Minimalissimo Meets Slava Varsovia
Jana Ahrens of Minimalissimo speaks to Anna Szydłowska, head of design and owner of the Warsaw-based accessories label Slava Varsovia. She told Jana where her love for leather accessories stems from, which kind of art influences her work and about what’s next for Slava Varsovia.
Every moment of my free time is spent thinking up new designs.
What is it that drew you to designing leather accessories as a career?
I had not planned this at all. I have the impression that life itself has led me to this moment. I think that designing bags and accessories is somewhere between fashion design and industrial design and I was looking for the best way to connect these two areas. I finished Fashion and Textile Design at the Academy of Fine Arts and the natural step after graduation was to create something of my own. I wasn’t thinking about making money or creating a company at this time. It was important for me to continue my passion, and that’s how it all began.
You are very much influenced by traditional Polish craftsmanship. What is your personal background in this regard?
I have a great respect for craftsmanship, not just Polish. I have always been fascinated by traditional techniques, patterns and forms. I draw inspiration from them in my projects, translating them into modern language. Back at the Academy, I had access to some of the oldest harness and jacquard looms. The result of those experiments is the project I am now realising for my brand, with participation of Polish weavers.
Are there other artistic forms that you are interested in besides designing accessories?
I love any form of visual expression. I am fascinated by architecture, sculpture, and painting. I love designing objects and furniture. Every moment of my free time is spent thinking up new designs. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved remodelling old furniture with my Dad.
Besides your Polish heritage, are there also contemporary influences that inspire your designs?
Living in a big city and traveling a lot, I am naturally inspired by architecture, art, new places and people. Recently, however, the greatest pleasure for me is to be in nature, far from the city. In fact, it is only in silence and peace that I am able to design. I try to limit the external stimuli that we are so constantly surrounded with.
Of all your designs to date, which is your personal favourite?
I don’t think I have one favourite project. I like my latest leather handbag, which is wheel-shaped, and the latest pleated bags.
What kind of fashion do you wear yourself? And what do you think of capsule wardrobes?
I dress very simply. It is very important for me for my clothes to be comfortable. My closet consists mostly of black clothes. I don’t spend much time on styling in the mornings. I have the great comfort of everything actually matching everything else. I like to hunt for interesting items in second-hands and bazaars. I usually bring some finds from every trip. Recently, on a trip to India, I’d brought beautiful handmade braided shoes, made by the local craftsmen. From Japan, I brought some vintage kimonos.
What does your home look like? What is your staple piece?
My apartment is actually a large open space. Only my bedroom is separated by a steel-glass door. There is a huge couch in the room, which I bought with my first earned money, while still studying at the Academy. It has been with me in all the flats I’ve lived in since then. I cannot imagine living without it. I have a black wooden floor throughout the whole apartment, like I’ve always dreamed of having.
And what does your workspace look like?
I have a cozy studio on the top floor of an old tenement house in the centre of Warsaw. It doubles as a small showroom for my customers who visit to see my projects.
Which part of the process of creating and marketing design products do you like most?
I love the prototype design stage, when the individual forms and stitched pieces of leather suddenly create a completely new quality. There is always the thrill of excitement when what you have in your mind is being translated into reality.
How close-knit is the network of creatives in Poland?
We are well acquainted with some designers and brands, seeing as we attend the same expos and fashion events. I personally had the great fortune working with very talented photographers and graphic designers, and others in the creative field.
What’s next for Slava Varsovia?
I have just came back from another great trip to Peru, where I have been working with local producers, resulting in my two latest designs of woven grass baskets. I certainly want to continue to work with craftsmen and small workshops. This type of cooperation serves the common good and benefits everyone. It’s very important to me.