Magda Butrym's A/W 2015 collection has been widely hailed as the most exciting fashion debut of the season in Poland. Yet she's far from a newbie on the scene, having honed her skills designing for high-end Polish labels Portofino and La Mania.
In 2014 Butrym decided to blaze her own trail with her first signature collection. The response was instantaneous and overwhelmingly appreciative, from critics, bloggers and shoppers alike. Her arrival brought what many deemed 'a breath of fresh air' to Polish fashion. And it seems her talent is gaining speed abroad as photos of Kim Kardashian flaunting her curves in Butrym's plaited leather skirt hit the Internet in mid-October.
In terms of a characteristic style, the pieces in the collection are solid, structured, with a fluid air of femininity. There is a lot of inspiration from menswear, but Butrym manages to avoid too literal an interpretation of the trend and makes it clear that she is designing for women who enjoy putting a slight twist on tradition. Hers is a very Parisian approach to the craft, with some fashion writers comparing her line to the legendary French label Celine or the YSL of the 1960s. She herself cites Halston of the 1970s as a major inspiration. The quality of the textiles she chooses and the painstaking attention to the details of craftsmanship are apparent in every piece, from sumptuous wool coats to whimsically asymmetrical shirtdresses, lavishly draped skirts and racy crocheted cocktail dresses. An unexpected accent, such as an ultra-tailored waist on a boxy military ensemble or an extra-long swathe of fabric on the skirt of a subtly leopard-patterned silk dress, are trademarks of a style that takes practical ready-to-wear and gives it a tongue-in-cheek spin. At the same time, the attention to detail and craftsmanship is indelible. The plaited leather skirt worn by Kim Kardashian in Paris reportedly took 30 hours of handiwork to create. Each of the 50 pieces in the collection are unique, making 50 individual statements that are woven together to formulate a fresh, focused vision.
Magda Butrym was born in Zabrze in southern Poland. Her interest in fashion came naturally as the offspring of style-conscious parents who took pride in dressing well. As a high school student, she
discovered that style can change your image, bring out your personality. I was fascinated by this. At that point I hadn't yet dreamed of becoming a designer, but I did know I wanted to work in fashion.
After graduating, she moved to Warsaw to study at the International School of Costumography and Clothing Design (Międzynarodowa Szkoła Kostiumografii i Projektowania Ubioru). She soon scored a gig as a stylist for the TVP television station and began dressing some of the most recognisable presenters.
She co-created the minimalist label Portofino, using her celebrity connections to promote the line, however the business was scrapped after just a few seasons. In 2010 Butrym was hired by Joanna Przetakiewicz (then-wife of one of the wealthiest Polish businessmen - Jan Kulczyk) to create La Mania, a line that combined her signature minimalism with luxurious textiles and production. Money was no object for the endeavor, which was geared at the cream of Polish society and garnered support from none other than Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most powerful names in global fashion. Yet in 2014, Butrym made the brave decision to abandon her cushy post and invest in her own business, together with business partner Aleksanda Halemba. Her background at La Mania not only helped her sharpen her stylistic vision, but also schooled her in the business of fashion. As Butrym says,
My ten years in the business has had a great impact on my sense of aesthetics and the image of the brand I was building. I'm glad that it took me this long to work under my own name, I wasn't yet ready before. I had to mature, gain experience, make mistakes, gain humility and, most of all, get to know myself. To understand what sort of woman I'd like to dress, that I get the most pleasure from creating fashion for every day, ready-to-wear. I know now that it's most difficult to design clothes that women will like, that they will reach into their wardrobes for time and time again.
The critical response to her first collection is proof enough of its potential success, particularly as there is a mere handful of Polish designers whose talents are considered "top tier", either at home or abroad. Few are as lucky as Ania Kuczyńska, who has managed to achieve a measure of both. Many have deemed Butrym "the debut of the season" and one to keep an eye on. When speaking of the state of Polish fashion, Butrym considers the long and bumpy road both the industry and society as a whole have taken in recent history,
In the years when fashion was swiftly evolving on an international level, Poland was rising from post-war destruction and then struggling with socialism. Today Polish fashion is only beginning to grow, our designers are mostly ambitious autodidacts, who didn't have the chance to shape their craft according to a lengthy tradition of design as their French or Italian counterparts had. Fortunately, Poland did retain its traditions of tailoring craftsmanship, which I draw on when creating a collection. We have splendid furriers and tailors. When I designed my SS14 collection I was able to work with a woman who made textiles by hand on a loom.
She admits that she identifies with her customer to a considerable degree, explaining,
When I work on my designs, I think about the woman that the Magda Butrym label was created for, what sort of lifestyle she leads, I want the style to complement her personality. I don't think specifically about the silhouette of the woman I want to dress, but that she is independent, self-assured and well-groomed. These women know their strengths, they know fashion. I'm that kind of woman, so I instinctively create clothes that I'd wear myself.
Agnes Monod-Gayraud 07.11.2014
Sources: interview with Magda Butrym, elle.pl, glamour.pl, ewawojciechowska.pl, lula.pl