Arkadiusz Weremczuk (known as Arkadius) is the first, and so far the only Polish designer, who managed to establish his fashion label abroad and bring it into vogue.
His career began in 1995 at the Faculty of Fashion Design at St Martin's College University of the Arts London and it took a spectacular nosedive 10 years later after Arkadius went bankrupt and had to close down his Polish boutique. In 2006, not only has he disappeared from the world of fashion, but also ‘for the world’ in general. Only a few knew his whereabouts. He revealed his place of residence (the Brazilian city of Salvador) only in January 2015 while announcing his come back to fashion with a new Prêt-à-Porter collection. However, there will be no cat walk shows, nor boutiques, the clothes will be on sale like works of art - in limited editions.
Launching a career
In the 90s, Arkadius (born in Parczewo, Lublin Voivodeship) was proclaimed as the hope of the avant-garde fashion next to Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. Since childhood he dressed up bravely and managed to make solitary bus pilgrimages to Warsaw in order to hunt for bargains at the capital’s main Shopping Centre. He started to believe that he could be a designer after he had learned that the great Yves Saint Laurent also came from a small town. He decided to take first steps towards realizing the dream only in his twenties. He abandoned pedagogical studies in Kraków, earned some money during summer, and enrolled on an English course and then on a foundation course at the Central Saint Martins. For the first time, the College professors dealt with a student who came ‘from behind the Iron Curtain’.
Already during his first year of studies he began to sell his designs, and his graduation show was acknowledged by one of the most famous fashion critic - Suzy Menkes. Menkes also praised his debut collection Lucina, O!, which was shown at the London Fashion Week 2000. The theme of the collection was the childbirth - models smeared their white sculpture –like outfits with red paint. ‘It is the birth of a new millennium’ - wrote Menkes in the International Herald Tribune. Soon after, Arkadius while being a protégé of a stylist and fashion icon, Isabella Blow -entered a UK showrooms. His clothes were featured both in respectable Harpers Bazaar, as well as in avant-garde ID and The Face.
The most famous collections
Arkadius’s second glamorous collection The Queen of Sheeba was bought by Henri Blendel luxury department store in New York in a week. In the middle of this hype Arek from Parczew started longing for Poland and especially for his grandmother Paulina. Her name was used as the title of the spring / summer 2001 collection which was inspired by Polish province and folk culture. Arkadius was never ashamed of his background, his ‘bumpkinness’ and he emphasized in interviews that although he works in London he comes from the Polish countryside. As it turned out, Paulina not only reminisced Poland but it also ‘took’ Arkadius back to the country. The designer’s first show in Poland was held in the Femina cinema in Warsaw.
Nonetheless, Arkadius was still focused on London fashion market, and there he created subsequent collections: Prostitution, House of Pleasure and Mother Mary wears the trousers. Gaining an opinion of provocateur and artsy jester he kept on playing with religious symbols, sexuality and bourgeois hypocrisy.
In 2002, the designer opened his boutique at Porchester Place 7 which started to be frequented by Cezary Mielczarek - a young Polish businessman, who by and by encouraged Arkadius to return to Poland and launch a sub-label. Together, on May 2003, they opened a boutique at 49 Mokotowska Street under the aegis Arkadius Jeans Anarchy. The label was to offer a Prêt-à-Porter collection especially jeans and blouses, and advertised by slogans such as: fuck fashion, let's be anarchic. Arkadius also started to collaborate with Ravel jeans and Viva fashion magazine. Since then, anyone could afford a t-shirt with the image of Arkadius or his logo. Some considered this to be a devaluation of the brand and accused the shareholders of greed.
Simultaneously with undertakings in Poland Arkadius designed subsequent collections in the London studio. In the case of the United States of Mind his idea was to collide symbols of Western imperialism with eastern and Israeli culture. According to Arkadius his concept illustrated intersecting spheres of influence and conflicts, which by the same token he wanted to oppose. Therefore, the collection is made of fabrics with patterns of keffiyeh/arafat scarf (dresses), U.S. dollar sign (a tippet scarf), Muslim crescent moon (a suit), and American flag with stars of David symbols instead of regular stars. The show culminated in presentation of the asymmetrical white dress, the corset of which was decorated with two doves. Under one of them the dress was embellished with red feathers spreading downwards which evoked association with blood and thus an idea of bloody dove of peace. The show’s finale was selected by The Face magazine as the fashion highlight of the year 2003.
Financial troubles and career break
After the United States of Mind Arkadius designed Urban Orchid to which he added jewelry made by Steven Webster, followed by Le Freak C'est Chic - dedicated to the timeless elegance. The fashion audience was surprised that the collection lacked the anticipated provocative edginess. However, at that time the designer was preoccupied with ‘Polish enterprise’ as he called it, which had fallen into trouble. It turned out that Anarchy line produced in China was of low quality, and on top of that, the company was tormented by financial insolvency. When Arkadius investigated into company’s finances, it came to light that he had almost one million zlotys of debt, which resulted from erroneous calculations of his partner. As the company’s CEO, he had to pay the dept. This occurrence has almost ruined him – the Polish branch went bankrupt and the London one had to take on the 30 thousand pounds of payment obligation.
He managed to overcome the apathy he had sunk into with the help from a new investor who commissioned him to design a line of glasses, ARKADIUS GOGGLES, which became an international hit. They were ultra-light and ultra-flexible (nearly indestructible), made from surgical stainless steel, anti-allergic, nickel free, unisex and in five colors. They were worn by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Prince Philip of Spain and Justin Timberlake.
Arkadius began to travel. He cut off all contacts connecting him with Europe and the fashion industry and settled in South America, where he embarked on designing interior architecture and photography. He did not care for fame. Only recently - as Arafkaa - Artist Formaly Known As Arkadius he started a blog, where he posts his photos and poems.
Author: Karolina Sulej, January 2015, transl. GS