Designer Spotlight - Karolina Zmarlak

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One of the true joys of my line of work is getting to know fashion designers. One of these is Karolina Zmarlak, whose talent is immense. She celebrates the modern woman, who is strong, but feminine with refined taste. I am grateful to call her my friend. We met for lunch at the Nomad in NYC, and our conversation follows:

HOW DID YOU START YOUR NAMESAKE LABEL? WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS CAREER?

I spent part of my childhood in Communist Poland. My mother somehow found ways to be stylish without much at her disposal. She had these chic jumpsuits made for her that became her "look"; she cared about how she presented herself to the world and was successful in this, despite all the disadvantages of living in a Communist country. She has always been my inspiration.

About my career path, I actually began by studying Photography, but it was in Fashion Design that I finally found my "voice". I attended FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in the Design program, specializing in Fine Tailoring. After graduation, I "honed my skills" at Carolina Herrera and Theory, and then started my own line in the fall of 2009.

CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?

For me, it all starts with the fabric. It is my guide in deciding what type of piece to design. Next, I make a sketch and create a pattern.  We study the movement of the fabric as we drape, and take a lot of notes. We work very hard on the draping. I am always looking for the "KZ Voice" in the piece. So, first it is a diagram, then the sketch that becomes a pattern. Next, we create the garment out of muslin; the process truly evolves as you go along. Sometimes even mistakes can be built upon. The last step is using the fabric to create the final product. Each piece is important to us, so this step is very exciting! I am proud to say that all of our clothes are designed and produced in the Garment District in New York City.

WHO OR WHAT ARE THE INFLUENCES  BEHIND YOUR DESIGNS?

Functionality and versatility are very important to me. I want the woman who buys my pieces to be able to make them her own. You can wear my clothes as you feel at that moment. It can be the same garment, but the way I wear it will be completely different than you because the pieces can be worn in many different ways. Several of my designs are reversible as well.

BLOGGER'S NOTE:  I have a sleeveless silk tunic from Karolina's collection that has a matte look on one side, and when reversed, a sheen on the other. It can be more or less dressy depending on which side you wear. Brilliant!

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WHO IS YOUR MUSE?

My "girl" has no age. She doesn't follow trends. She has a very specific point of view; the way she wears the clothes creates a consistent, but unique look that people remember her by. She is open-minded, modern, sleek and understated, but makes a statement when she enters a room. I would say the style aesthetic is "European Minimalism".

YOU WORK WITH SUCH INNOVATIVE FABRICS! WHERE DO YOU FIND THEM? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FABRIC TO WORK WITH?

Most of my fabrics are Italian or Japanese. My favorite mill is in Osaka. The leathers are French, and some are washable! I look for fabrics that are interesting, modern and functional, as well as beautiful. Right now, my favorites are washable suede and technical knit organza.

WHAT ARE THE UPCOMING TRENDS IN THE INDUSTRY? 

As I said before, I don't really study trends. I am interested in creating something personal. This will be different for everyone; your personal "uniform" will be unique to you. 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE STATE OF LUXURY RETAIL?

America is very much lagging behind Asia and Europe; the American stores need to do a lot more for the customer. They need to carry more interesting, unique designers and create experiences surrounding the designers. People want to know the "story" behind the clothes. Shopping should be fun; it should be an event. I mean, let's face it, nobody needs any more "stuff"! A beautiful piece with an interesting story that goes along with it is a thoughtful purchase, and that will bring real joy for the customer. That is the ultimate luxury.

WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR COLLECTION?

My collection can be found in specialty stores throughout the country, and also on the Karolina Zmarlak website. We are always involved in collaborative events with other designers and style influencers. Our collection can be made to measure by appointment.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK! YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE YOUR GORGEOUS PIECES, AND NOW I GET TO SHARE YOUR STORY WITH MY READERS. I AM REALLY PROUD OF THE COLLECTION OF CZ DESIGNS I AM BUILDING, AND LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING WHAT'S COMING NEXT FROM KAROLINA ZMARLAK!

A link to Karolina's website can be found here.

Alison Bruhn