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With all the emphasis on London, Milan and Paris in fashion, as with the current round of menswear shows, its not surprising that some of Europe’s lesser-known fashion spots are often overlooked even outside of fashion weeks. On a recent trip to Warsaw however, the Polish capital’s fashion scene was revealed to me, and I left the city very impressed with its sense of style.
From bespoke tailoring houses like Zaremba (which remained a favourite during the Communist era by stashing outlawed “bourgeois” fabrics for clients, thus circumventing state-dictated outlets), to newly graduated fashion talent and more established independent designers, Warsaw has a surprising diversity of fashion both old and new.
My visit coincided with the graduation of Warsaw Art Academy’s first ever Fashion Diploma students, a talented bunch including womenswear designer Kasia Skórzyńska, whose vivid prints, inspired by the films of Wong Kar Wai, showed accomplishment and international appeal (in fact, she’s already interned with London designer Richard Nicoll and has shown in Beijing).
Also in early June, outside of any official week or season, national fashion hero designer Robert Kupisz drew an impressive crowd to a vast warehouse space across the river from the city centre, the majority of whom had also responded to the dress code he had issued: denim. A soundtrack of classic English punk referred to the designer’s own youth and the stirrings of the Polish uprising. Deliberately commercial and relaxed in style, the soft denims and especially the oversized flannel shirts push Kupisz’s design into more high fashion territory through tactile fabric treatments and proportion.
Another of Warsaw’s most established designers is Ania Kuczynska whose beautiful boutique at Mokotowska features minimal though supremely elegant designs for men and women, accessories (including a unisex best-selling bag inspired by a trip to Shanghai, over 3,000 of which were sold last year) and housewares. Kuczynska’s aesthetic is very distinctive with her design signature, revealing often mystical yet subtle inspirations, evident whether you are looking at a beautifully draped shirt or pair of trousers, a simple bag or a gorgeous ceramic plate.
Some of the most covetable designs I encountered were by Mariusz Przybylski, a designer with an appealing minimal aesthetic offering clothes at Zara-level price points but designed by the man himself and produced in Poland (in a factory known for producing for brands such as Burberry), beautifully cut and using high-quality materials. His pared back separates for men and women (this season’s menswear included light wool/moleskin cotton biker jackets, chunky cotton knits and texturised sweatshirts and joggers) is best experienced at his boutique, located in one of the chicest neighborhoods in Warsaw to stroll in.
As with many cities, Warsaw’s fashion community forms a branch of its wider artistic network; many of the graduate designers cited films as their main inspiration and the overlap of the visual arts with fashion within Warsaw is obvious with many options for seeing film and art. While I was there The Zachęta National Gallery of Art had an exhibition of work by legendary Polish graphic designer and poster artist Henryk Tomaszewski whose designs have featured in menswear by Comme des Garcons.
If you find yourself on a weekend break in Warsaw, besides eating outdoors at one of the city’s outside eating spots (residents are well provided for, given the city’s long hot summers) I recommend checking out the city’s fashion boutiques and independent stores. You may not yet associate Warsaw with fashion but there is a sense of growing excitement within the city about this aspect of design, building on the city’s history of producing fine artists and filmmakers.