Lace – as a fabric – has been part of the fashion culture for centuries. Primarily introduced within the religious sphere, later on, being worn only by wealthy social groups, the industrialisation and technological innovations led to a standardisation of this fabric that is now far from the handmade approach it is formerly known for. Although lace is well-established in the fashion industry, its potential in our modern context is yet to be discovered. Kasia Kucharska – a Berlin-based designer – is today exploring new alternatives for lace with a version made out of latex.
Working together with Wanda Wollinsky and Reiner Törner, two close friends from Universität der Künste in Berlin, the label has gained the attention of an audience intrigued by their bold design experimentations. But beyond the desire to explore modern forms of lace, Kucharska is a label that celebrates the techniques it involves as it is “one of the most important textile innovations of our modern age.” In a time where the cost of its production can be optimised, the designer aims to come back to the act of celebrating the ‘savoir-faire’ and minimise its impact on the environment. This purpose leads them to investigate other materials such as latex – a more sustainable alternative to silicon.
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You’ve studied at UdK in Berlin. How did you experience this learning period? And now that you are running your label what is the things you learned that are still helping your practice?
Studying at UdK, I felt very unrestricted to evolve skills in whatever directions felt right to me. The University is really well equipped with great workshops, which was very helpful in order to experiment with different materials and manufacturing techniques. It is also a place with a great sense of community and collaboration, that’s where I met Wanda and Reiner, who are now my close companions working together on the label.
Although you are exploring other materials and fabrics in your work, your main items are based on a lace made from silicon. Why is lace a material that you choose to explore?
In general, I really like to look at old references like traditional craft and manufacturing techniques in order to rethink and translate them into the here and now.
Lace has such a beautiful long history. The techniques to produce it are one of the most important textile innovations of our modern age – innovations that were mainly developed by women who produced it at home by hand. I wanted to track this evolution and find new ways of creating lace in a modern way.
The traditional symbolism of lace is quite far from your vision and approach. What makes you revisit this fabric in this way?
I kind of see it as a comment on the status quo: the fabric that was once thoroughly made by hand and reserved for nobility has stretched down to even the fastest fashion, leaving frayed bits of exposed elastic visible. While well-made pieces are still exquisite, I thought there is definitely room to reimagine this historic fabric.
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Socially, when it comes to lace, the general psyche associates the fabric with notions such as sensuality. Is your approach in line with this imaginary or are you challenging it?
We embrace sensuality and we want women to feel sensual and confident in our clothes. Our garments are romantic and eccentric, designed for people to celebrate life.
The actual state of fashion forces us to rethink our habits and visions. According to you, what are the issues we need to tackle first?
It’s difficult to find a simple answer to such a question. There are so many issues concerning the environment, sustainability, fair pay and working conditions, gender equality within the field of fashion that need to be discussed, rethought and improved. A quick answer would trivialise matters that are important to us.
Your collections don’t follow the traditional and established fashion calendar. Do you feel we need to stick to this logic or should we explore something more in the zeitgeist?
It’s very important to us to work at our own pace. We want to release work when we feel it is good, whenever we are ready and we consider it is the right moment.
Generally, time is one of our most valuable resources. We are a very small team, so we have to be sure to be on the same page with everything and invest our time wisely. Otherwise, we would spread ourselves very thin and probably won’t achieve the quality we seek to reach. Therefore, for us to genuinely succeed at this point, we don't just need a feature in a publication or a sale but also to gain further insight into the way we want to go forward from here. In this case, it means to be sure that we design something that is valuable to serve. A purpose beyond the borders of the project because then it will never just end up being a 'waste of time.'
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You studied Interior Architecture before fashion design and currently, you are also exploring product design. How are all these skills and visions coexisting in your work?
I always had a very product-focused approach to making fashion. It’s all knowledge that I gather and use to create.
As an emerging designer evolving in Berlin, you already have a very supportive audience. What would you say are the opportunities and challenges while evolving in the field of fashion there?
The most important thing for us is to have fun with what we do. We have a very supportive network of friends that we love to collaborate with. Also, with Berlin being an affordable city to live in, we feel like we have more freedom than we believe we would have elsewhere. The biggest challenge, though. is German bureaucracy.
So far, you’ve mainly settled there. Do you plan on moving to another city/place to explore your vision elsewhere?
We love Berlin and we don’t see ourselves moving somewhere else anytime soon.
Now that you’ve worked on lace through silicon, are you planning on doing new experimentations?
Absolutely! Right now, we are still evolving the scribble technique. We want to be responsible with the products we put out there and started to work with latex last year, which is a more sustainable alternative to silicon as it is biodegradable.
In the last few months, we’ve done so much product development in this direction and it’s our biggest achievement so far. We experiment with different materials and put a lot of time and effort into finding manufacturers and partners who are willing to experiment with us in order to evolve new ways of making clothes.
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