She doesn’t like Polish Fashion Week, but at the same time she doesn’t like to be classified as "underground". Her collections have become a synonym for urban style, and her designs have come to be distinctive of the aura of the central European metropolis. Kuczyńska’s designs are Warsaw translated into fashion.
After graduating in fashion design in Rome and Paris at the beginning of 2000, Kuczyńska decided to return to Poland to launch her career as a fashion designer. As she declares, her return wasn’t dictated by sentimental longing - Poland shaped her palette of colours. In her designs, she doesn't use fabrics in lively colours, instead she chooses greyish shades, characteristic of pigeons. These are the colours she associates with Warsaw. And in the centre of the capital, on Mokotowska Street, she has her boutique. She resists being labelled as “minimalist”, although her designs are precise, plain, and very modern. Yet she often makes use of some traditional, even rustic fabrics, such as Russia leather, which is used in crafts in Podhale (a mountainous region in the south of Poland). She has created a line of accessories using this leather - Ania Kuczyńska Warsawia (bags, wallets, and business card holders). Warsawia’s logo was inspired by Polish design from the 60s.
Whenever Kaczyńska works on a new line of accessories she invites Karol Śliwka to collaborate with her. He is the author of the famous money box logo for PKO BP (Bank of Poland) and is considered to be the guru of graphic design in communist Poland. A few years ago, they created a series of prints for clothes and scarves, and recently, decoration for plates, commissioned by Kristoff Porcelain Factory. The porcelain set includes 365 plates in four different types, which responses to the number of days in a year. The prints, as well as the porcelain designs, represent universal symbols of human emotions – circles, stars, and hearts.
Last year Kuczyńska designed the jewellery for the YES brand, which consisted of gold and silver earrings and bracelets which were decorated with motifs similar to those on scarves. Her collaboration with a hip-hop brand, Prosto, resulted in the production of limited edition Shanghai bags. Kuczyńska seems to perfectly understand how to operate in various areas of fashion Her clients come from luxurious, mainstream and street fashion brands, and she has proved to be equally creative working in each of these styles.
Kuczyńska organized her first fashion show in her living room. The collection was made of linen and silk, and the clothes had a geometric cut. Instead of shoes, satin ribbons were wrapped around the models feet that echoed the cut of the clothes. Kuczyńska likes minimalism, and she doesn't care so much about her clothes being “nice”. She doesn't want to dress femininity in a uniform, but to delicately frame it. There is no sign of Kuczyńska being inspired by current trends. One may notice she often repeats some patterns. The cuts and colours reappear in the subsequent collections, providing her brand with consistency and a particular rhythm. Each of them, however, has its own dominant feature.
By and large, Kuczyńska uses silk or 100% cotton. Each collection, however, is the very same Ania Kuczyńska - the brand, as the name suggests, reveals the preferences of the designer. The shape of a collection depends on the “mood” of the season. The spirit comes first and the matter follows, but not in a literal sense. There are no costumes or props, but only very delicate allusions and subtleties, which can be discerned, but don't jump out at first glance. Occasionally, Kuczyńska applies stronger accents in terms of colours. Sometimes she surprises with the choice of fabric. Each collection is, however, coherently elegant and nonchalant, and it rather whispers than screams.
A collection is usually built upon one or many distinct cultural texts that offer a particular vision of masculinity and femininity. For instance, in the spring/summer 2013 collection Gold Dust Woman, Kuczyńska’s woman is sexy and exposes her body in a provocative rock-styled way à la Angelica Houston, or in a delicate, hipster-like manner à la the vocalist of Fleetwood Mac, whose lyrics were the inspiration for the title of the collection. In Pinata, her spring/summer 2012 show, the protagonist was a scandalous and provocative female who wants to have fun to the extent of making an art out of it. The muse of the collection was Bianca Jagger, and the catwalk evoked the atmosphere of Studio 54 and Warhol’s Factory.
The muse of the 2012 autumn/winter collection was a character from a Roberto Rosselini film played by Ingrid Bergman, and the director’s daughter, Isabella Rosselini. Inspiration was also drawn from the climate of the island of Stromboli. Another female icon, Monika Vitti, inspired the collection of 2012 autumn/winter L’vventura. The collection Glowing in the Dark referred to new wave in cinema and music, and focused on unisex styles. Female and male models shared a t-shirt with the slogan “People still die of love”. The first new wave is represented by Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot, star of the Jean Luc-Godard film Contempt. As for her musical inspirations, Kuczyńska has chosen Patti Smith, driven by the story of her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorp as described in the book Just Kids.
In Kuczyńska collections, each piece of clothing has its name, which is usually the name of the muse that inspired them. For instance, Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) 2011, referred to Igor Strawiński’s famous ballet. Each design in that collection was named after either a Russian composer or a Russian dancer.
The spring/summer 2014 Illuminate collection was inspired by Frida Kahlo. Hence, it was based on juxtaposition of black with coral, blue, white and calla lilies held by models. An Illuminate woman resembles GJ from the Top of the Lake series of Jane Campion. She is ascetic, focused, and creates her unique style by taking some design inspiration from male liturgic dress. For the first time, Kuczyńska included shoes in her collection, which were produced in an espadrille workshop in Barcelona. The fashion show took place in Raster gallery.
It is very characteristic of Ania Kuczyńska to present her collection in especially designed scenery that completes the metaphor generated by the clothing. The fashion show Gold Dust Woman took place in Maria Agapijew’s Palace at Szuch Avenue. The catwalk constructed in this old neglected building was immersed in leaves. The show Stromboli was presented in a renovated, modernist building, the present location of the club Syreni Śpiew (Mermaid). One of Kuczyńska’s first shows took place at the university library’s underground parking lot. The show was accompanied by the live free-style music of Kaliber 44, while Wujek Samo Zło ( Uncle the Evil) commented on models presenting the clothes.
Author: Karolina Sulej, May 2014, transl. GS, 22.05.2014