Zosia Ufnalewska still can’t make up her mind about what she likes more – fashion design, or theatre and film costumes. She is still not sure if she wants to stay in Poland or go abroad.
Fashion designer, costume maker.
For now, she does a bit of everything in the hope that she will be able to remain versatile. Just a couple of years ago she would have never imagined that she would find fashion design attractive. She chose fashion studies at the Academy of Fine Arts because the Faculty of Theatre offered costume design only as part of the degree in set design, and she wanted to learn to sew and think boldly. She insisted that she would be as good as the girls who had dreamt about being designers for years.
The idea for my graduation project came from the desire to overcome frustration. I had never been good with fabrics at university. I thought – if I don’t overcome this now, then when?
Zosia was inspired by the dress of eighteenth-century Hungarian shepherds. She called her collection Between – the clothes were meant to indicate the space between them and the body. She was interested in creating a number of layers and shapes that would change the silhouette of the model entirely. ‘Those shepherds combined loose cloaks and coats with millions of layers below’. Embroideries also turned out to be very important, so she learned how to cross stitch. ‘Embroidery is like writing: each person has a different style.’ The coats were placed over very delicate and subtle fabrics. ‘It was supposed to be a reflection of the human body. Armoured outside, soft inside’.
The idea was met with enthusiasm. Zosia’s collection was the star of the evening commented Raoul Keil, editor-in-chief of the British magazine Schön!. She was also noticed by Colin Chapman – a journalist from The Guardian, and Dan Blake, stylist and editor of the London online portal 7th Man. Zosia was the most surprised by this success. It turned out that the doors to a design career stood wide open in front of her.
Yet her first project after graduation was linked to designing costumes for the performance King of Hearts Is Off Again directed by Piotr Borowski and based on the work of Hanna Krall. Zosia remembers this as her first independent challenge in the field of theatre – the moment when she proved herself. Previously, she had made costumes for The Line of Return by the same director, but she considers them an exercise. Then she got involved in film – namely the black comedy Love in the City of Gardens with an all-star cast (Cielecka, Ostaszewska, Chyra). The film was shot in the noir style, and the clothes had to refer to the fashion of the 1940s. Zosia was the second costume designer. She has to do this for at least another year, work on at least two more films in order to ‘have something to offer’, as she says. Besides, being the main costume designer also means serving as the head of department, managing people, issuing invoices – it takes time to learn.
Zosia can’t say what is more exciting – looking at her clothes on stage, in camera close-ups or at fashion shows. However, she is convinced that each time the clothes bring something more than just superficial quality. They have to be immersed in the surrounding culture and socialised, as with her graduation collection.
Author: Karolina Sulej, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, May 2015