Can a sweater be a work of art? Piotr Kwietniewski and Emilia Biernacka, the founders of the NIC Łódź brand, design original fabrics, which they use to create extraordinary items of clothing.
Piotr Kwietniewski and Emilia Biernacka emphasise that what led them to what they do today was a series of coincidences. Piotr’s majors ranged from law to music therapy. At the same time, he was also playing in a rock band. By a trick of fate, he entered a knitting machine operation and programming course in Germany. That was when he discovered a passion for experimenting with fabric design. Later, he met a Norwegian photographer whose works he tried to transfer onto fabrics, creating knitted images in the process. Emilia Biernacka, a graduate of art school and the Faculty of Textile and Clothing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, has been fascinated by forgotten and underestimated natural Polish yarns, such as linen and sheep's wool, for a long time.
The paths of Emilia Biernacka and Piotr Kwietniewski crossed in 2013. Their first joint project was the production of caps with the word ‘NIC’ (in English: ‘NOTHING’) on them. Shortly after that, a series of colourful dresses and sweaters with the motif of the Mother of God and other gods was made. Fewer than 10 copies were released; it did not turn out to be successful business-wise, as the creators themselves mentioned. At the time, however, Piotr, as one of the few experts in the field of designing knitting machines in the world, was offered a job in the western part of Ireland, where the tradition of woollen sweatermaking is still alive. Soon, they both started working in an Irish knitting factory. As they look at it now, it was this exact experience that made them start their own business.
Today, the NIC Łódź studio mostly creates unique sweaters. The perfected technique of transferring photographs onto the fabric, once created by Piotr Kwietniewski, allows both artists to knit sweaters adorned with Polish landscapes. However, they have not limited themselves to rural scenery only – the studio has produced coats immortalising… the blocks of flats in Łódź. The collection also includes sweaters with colourful graphic compositions. Recently, Emilia Biernacka has made a series of multi-coloured cutouts that can be printed out and used as postcards, for example.
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For the creators of NIC Łódź, the choice of fabric for the sweaters is crucial. Linen was tested, though it turned out to be too stiff. Good-quality Polish wool, on the other hand, is exceptionally hard to get. Moreover, described as too ‘scratchy’ and not soft enough, it is not really liked by the customers. Therefore, Piotr Kwietniewski and Emilia Biernacka make their sweaters, hats, scarves and coats also from organic cotton, Mexican baby alpaca wool, merino extrafine from Italy, as well as – recycled yarn.
All of NIC Łódź’s products are manufactured in factories in Łódź, in a small number of copies. Their creators emphasise that they do not want to focus on a mass production; they do not want to make collections. Their goal is to preserve the artisanal character of the brand. In an interview for Puls Biznesu, Emilia Biernacka said:
We don't want to open a factory. We are going to continue producing as many pieces as we are able to make ourselves. We prefer to be artisans than mass producers.
She emphasised that in the era of overproduction, she prefers to create single items that will last for generations.
The creators of NIC Łódźhave exhibited their products at numerous fairs. They were noticed at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in 2019. They also took part in the 3rd International Triennial of Textile for Young People in Lódź in 2019 and the 16th International Triennial of Textiles at the turn of 2019 and 2020, as well as at the sustainable and responsible fashion fair ‘NEONYT’ during Fashion Week in Berlin (as part of the Let's Exhibit! Program). Piotr Kwietniewski and Emilia Biernacka are members of the Modopolis program board – the Polish Fashion Forum, supporting Polish designers, students and entrepreneurs who value sustainable business and ethical fashion.
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