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New Yorker by choice, Parisian at heart.
You call yourself a New Yorker by choice, but you say you left your heart in Paris. What does each of these cities mean to you? Which do you like most?
New York is a city that evokes extreme feelings more than any other: either you fall in love with it at first sight or else you can hardly stand it. In my case, it was love: so strong that it turned my world heard over heels. For New York, I left my job, my then-boyfriend and my plans. I’ve been here over eight years now and there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t discovered something new here. New York has an unparalleled energy: It motivates you and stimulates you into action, because everyone lives in top gear and struggles to realize their dream. It’s a city in which cultures from all over the world blend together and in which everyone can feel that he or she belongs. Paris, for its part, is a city with a soul and an amazing history. Here, more than in any other place on earth, walking along its charming streets, I realize that I am smiling to myself. It is a city to which I feel I belong, which inspires me tremendously both visually and intellectually, in which my senses are heightened to the maximum. I absorb literally everything, starting with the magnificent architecture, the music, the museums and the window displays and ending with the nonchalant style of its residents. It’s a city in which, unlike New York’s hustle-bustle, I like to stop and even get myself lost, uncovering charming corners, cafes, bookstores and antique fairs. In Paris, I also like to hunt down vintage finds; it’s primarily here that I stock my virtual boutique The Vintage Riot.
What differences do you see in the fashion sense of these two cities? What sensibilities shape it? How is the conscience of consumers shaped?
New York and Paris are two different aesthetic worlds. In Paris, vintage has reigned supreme for many years and wearing name-brand, logo-bearing designer clothes has become unfashionable. Parisian women cleverly break with classic style, including exceptional accessories, investing in original jewelry and cult handbags. Many stylish Parisians buy their clothes in second-hand shops and at antique fairs, because they want to look unique. I admire them for their naturalness, their freedom and even nonchalance in dressing themselves and their remarkable self-assurance. They will go out without makeup and in a long red dress with sequins to meet their friends in a local bar.
On the other hand, women in New York, who are always in a hurry, are more practical. They prefer a sporty elegance and wear so-called day-to-night outfits, which are suitable at any time or on any occasion day or night, starting with work, through lunch with as friend and ending with an evening date. They often carry in their capacious bags, in addition to gym clothes, high heels to change into, since only slip-ons or running shoes will do when running for a subway. I also think that New York women are more likely to follow seasonal trends and to lay out far too much money for that purpose.
You've opened a boutique for vintage fashion, The Vintage Riot. What prompted you to do that? Why is vintage enjoying a renaissance?
For as long as I can remember, even when I was a girl, I loved vintage and chose for myself unusual and bold looks, such as jackets with stiffened shoulders. In Poland, I began buying pearls on vintage websites. But my first encounter with genuine vintage took place when I was living in London, from which I returned with an entirely new style and a new wardrobe. I will never forget when, living in Milan, I appeared at a Vivianne Westwood show dressed in a total vintage look (which was my normal look) and I couldn’t get away from the photographers who chased me down the street trying to find out ‘whom are you wearing?”. Then my outfit appeared on the main page of Style.com as a trendy inspiration.
The Vintage Riot is a fairly young project, but it had existed in my head for a good few years. I needed time to mature it and, above all, the courage to share with others my vision and aesthetic and all that inspired me over the years of living in different countries and experiencing fashion first-hand. The Vintage Riot is also a response to ‘fast fashion,’ which is flooding and overtaking our whole planet. The production of textiles is, second only to fossil fuel, the greatest source of environmental pollution. Huge quantities of fabric of dubious quality are produced at great ecological and ethical cost. Working in the fashion industry for over fifteen years and seeing the destruction with my own eyes, I wanted finally to have an impact at least on what I could control and what I and my friends had in our closets. We have to remember that -- thanks to our wallets – we have the power and control to bring about change for the better. Let us think through our purchases, invest in classic, high-quality materials and timeless styles. We should go for quality, not quantity. That’s what vintage means to me: it’s not only the best fabrics, craftsmanship and care for details, but also giving new life to unique designs with interesting histories. My goal was to create a shop (right now, you can only see it on Instagram) in which everyone can find something original and top-quality, often from noted designers. I look for special finds around the world in line with current trends and then I stylize them, adding accessories, then I photograph and describe them, trying to suggest how each item might be dressed up. Vintage has definitely returned to popularity, because we’ve had enough of chain-store fashion and because we want to look original without spending a fortune, and also because we want to keep an eye on what big corporations are up to and to question the ethics of the production of these clothing. We’re returning to the old values, in which quality counts, not quantity.
What role do accessories play in fashion? Do you believe that accessories should be treated as an equal element in fashion?
Well-chosen accessories and add-ons are fundamental to a successful look.
They can add life and flair to even the most modest and uninspired outfit. Accessories are my fashion weak spot: I love jewelry, silk scarves, hats, leather belts and, of course, original bags and shoes. In the fashion model business, in which the color black often dominates an outfit, accessories permit some degree of expression and emphasize one’s own creativity and style.
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