For decades, Warsaw sat in the shadow of busier European neighbors such as Prague, Berlin and fairytale Krakow to the south. Today, however, the Polish capital’s industrial districts, such as Praga, are teeming with start-ups and studios, while its food scene is among the most vibrant in Europe.
“I grew up in Warsaw and remember taking the train every month for weekend getaways to Berlin,” says Pawel Walicki, founder and CEO of Warsaw Creatives, a communications agency that promotes design brands local. “About 15 or 20 years ago, nothing was going on in Warsaw from a cultural or entertainment point of view, but the last five to 10 years have changed it enormously.”
Walicki says Warsaw is thriving because an unsaturated market allows its artists and entrepreneurs to succeed creatively. “The cost of living, creating and doing business is much lower than in Western Europe,” he says. As a result, a creative blossoming began, with designers, architects and restorers creating new versions of Polish traditions.
Fashion with an oriental touch
Of the emerging Warsaw-based fashion brands making waves today – Msbhv, Non and Belle among them – perhaps the most notable is Magda Butrym. It’s hard to stay under the radar when the Kardashians and Beyoncé are fans.
As exuberant as Butrym’s work is, it’s more than just a red carpet flash. To create her costumes, coats and dresses, the 36-year-old Silesian collaborates with artisans from all over Poland, enriching fabrics such as jersey, silk and leather with pleated, hand-knit and embroidered details. The look, she says, is meant to reflect the history and romance of her homeland, not the needs of style capitals like Paris or New York.
In Warsaw, her clothes are available exclusively at Redford & Grant, a luxury fashion boutique on Pilsudski Square.
For more information, visit magdabutrym.com.
3D printing goes pop
“The whole creative part of our lives runs exactly parallel to the changes happening in Warsaw,” says Justyna Faldzinska, who co-founded UAUProject, a multidisciplinary design firm specializing in 3D-printed household items, with Milosz Dabrowski. “We started studying industrial design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw shortly after Poland joined the EU in 2004. Since then, people have become much more open to new ideas. “
Among those ideas is their studio’s raison d’être: to show how 3D printing using PLA filaments derived from renewable resources is the future of consumer production, even if the fancy of their products (think to the Seussian thermoplastic candlesticks and interlocking colored suspensions) belies the seriousness of their mission. “It’s the best way to make good design accessible,” says Faldzinska.
Although the duo frequently showcase their work at international design fairs, they have no plans to take their studio, located in Warsaw’s laid-back Ochota district, overseas. “We really love our hometown,” says Faldzinska. “We know our way. We know where to go to relax. The Mokotowskie Pole, one of the city’s largest parks, is a favorite spot for a midday getaway.
For more information, visit uauproject.com.
Polish design for all
As well as being one of Poland’s leading product and furniture designers, Maja Ganszyniec is perhaps the most versatile, crafting collections both on a small scale (see her exquisite Otok line of table accessories in brass and fieldstone for Nurt) and the general public (Ikea is a long-time customer). For Ganszyniec, who spent his early career in Milan and London, moving to Warsaw was a powerful creative catalyst, although it took him time to really understand his country’s capital.
“The best way to explain this place is to compare it to a scar – a place so affected by war, literally razed and rebuilt from scratch,” she says. “And yet this giant loss has created – continues to create – space for the new.”
Being based in Warsaw, Ganszyniec has access to high quality manufacturers and raw materials (as one of the most forested countries in Europe, Poland is a rich source of wood). “I hadn’t really planned to live in Warsaw, but life, fortunately, is not predictable.”
For more information, visit studioganszyniec.com.
A variety of spaces
Elegant and refined single-family homes; a stunning restaurant interior enlivened by a powder coated steel structure “the color of ketchup and cheese”; an ugly commercial unit transformed into an airy vegan restaurant, with floating plywood shelves evoking a bamboo forest: As varied as MFRMGR Architekci’s projects are, there is a common denominator. The 12-year-old practice run by married couple Marta Frejda and Michal Gratkowski has an unwavering commitment to context and client needs, even if it comes at the expense of a recognizable business style.
“We like diversity in our work,” says Frejda. “Interesting clients and conditions such as location mean that virtually all of our projects are different.” One of MFRMGR’s most recent large-scale projects is a proposed apartment building in Praga, where the boxy multi-unit design is meant to evoke the neighborhood’s ‘legacy of building wooden objects’. still gravelly. It is an appropriate scalable framework for the work of the idiosyncratic enterprise.
For more information, visit mfrmgr.pl.
Prison tattoos might not be the most obvious dinnerware inspiration, but Magda Pilaczynska isn’t your average china artist.
Both a graphic designer and a ceramist, 190-year-old Polish illustrator Porcelain Kristoff reflects as much on the often shocking visual symbolism of her products as on the firing process. The results are cups, plates and trays emblazoned with bloody snakes and daggers.
By far Pilaczynska’s most avant-garde collection is TatooTaboo, where penitentiary markings, including pierced hearts and skulls, have been “tattooed” onto the surface of the porcelain.
Pilaczynska also posted less provocative designs, including colorful renderings of waiters balancing trays and pseudo-modernist scribbles. His brand, fittingly, is called Look at Me Plates.
For more information, visit shop.lookatmeplates.com.
The meat of matter
For such a meat-hungry city, Warsaw has a surprising wealth of cutting-edge restaurants and consistently ranks among the world’s top destinations for vegans. But don’t expect strictly vegetarian menus from Jurek Sobieniak, the chef, restaurateur, TV personality and cookbook author whose aim, as he said recently, is to “make meat sexy again.” “.
Sobieniak serves up Poland’s beloved trifecta of pork, poultry and beef in new and innovative ways, often with global flavors. The latest in its series of Warsaw restaurants – called Deska i Kreska and located in the Grzybowska park area – it offers “Mediterranean cuisine with a Polish twist”. This translates into tagliatelle with braised local lamb and roast prime rib with spicy salsa verde. The fare also includes meatless dishes such as polenta-like roasted corn mash topped with roasted red peppers and a sweet tomato sauce. The mix illustrates how seamless the chef and the new culinary scene in town can be.
For more information, visit jureksobieniak.pl.
Style Advisor traveled to Poland as a guest of UPEMI and European Union. The organizations did not review or approve this article prior to publication.