In a world of luxury labels and giant retail chains, today's independent fashion designers have a lot to grapple with when taking on the global marketplace. This is particularly true of Poland, where the traditions of quality craftsmanship are being revived by a handful of the most daring and intuitive artisans of the new generation. Culture.pl singles out six of the most iconic labels in the business.
In 2014 she made the leap from designing for a top-selling fashion brand to starting her own eponymous label. Her 10 years in the fashion industry helped her talents, sense of aesthetics and her business sense. Her gamble proved golden, with a overwhelmingly positive response to her first collection from the media at home and abroad. Many called her debut a 'breath of fresh air' for the Polish fashion industry, but as luck would have it, her talent was instantly noticed by the likes of Kim Kardashian, who wore one of Butrym's trademark woven skirts that fall, and supermodel Jourdan Dunn, who wore her star-spangled leather dress to Alexander Wang's 10-year anniversary bash during New York Fashion Week in September 2015.
Fashionista extraordinaire Leandra Medine, whose blog The Man Repeller is possibly the most widely-followed fashion blog in the world, wore Butrym's sequined star dress as a street style look also for NYFW, pairing it with Chanel shoes. The photograph was posted to innumerable Instagram accounts, seen and 'liked' by thousands upon thousands. On Twitter, Medine posted a photograph from Butrym's AW15 lookbook, with the caption 'Polish designer Magda Butrym is making the clothes you kind of wish Saint Laurent was'. She also published an interview on The Man Repeller blog with the designer herself, whom Medine deemed worthy of the 'megaphone treatment'. Butrym was afforded a proper podium to talk about the effortless style she strives to capture and share with her customers, as well as the emphasis she places on craftsmanship and Poland as a place that allows her the traditions and means to incorporate elements like knitting, braiding, plaiting and other handiwork into her line. Overall, her designs are structured, with a fluid air of femininity. There is an inspiration from menswear, but Butrym manages to avoid too literal an interpretation and makes it clear that she is designing for women who enjoy putting a slight twist on tradition, while keeping up the highest standard of workmanship and creativity.
See more on Magda Butrym at www.magdabutrym.com and check out her star-studded Instagram feed at instagram.com/magdabutrym
She is one of the few designers who have managed to withstand the fickle tide of the Polish fashion industry over the past decade, standing firmly on her own two feet as other more Promethean designers have soared and crashed. After testing her style skills as an assistant at one of Poland's major fashion magazines, she decided to take design head-on and launched her first collection in 2008, instantly winning her the Elle Style Award for the best debut of the year. She has continued to develop her line over the next few years, building upon a minimalist aesthetic of ready-to-wear made for a woman who is confident and smart, with an unabashed element of sexy sophistication. One look at Justyna - a striking blonde with an air of a young Julie Delpy - proves that she embodies exactly what her eponymous brand is about.
Growing up in a family of artists and architects, great design was the bread-and-butter of her upbringing. And today she tries to provide the same for her five-year-old daughter, who was her main motivation for living part-time in the countryside outside of Warsaw, surrounded by nature. In fact, she doesn't just design her own clothes, she creates her own cosmetics using plants from her garden. Most of her pieces are made from all-natural, traditional materials - cotton, silk and wool, although she also likes to experiment with innovative textiles. Justyna travels between her showroom in the center of Warsaw - a spacious apartment in a grand pre-war building on ulica Frascati - and her summer home in the country, drawing inspiration from both.
The geometric forms of architecture, science and nature, along with a pragmatic approach to elegance, are woven together to create an instantly recognizable style that is fresh, feminine, functional and deceptively simple. In addition, her capsule collection for children takes her signature aesthetic and shrinks it down to a few basic pieces that are fun, chic and, most importantly, comfortable.
Her latest collection is available online at: www.justynachrabelska.com
When most of Poland's male fashion designers have mysteriously gone out of business, Jemioł has managed to withstand the tide and steadily build his brand and gain the respect of both the fashion community and the public at large. As a student of the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, he specialized in Textiles and Fashion. He started his label in 2007, using drapery and fluid lines as his point of reference in creating pieces that sway about the body, whether it's a silk shift or a heavy knit sweaterdress. His casual, more affordable Basic line was launched in 2011 - essentially a loungewear collection of slogan t-shirts and slouchy separates.
His latest AW 2015 collection is a decadent take on sumptuous knits and classic separates. A camel-hued cavalcade of layered pieces and wool coats are spiked here and there with a swathe of chartreuse, mustard and crimson, along with hints of inspirations from Asian palettes and patterns. His characteristic approach to craftsmanship, combined with a flair for the theatrical, has earned him the following of models and celebrities, including international stars Anja Rubik and Alicja Bachleda - Curuś. He opened his first boutique in Warsaw in 2009, followed by several more shops in other Polish cities, but the cherry on top is a new flagship boutique on fashionable Koszykowa Street in Warsaw launched in early 2015.
His collections are available online at jemiol.com and mostrami.pl
After graduating from the Accademia Koefia in Rome and Esmod International in Paris, she moved back to her native Warsaw in 2000 to launch her first collection. Almost instantly she became the understated darling of Poland's own fashion world. Since then, she has consistently delivered one wildly successful collection after the next, each based on a signature style that marries minimalism and elegance, with an urban twist, using top-of-the-line textiles. Her pieces are equally at home on the streets of New York, Paris, Warsaw or Tokyo. Over the years, Kuczyńska has won numerous awards from Poland's top fashion magazines. Even style.com and vogue.uk have named her the 'hope of the East.'
Ania Kuczyńska's latest A/W 2015 collection, Dreams, is inspired by women like Mexico's Maria Felix and Dolores del Rio, with all their inner strength, hopes and desires. These designs join together feminine and masculine elements to create an androgynous style without bounds, based on geometry, draping and painstaking details.
She's also created a capsule collection of six essential black pants - each style tailored to a completely different type of womanly physique. Then there is the diffusion Denim line - an even more playful take on the monochromatic sensuality of her clothing, with a tinge of anarchy. There's also a pajama line inspired by menswear, embroidered with the tongue-in-cheek tagline 'Cute but psycho. But Cute.' There was a time when Ania Kuczyńska considered international expansion, but eventually she found that it was better to concentrate on her business in Poland, catering to the faithful clientele flocking to her flagship boutique on Mokotowska, Warsaw's most stylish street.
See more at www.aniakuczynska.com. The collection is available at mostrami.pl, as well as www.showroom.pl and cloudmine.pl.
As the brainchild of designer Bartek Michalec and his business partner Łukasz Laskowski, the label was founded in 2010 as a diffusion line of their brand Zuo Corp. The brand's name was inspired by the Chinese phrase 'to become' and an ironic nod towards the idea of the corporation, which is essentially the antithesis of their vision. Over the past few years, the main line has faded into the backdrop as the more affordable street wear-inspired collection continues to gain traction. The garments are chic, savvy and cool, providing a wide demographic access to a well-designed alternative to the retail chain at a similar price point. Zuo has been known for its penchant for the pop-up shop, which has certainly served to heighten the drama around this unique label and its unusual approach to marketing itself - in fact, Michalec and Laskowski tend to shrink back from the limelight. They don't do many interviews or anything too 'fashion'. Instead, they have faith that their business will grow organically, based on the merits of quality and intuitive design.
Black and grey is the dominant color scheme for the current collection, spiked with a flash of gold or cobalt. There is everything from sweatshirts and distressed denim to cocktail dresses and winter-worthy wool coats - and somehow it all comes down to the same denominator, the same streetwise aesthetic. There's a universality about the line that builds on an easy sort of elegance with comfort, achieved through quality fabrics and body-conscious tailoring that balances between an ideal fit and the right slouch. That universality is extended through to the label's foundational philosophy, which has gradually been approaching the ultimate goal of a gender-fluid, unisex spirit. Their much-anticipated new collection, debuting just before spring, comes closer to that goal than ever before, endowing the label with a highly creative, socially-oriented character that sets it apart from the rest. Their flagship boutique is set to open in mid-December in the landmark Jabłkowski Townhouse in the centre of Warsaw.
See more at zuocorp.com. The latest collection is available at mostrami.pl.
Kasia Wyrozębska started her adventure with fashion with a street wear label called Justin Iloveu, but as she matured as a designer, she wanted to take a bigger leap into fashion per se. She launched Mozcau in 2010, incorporating her street-smart vision into a more elegant, romantic collection of ready-to-wear separates. She simultaneously ran the Love&Trade boutique in the trendy Powiśle district of Warsaw, selling her line alongside other ambitious young Polish designers and also creating custom designs for a broad demographic of women from their teens into their 40s. Eventually, she closed down the boutique to focus on her brand, while traveling the world and meeting people who influenced the way she saw her brand and ran her business. From the beginning, Mozcau had international aspirations - the name itself brings to mind a futuristic vision of cold war nostalgia, applauding a streetwise glamour with a longing for the nonchalant luxuries of the west.
In 2013, she was invited by representatives from the Office of the President of Poland to design a collection of gifts for its international guests. As she says, 'the cream of the diplomatic crop are still sporting my signature silk scarves in all corners of the world'. Her current collection is understated and subtly sensual, with a dash of street - black crop tops, bell bottom leggings and sheer button-downs, accessorized with her best-selling beanies and carryall totes. She also designs a capsule lingerie line, which is surprisingly traditional with its delicate silks and lace. Currently, she's working on a carnival collection of party dresses, but the biggest change is to come next year, when she plans to take Mozcau across the Atlantic to the U.S., continuing to build her brand globally, while strengthening her presence in America.
The current collection is available at mozcaurocks.com
For more links to shopping Polish designers, see: www.mostrami.pl & www.showroom.pl
Author: Agnes Monod-Gayraud
Sources: Interviews, ladnebebe.pl, manrepeller.com, thefashioninsider.com