With the emphasis on London, Milan and Paris, it’s not surprising that some of Europe’s lesser-known fashion spots are often overlooked. On a recent trip to Warsaw, I left the Polish capital very impressed by its sense of style
From bespoke tailoring houses such as Zaremba, which remained a favourite during the Communist era by stashing outlawed “bourgeois” fabrics for clients, to newly graduated designers, Warsaw has a surprising diversity of fashion talent, both old and new.
A design by recent Warsaw Art Academy graduate Kasia Skórzyńska. A design by recent Warsaw Art Academy graduate Kasia Skórzyńska
My recent visit to Poland 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 (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 Robert Kupisz drew an impressive crowd to a vast warehouse space across the river from the city centre, for a show that was deliberately commercial and relaxed in style, the soft denims and especially the oversized flannel shirts pushing Kupisz’s design into more high-fashion territory through tactile fabric treatments and proportion.
Another of Warsaw’s most-established designers is Ania Kuczyńska, whose beautiful boutique at Mokotowska features minimal though supremely elegant designs for men and women, accessories (including a unisex bestselling bag inspired by a trip to Shanghai, over 3,000 of which were sold last year) and housewares. Kuczynska’s aesthetic is very distinctive, 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.
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Some of the most covetable designs I encountered were by Mariusz Przybylski, a designer with an appealing minimal aesthetic offering clothes at Zara-level prices but designed by the man himself and produced in Poland (in a factory known for producing 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. 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 Garçons.
If you find yourself on a weekend break in Warsaw, besides eating outside at one of the city’s al fresco dining spots (residents are well provided for, thanks to the city’s long hot summers), I recommend checking out the city’s fashion boutiques and independent stores. There is a growing sense of excitement about the city’s design, building on Warsaw’s history of producing fine artists and film-makers.