Sheena Liam-Zacheravic talks about creating art for an online audience, her relationship with jeans and contributing to Levi’s ‘The Travelling 501’ project
The day was hot and humid. Model and embroidery artist Sheena Liam-Zacharevic made the smart decision to get comfortable in a deli at APW in Bangsar. Seated beside her husband and fellow artist, Ernest Zacharevic, she looked comfortable yet stylish in an all Levi’s look, with her hair up in two side ponytails. Her blue jeans, as she’d later point out, was embroidered with a motif of two outstretched hands inspired by Zacharevic’s art.
She’d squeezed in some time for a chat with BURO before the start of Levi’s 501 Day event in Malaysia. Liam-Zacharevic is one of five creatives in the region—alongside Yung Raja from Singapore, Diela Maharanie from Indonesia, Pearypie from Thailand and Issa Pressman from the Philippines—selected to add iterations of their craft onto a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans. Dubbed ‘The Traveling 501’, the project aims to capture the voice and spirit of both the region and the individual creator’s country.
Model, artist and Levi’s visionary
Although Liam-Zacharevic first made her name as the winner of Asia’s Next Top Model, she’s now just as well-known for her embroidery. As to whether she’s always been artistic, she says, “I enjoyed sketching and drawing as a child.” Having been brought up in a creative environment, Sheena explains that her parents, who are both painters in their downtime, initiated her interest in this realm. “They encouraged me to explore my creativity and, really, all of my pursuits. My mom still has some of my earlier works from my childhood.”
“However, it was not until I met my husband, Ernest, that I truly began practicing my craft as an artist.” Her style is distinctive, with a focus on embroidering girls with plaits in meditative poses onto canvas of various sizes. “It was something that I didn’t know that I would enjoy. I took the first step to learn and began taking live drawing classes. I was inspired by this and took to replicating my work in embroidery,” she recounts. “I am thankful for my second job that allows me to stay true to my practice in the arts. I am thankful for this privilege”.
“Though my art styles and mediums have changed over the course of the years, women have always been my focal subject matter. There’s always been something to explore in womanhood,” she explains, much to my respect. Having recently taken up woodworking as another art form in which to express herself, Liam-Zacharevic adds that she had also once aspired to become a writer. “I want to explore it all”, she says.
Online vs. offline
When she first took to sharing her work with the world, Instagram served as a platform for creatives to get their work seen. It created a shift away from traditional presentations of artwork, which depended on galleries, collectors and dealers to mediate sales and showcase artists. This, Liam-Zacharevic notes, altered the way in which artists honed their craft to appeal to followers: “My work took on a life of its own online—and I began to wonder how other artists navigated the online world as creators and consumers.”
Regardless of how the dissemination of art changes with time, her creative pursuits have always been for herself, as well as to give back to a community of individuals who appreciate and relate to it. “There have been some followers who have reached out, sharing their experiences with the artwork I have put out. I draw a sense of pride in that and it keeps me going forward in doing what I do.”
Liam-Zacharevic also chooses not to reveal all pieces of her work to the public—a deliberate attempt made by her to preserve it for her eventual solo exhibition. Likewise, she explains that her use of social media and the sharing of her work online has slowed down over time.
She’s more keen to explore offline mediums, away from the metaverse, and utilise the physical tools around her when creating. “I am in awe of the works that have been put out digitally, but my exploration in the arts still leans towards the traditional, both in creation and consumption.”
The Travelling 501 jeans
As for her contribution to Levi’s ‘The Traveling 501’ jeans, Liam-Zacharevic shares that there was an allure of romance attached to the effort. “The coming together of many creatives, putting together our interpretations of the brief onto a pair of jeans… it’s like a canvas, almost. This all lies in the ethos of Levi’s and who we are as creators.”
Given only 72 hours to add her contribution to the jeans, she enlisted the assistance of a tailor in Georgetown, Penang. “The individual who assisted me is known for upcycling jeans in the area and I was taken by their efforts in doing so. I had prepared the embroidery prior to meeting them and they assisted me in attaching it to the jeans.” Of the four other creators who signed on for this collaborative project, she’d been the most excited to see what Thailand’s Pearypie has contributed.
Her sense of style
Liam-Zacharevic’s preference for loose, boy-cut Levi’s jeans is in juxtaposition to her glamorous career as a model. Stating that her day job requires her to wear extraordinary pieces of clothing and intricate eye makeup, her preferred choice of attire would be one where she is relaxed and feeling free in her own skin. “Jeans, T-shirts and sneakers are my go-tos,” she enthuses.
It’s a look that she’s cultivated since her youth, when she began exploring and experimenting with clothing. Those days, she and her friends would spend hours of their free time scouring through piles of clothes at thrift stores. “Finding a pair of Levi’s jeans meant that we’d won. Then and now, the brand is synonymous with denim and that has always stuck with me.”
The 501 legacy
Since 1873, the Levi’s 501 has built a long and illustrious history on the foundation of button fly, straight leg, Red Tab. That said, the jeans are reinterpreted every year to match the times. This year, they’re constructed with a more relaxed fit through the seat and leg, capturing the spirit of the ‘90s that is so apparent in today’s trends and outfits. Now available in Malaysia, you can purchase the new and refitted Levi’s 501 online and in stores, making it a staple in your wardrobe.
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