The frontiers for body modifications and beauty treatments are continuously being pushed. “Natural beyond nature” also means that what we have chosen is more vernacular and true to us than something random that was genetically given. And then of course there’s the aspect of privacy and the emergence of sophisticated facial recognition systems that will soon present a very real challenge everywhere in the world. In short, I enjoy shape shifting and learning new things. I imagine others do too.
Anything to expect from you in the near future?
We have permanent collections that we are expanding continuously, that aren’t based on seasons but on the circadian rhythms of personal concepts. Things come alive even more when we do music videos, album artwork, and most recently, contemporary dance theatre costumes. Music and label collaborations will take center stage soon enough. We will continue to work to elevate other artists, but of course without being too pious about it. Maybe we’ll create an internship program to help young designers, but with a built-in betrayal element (I want my sisters to be at their worst behavior). But in all seriousness, at this time it’s extremely important to operate with kindness and vigilance. Think of it this way: during the long lockdown, many managed to start a new hustle and the community of artists of all disciplines kept going on, didn’t give up, and has proven just how essential beauty and the immediacy of expression is – even under dire circumstances. But there are also many scars and we need to be able to forgive ourselves and the things that were done in survival mode.
Photography Balint Barna
3D + Virtual Reality Yuma Burges
Environment CGI design Anne-Lise Agossa
Models Justin Mae Biticon, Kelvin Amankwah & Jasmine Asia