Fashion designer, figure of the Warsaw bohemia, founder of art galleries. Grażyna Hase likes to repeat that her life could be shared between several people.
She was born on 12 of January 1939 in Warsaw and has lived there ever since. She entered the world of fashion around the same time when she entered adulthood. First, in October 1957, she was photographed by Wojciech Plewiński and anonymously became a cover-girl of 'Przekrój' magazine. Later she was a model. In 1958 she started working in Centralne Laboratorium Spółdzielczości Pracy (translator's note: Cooperative Work Central Laboratory) and, for almost a decade, cooperated with the biggest fashion houses: Moda Polska, Telimena, Leda and Warszawskie Zakłady Przemysłu Odzieżowego (translator's note: Warsaw Clothing Manufacture Company). It was there that she started her career as a fashion designer.
However, before this happened, Hase had collaborated with Barbara Hoff, the author of the fashion column in 'Przekrój', for 7 years (between 1960 and 1967). She was a model and presented the collections that Hoff designed for photo shoots before she started to sell them in Centrum Department Stores. The shoots were social events and featured, among others, Gerard Wilk, Monika Dzienisiewicz, Daniel Olbrychski, Krystyna Morgenstern, Krzysztof Litwin, Andrzej Kurylewicz, Wojciech Karolak, Małgorzata Braunek, Wojciech Pszoniak.
The year 1967 was a breakthrough one for Hase in many aspects. In February she married Wowo Bielicki, a director of stage performances, who was also associated with the Bim-Bom cabaret. In October she started studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, first at the faculty of architecture, later – at the faculty of graphic arts. In November she designed the collection 'Kozak Look' (translator's note: 'Cossack Look') and organised a fashion show that Warsaw had never seen before.
It all started when she spent a month in Moscow as a model of the Warsaw Clothing Manufacture Company. She brought a big fur hat with her. When she was trying it on in front of a mirror, she was wondering if something could be sewn from it. 'Sit down and draw, maybe you'll come up with something', said Wowo Bielicki.
And so she drew and took her designs to the Warsaw Clothing Manufacture Company, which was later transformed into the Cora Clothing Manufacture Company. Its manager, Józef Syroka, one of the managers from the period of the Polish People's Republic who were able to cope with the problems caused by the system (Jerzy Antkowiak called him 'a socialist who loved America'), said 'let's do it'. Hase elaborated:
Józef Syroka thought in a modern way. And I, before showing him my sketches with designs, suggested to make a fashion show instead of a gala for the 50th anniversary of the revolution.
That was because the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution was coming at that time. Instead of an ordinary celebration or a presentation of an industrial collection, a fashion show with music was organised. It was directed by Wowo Bielicki. First in Dziekanka and Stodoła Club, later in Ośrodek Przyjaźni Polsko-Radzieckiej (translator's note: Polish-Soviet Friendship Centre). The themes from The Free Wind operetta by Dunayevsky were played in a big beat tempo, along with Yellow Submarine by the Beatles or the Russian Song Katyusha, and models were appearing on the catwalk to the rhythm of the music – Anna Karenina, a superintendent, Semyon Budyonny, a soldier of the Red Army, and Lenin in a tweed jacket at the end. A single-row jacket, a vest and a miniskirt, plus a flat cap and a spotted tie: that was the outfit in which Grażyna Hase ended her career of a model and became a fashion designer.
Teresa Kuczyńska wrote in the magazine 'Ty i Ja':
We saw the most beautiful collection with Russian and Soviet elements in Warsaw. We welcome a new fashion designer who's full of enthusiasm, invention and determination.
Another comment by Krzysztof Teodor Toeplitz, published in the magazine 'Kultura', praised the 'ultramodern dresses inspired by the austere forms from 50 years back'.
In an interview for 'Gazeta Wyborcza' Grażyna Hase said:
For the first time I felt I were a fashion designer 12 years after the debut. Spółdzielnia Modny Strój (translator's note: Fashionable Outfit Cooperative) organized a birthday party for Jadwiga Grabowska, the founder of the Moda Polska enterprise and the most important figure in post-war fashion. I asked her for an autograph. She wrote: 'To Grażyna Hase, one of the few ones to whom I hand over the position in my beloved profession with greatest pleasure'. That was something. Only then did I decide that I can call myself a fashion designer.
She kept on designing. At the end of the 60s she had her own TV programme created in cooperation with Wowo Bielicki. The most important things happen on television, but the series is accompanied by outdoor events, such as the fashion show during the convention of the Union of Socialist Youth from Silesia and Zagłębie, where Edward Gierek read a letter from Władysław Gomułka (December 1968) or a show in Moscow celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Polish People's Republic that was broadcast by the Soviet television. That's what Hase told 'Gazeta Wyborcza' about her work in that period:
That was a job commissioned by the television. I found out that I had the Union of Socialist Youth present in front of me only when the curtain went up. I don't want to make a hero out of myself, though. I didn't fight with the system. I lived in it. When the programme 'Music and Fashion' was removed without the last episode being broadcast, we went to London, later spent a year in West Berlin and had a wonderful time. We came back, however, because at the beginning of the 70s everybody thought that things would improve. For me these were great times. I worked a lot: for the industry, for companies and on my own. I designed the sheepskin coats in the style of the Polish highlanders that have been famous since then and that were sold in Cepelia's shop on the Fifth Avenue in New York.
The 70s were indeed a 'golden era' in Grażyna Hase's career. Between 1972 and 1975 she was the chief designer at the Cora Clothing Manufacture Company. In 1972 she presented her designs during the Polish days in Paris and the fashion show was fronted by the actor Pierre Richard. In the same year she took patronage over a boutique of the Spółdzielnia Pracy Przemysłu 'Moda Damska' (translator's note: Industry Worker Cooperative) and 'Świat Mody' (translator's note: The World of Fashion) magazine. In 1973 she presented the Cora's collection in Toronto. In the middle of the 70s she started to cooperate with Cepelia, Centrum Department Stores and Stołeczne Przedsiębiorstwo Handlu Wewnętrznego (translator's note: Warsaw Internal Trade Enterprise). From 1975 to 1978 she wrote a column 'Grażyna Hase's Boutique' in the teen daily 'Sztandar Młodych'. She also had a boutique named Bawełniany Świat Grażyny Hase (translator's note: Grażyna Hase's Cotton World) on Grójecka street .
Hase designed for ordinary people but also for companies – she created suits for the staff of Victoria hotel. She commented on these jobs in an interview for 'Gazeta Wyborcza':
Someone called from the hotel's office, saying that the manager, Stanisław Wcisło, wanted to meet me because there were problems with suits and the hotel was about to open. I came, listened to his suggestions, told him about mine, and then did my thing. I had experience, since I also designed suits for the staff of the hotel Forum that had opened a few years before Victoria. Those jobs were not carried out by the industry, but cooperatives, small workshops. The workers themselves took measurements. And, just like people do, they would say: this should be elongated, that should be shortened. I remember that the management wanted formal suits, so I said: 'we'll import materials from Vienna, make striped trousers and jackets cut as the ones that English people wear for weddings'. Of course, one of the deputy managers with different measurements treated himself with a jacket. A few days before the opening the manager organised an 'army review': he gathered the staff in front of the reception counter and I was supposed to check if everything was right. We were passing along, the manager asked quietly if I had any remarks and I heard the staff whisper: 'This is the one that's dressed us up like this'.
Hase also designed suits for the Polish Airlines crew, rally drivers from Żerań and the workers of a modern milk plant in Wola.
In July 1980 she opened her gallery at 6 Marszałkowska street in Warsaw, where she organised exhibitions of Krystyna Krasińska's fabrics, Joanna Schoen's dresses, and works of Andrzej Czeczot, Jacek Kowalski-Yerka, Andrzej Mleczko, and Francoise Gilot.
She collaborated as a designer of costumes for films (e.g. Heads Full of Stars by Janusz Kondratiuk, 1974; I'm a Butterfly by Jerzy Gruza, 1967) and often worked for theatres. She debuted in 1979 in Adam Mickiewicz Theatre in Częstochowa. She designed costumes for Tadeusz Różewicz's The Laokoon Group directed by Ryszard Krzyszycha, later also for Trzeci Program (translator's note: The Third Program) directed by Stefan Wenta (1979), Artur Maria Swinarski's Sasza I Bogowie (translator's note: Sasha and Gods) directed by Ignacy Gogolewski, Seks I Pieniądze (translator's note: Sex And Money) by Ryszard Groński and Daniel Passent (1984) in Syrena Theatre in Warsaw, Misicabaret by Jan Pietrzak in Musical Theatre in Gdynia (1980; collaboration with Robert Knuth), Sławomir Mrożek's A Happy Event directed by Wowo Bielicki in the Universal Theatre in Radom (1984). She also created stage outfits for artists such as Anna Jantar, the band 2 Plus 1, and Halina Frąckowiak.
After the political transformation she was still active. Between 1997 and 2003 she ran her own gallery on Senatorska street in Warsaw. She collaborated with the Poznań Fair, Citroen, she also designed a part of the costumes for the Polish athletes for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City (2002). The gallery on Marszałkowska street was still open.
In an interview for 'Gazeta Wyborcza' she said:
Today I can say that I learnt everything from Jadwiga Grabowska, although I worked with her for a short time. I was a teen model and she did not get along well with adolescents. But I was lucky to have spent some time with her. I am just as stubborn as she was, and, I don't know why, I also strive for perfection. I think that Mrs Grabowska was leaving the world with the feeling that she did not manage to achieve anything in 100%. Neither did I manage it. If I achieved 60% of what I had wanted, then I succeeded.
In March 2003 president Aleksander Kwaśniewski awarded her the Gold Cross of Merit for the merits in the development and promotion of the Polish applied arts.
Grażyna Hase. Miłość, Moda, Sztuka (translator's note: Grażyna Hase. Love, Fashion, Art) – Krzysztof Tomasik, Marginesy 2016
Teksas-land. Moda Młodzieżowa w PRL (translator's note: Texas Land. Teen Fashion in Polish People's Republic) – Anna Pelka, Trio 2007
Written by Aleksandra Boćkowska, translated by Matylda Weiss, January 2018
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