In 1975, Patti Smith was staring intently into the camera, wearing a simple white shirt while she posed for photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, for the cover of her album titled Horses. In one of my favourite memoirs Just Kids she recalls that on the day of the shoot he asked her to wear a clean shirt with no stains, so she went and bought a stack of men’s white shirts and cut the cuffs off. Image that stood out in the saturated aesthetic of a 1970s music industry, became the most recognizable example of Smith’s dress code and one of popular culture’s most iconic looks.
Once a distinct sartorial symbol of class distinction and wealth – in the 18th century only people of substantial prosperity could afford to have their shirts washed frequently and to own enough of them to wear them daily – white shirt was later associated with labour and the modern industrialisation of the 20th century. The phrase ‘white collar’, which is still in use today, differentiated clerical works from industrial workers wearing ‘blue collar shirts’. During the war time in the early 20th century when female employment became commonplace, the shirt developed into an icon of women’s emancipation, mostly thanks to Hollywood’s representation of it.
Today the white shirt is one of the few universal garments that ignore the gender rules and consequently one of the most democratic items in fashion. It can be totally baren of sexuality but still able to evoke the sense of nonchalance, femininity. Seduction is subdued, replaced by the confidence of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin.
The white shirt is a blank canvas, with endless possibilities and therefore continues to be reconstructed and reworked by fashion’s contemporaries. Also Joanna Organisciak, emerging designer from Poland, found her passion in discovering the creative possibilities in a strict, aesthetic limitation. Due to unique combination of classic and modern, deconstruction of traditional forms and ambiguity, Joanna’s shirts always stand out but never neglect the personality of the wearer. Utopiast talked to her about inspiration, her signature style and rituals.
Joanna, can you share with us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up, study, where do you live now?
I grew up in Bełchatów – town in central Poland. I’ve always been interested in music and singing. However, after high school I decided to study Pharmacy at Medical University in Wrocław and later moved to Warsaw to work in Pharmacy Field. After years in the corporate world with a pretty scheduled work life I felt that something was missing in my life but I didn’t know what it was. Everything changed when I moved to Cracow and my life slowed down. I had the desire to try something completely new. I became self-employed and started to study at Cracow School of Art and Fashion Design. For almost 3 years I juggled my full-time studies, freelance work and took care of my daughter. I didn’t have time to think how tired I was, but I knew one thing – I was in the right place.
Can you tell us more about fashion industry in Poland?
I’m not sure if we can use term “Fashion Industry”, especially “Industry” in Poland. Fashion in Poland is developing. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have great designers, because we do. We don’t have wholesale buyers or very few of them, so distribution of the projects is difficult. Thus most of designers rely on retail sale only. Hopefully this situation will change.
What inspires you in design and in life in general?
I can be inspired by anything. My creativity is definitely fed by nature, music, books, history, the past. I like to travel; it doesn’t have to be very distant trip, just to a new place. People who live not that far from us do some things differently than we do and I love this variety. It always awakens my alertness to “new” things, new shapes, people, ideas. Therefore what inspires me most is people. I’m lucky to meet those who encourage me to do things that I dream of. I’m also inspired by psychology. I think that without self-development and asking ourselves who we really are and what makes us happy we can spend our whole life doing things that are not in harmony with us or simply not discover our talents.
“I mostly concentrate on clothing patterns, form and shape. It is easier for me to see the effect when I use limited palette of colors. I usually use black and white materials and focus mostly on finding new forms and shapes.”
How do you define your particular style or approach to fashion? What has influenced your approach?
I would define my style as a combination of classic and modernity. I like to play with traditional classic forms and create new a little bit avant-garde style. My approach to fashion come from my previous experience. Fashion design is the field where I let my imagination run wild. I’m not satisfied with superficiality, and the inspiration behind the design is important to me. When I create I always think to myself: “if this is not something new, it is simply waste of Earth resources”. I love to create simple things that are timeless. Creating just for one season is leading to mass consumption, which I really don’t like. I hope to encourage people to think more about quality not quantity.
Your signature are unique white shirts and dresses. What inspires you so much about the white shirt?
I started with the white shirt, because it is the world’s oldest garment. Today it is synonymous of elegance, class and style and it also appeared in my professional life in dress code rules. I wanted to present this symbol in more avant-garde style and find new designs for the white shirt. If you wear my shirt you are still within “dress code” rules but you also express yourself in an extraordinary way. The white shirt is also part of the male wardrobe. I must say that men’s clothing has always seemed to me more interesting than women. I prefer simplicity not abundance. This is why in designing I smuggle a male element into a women’s wardrobe and if there is a detail it is just one that does “the whole work”.
Why do you choose such a limited palette of colors?
I mostly concentrate on clothing patterns, form and shape. It is easier for me to see the effect when I use limited palette of colors. I usually use black and white materials and focus mostly on finding new forms and shapes. I love to work with fabrics which have their own stiffness and create new shapes. My favorite color is black and I usually dress in that color. I could create only in black:)
What is your process of making collection?
There always has to be a vision – it could be a thought, a gesture, an idea. I have to see it in my head. And then it is a long process to materialize what exactly I saw. In my last collection I got inspired by music, and that was tremendous experience – I never thought it could be music, I didn’t believe it, but… this music was still coming back to me , so I said ”ok you won.”:)
What is your favourite piece in the collection?
I love all of them, but my favorite piece is jumpsuit. This is because I personally like a piece of clothing which makes everything – the look and style – nothing else is needed, not even jewelry. And of course shirt – with double front and cut open back.
What is your idea of a perfect 5-piece wardrobe?
Simply shirt, trousers, dress, coat and jumpsuit.
Plans for the future?
My plan for the future is to enjoy what I do. I will work on development of my brand and myself. And I’m always open to meet and work with fantastic people. In the near future I plan to attend Design Week Budapest 2016 where I was invited by Budapest Metropolitan University. This event shows how contemporary philosophical discourse might contribute to thinking about the human body. I can’t wait for it.
Written by Sandra Gubenšek. Photos by Joanna Organisciak.
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