Polish Fashion Stories: Zaremba Bespoke Tailoring
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Zaremba Bespoke Tailoring, Card from the 'Polish Fashion Stories' publication, courtesy of the Polish Cultural Institute in London, photo: Culture.pl, center, _dsc0357.jpg
Established in 1894, Zaremba Bespoke Tailoring has withstood the destruction of World War II and persecution at the hands of the Nazi Germans and later rhe communists, to become one of Polish fashion’s most treasured names.
The name Zaremba invokes not only Warsaw’s pre-war legacy, but also the traditions of Savile Row, which have been cultivated at the workshop since its inception; with this adherence to British tailoring tradition, Zaremba even enjoyed brief renown in the UK in the late 1970s, when the company created period costumes for a British television series about Sherlock Holmes.
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More recently, the label has been moving towards a flamboyant Italian style combining tradition with contemporary fashion. Today, Zaremba Bespoke Tailoring blurs the lines between tailor as craftsman and tailor as designer, creating a style which is perfectly suited to the Pitti Immagine in Florence.
Edward Zaremba opened his first workshop in the prestigious Polish National Opera building in central Warsaw. In the 1920s, Edward’s nephew Adolf Zaręba took over the company and began creating elegant sportswear for the city’s diplomats and aristocrats; Zaremba’s knickerbockers and jodhpurs became fashionable must-haves. In 1933, Adolf’s brother Tadeusz opened a second branch.
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The company’s popularity grew, and regular clients included renowned artists, famous stars of stage and screen, prominent businessmen and distinguished academics.
World War II saw the beginning of a testing time in the company’s life. In 1940, Zaremba’s workshop was destroyed, first by the Gestapo, then by the events of the war, and the owners were imprisoned by the Nazis. Following the Nazis' defeat, the Zarembas went back into business and initially operated out of a building earmarked for demolition, before moving into number 15 Nowogrodzka Street, where it remains to this day.
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The company came close to liquidation when it was hounded by the new communist authorities, who hated the company’s elegant 'bourgeois' style and its private ownership. A new centralised state-run textile industry was created and raw materials were strictly rationed for the private sector. Anyone caught with a prohibited button or scrap of material faced imprisonment.
Despite the stifling conditions, Zaremba thrived. Against a background of poorly stocked shops and irregular deliveries great significance was attached to made-to-measure clothing, and nearly everybody had their clothes made by a tailor. However Zaremba occupied a unique position among Warsaw’s tailors – after all, Zaremba was tailor to the stars, the international elite and the diplomats. Fashionable but prohibited materials, such as English wool, were hidden in a variety of secret places in Zaremba’s workshop.
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In 1976, Tadeusz’ son Adam Zaremba became co-owner of the firm. It was Adam Zaremba who made costumes for the British television series Sherlock Holmes, and it was he who led the company through the period of political change which took place in 1989. After this time, Poland was flooded by a host of international clothing companies and the demand for bespoke clothing almost dried up completely.
Since Adam Zaremba’s death in 1998, the company has been run by Adam’s wife, Grażyna, and his son, Maciej, who is responsible for the recent changes to the company, in which traditional tailoring is combined with Italian extravagance.
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Polish Cultural Institute in London
This article from Polish Fashion Stories has been re-published on Culture.pl courtesy of the Polish Cultural Institute in London. You can find the original version here.