Runway the Polish Way:
5 Designers You Didn't Know Were Polish
It’s not much of a surprise to hear of the Polish fashion models walking down the runways of some of the most prominent fashion shows in the world and attending London, Paris, and New York fashion weeks. But more surprising and less well-known are the high fashion and prêt-à-porter brands that have Polish designers at their helm. Here are a few Polish women in fashion you may or may not know.
Ewa Minge is perhaps Poland’s most successful and well known designer, having had shows in Berlin, Milan, Moscow, Barcelona, Vienna, Paris, New York, Madrid, Geneva, Montreal, and Rome. She is also the first Polish designer who was asked to present at the Spanish Steps in Rome during Donna sotto le Stelle, the most prominent televised haute couture show in Italy. Besides attending at the fashion shows in person, Donna sotto le Stelle was the closest you could get to seeing the most important designers (Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace) as a mere mortal, which is why Ewa Minge’s appearance there in 2003 is notable.
Minge’s designs have been worn by the Paris Hilton, Cheryl Cole, Ivana Trump, and LaToya Jackson, as well as by the former Polish First Lady Jolanta Kwaśniewska. Throughout her career, she has not only designed clothing but interior furnishings, shoes and jewelry.
Joanna Przetakiewicz is a lawyer-turned-fashion designer who started her brand LaMania in 2010 with the help of Karl Lagerfeld and her former Polish billionaire husband Jan Kulczyk. Przetakiewicz has since turned the brand into a big success, not only in Poland, but internationally. The brand was once sold at the famous London department store, Harrods, and has expanded to include home furnishings under the name LaMania Home.
Currently, Przetakiewicz has been focusing her attention on her newest project, Era Nowych Kobiet, a philanthropic foundation which seeks to help women and empower them to lead their best lives, whether they have been through loss, tragedy, or the normal ups and downs of life and business. The organization’s latest project focuses on the socio-economic plights of women, with special attention paid to domestic violence.
The recent opening of a LaMania store in Wroclaw, located at the Hotel Monopol, below, is what inspired me to write this article.
To say that Biba has made a considerable mark on fashion would be an understatement. This iconic London fashion brand saw its prime in the 1960s and 1970s when Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki (she moved with her parents to England when she was a child) opened her first boutique alongside her husband in 1964. She had launched the first mail-order fashion catalogue aimed at young British women just one year earlier. Hulanicki’s designs quickly found an audience and became a staple in the swinging London scene, especially after fashion model and icon Twiggy began to wear her creations. Brigitte Bardot and Princess Anne of the British royal family were fans of the fashion house, as were Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Cher, and Yoko Ono.
Besides clothing, Biba also created the Biba makeup look, which focused on neon lip colors and dark kohl-rimmed eyes. The Biba look was the epitome of London fashion in the 60s and 70s. Biba was closed in 1975. Attempts have been made to relaunch the brand, although without Hulanicki’s participation. The latest attempt was in 2009 by House of Fraser, which bought the brand and signed an agreement with Hulanicki as its consultant.
Gosia Baczyńska is one of the biggest names in Polish fashion. She also made headway into the international fashion community when she became the first Polish designer invited to show her designs during her first Paris Fashion Week in 2013.
Baczyńska started designing when she was still a young teenager but it took her a bit of time and a trip to London when she was a bit older to know that fashion was her true calling. She has since designed for the biggest Polish celebrities as well as Princess Kate Middleton. Her designs are inspired by her love of theatrics and costume design, yet they are feminine and delicate enough to wear day-to-day. In addition to her ready-to-wear collection, Baczyńska also designs wedding gowns.
Magda Butrym spent five years designing for LaMania. She launched her own collection in 2014 and quickly found success with her aesthetic – structured, clean lines that remain feminine – when celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kendall Jenner started sporting her looks just a few short years after she launched.
Now, Harrods in London and Parisian boutiques carry her designs, and she has even made it all the way to New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue. Butrym has spent most of her career engaging with the global fashion community outside of Poland. However, her office is in Warsaw and her clothing is made in Poland.