European Fashion Heritage Association

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‘Jerzy Antkowiak – Moda Polska’ at The Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź

EFHAEuropean fashionfashion exhibitionPolish fashion

Going back in time to revisit the exhibition organised in Łódź in 2018

‘Jerzy Antkowiak – Moda Polska’ was an exhibition held at the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź from 8th of October 2018 until 5th of May 2019. The show, curated by Tomasz Ossoliński and Marta Galik, was dedicated to Moda Polska (Polish Fashion) and Jerzy Antkowiak, who was one of the most important designers of the Polish brand from the 1960s to the closure of the company in 1998.

Moda Polska was brought into being in 1958 as a result of the merger of Biuro Mody EWA (EWA Fashion Office) and Gallux-Hurt shops, the company was supposed to educate Poles in the field of fashion and represent the garment industry of the Polish People’s Republic on the international market. But it soon became clear that it was something more – the first brand in the fashion industry of post-war Poland that offered not so much clothes as a fascinating lifestyle. The designers of Moda Polska resisted the pervasive greyness and mediocrity, promoting standards brought straight from Paris and growing above the homespun reality of the Polish People’s Republic. Not only did the institution, in the first years of its existence headed by Jadwiga Grabowska, teach the rules of fitting outfits, but also it helped subsequent generations of Poles to adopt the right aesthetic models. It managed to do a very difficult thing – it was both egalitarian and prestigious. Moda Polska offered to its customers not only garment to wear but also a fascinating, stylish lifestyle.

The success of Moda Polska was largely due to Jerzy Antkowiak. It was him who gradually imparted nonchalance and rebellious character to Moda Polska since he took over its informal artistic management in 1967. Ceramicist, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, Antkowiak began his cooperation with the brand designing a coffee set that used a characteristic swallow motif. In subsequent years, he revealed in full his personality of a bold visionary and artist, proposing extravagant outfits even in the difficult times of martial law and managing the brand consistently up to 1997.

The idea of the exhibition, organized for 60th anniversary of the company, came about after the fashion designer Tomasz Ossoliński had discovered the collection of clothes with the label of Moda Polska in Jerzy Antkowiak’s house. Part of this collection, chosen by curators, was exhibited next to objects from museum and other private collections.

The show, presented on two floors, told the story of the company through clothes, accessories, documents and memorabilia. The first floor was focused on the history of Moda Polska – from the condition of Polish fashion after Second World War by the establishment of the brand to changes in the company influenced by social, cultural and economical phenomena of the subsequent decades. Moreover, the important context for curators and the team preparing the show was the biography of Jadwiga Grabowska – the first art director of the company, active between 1958 and 1967 – and Jerzy Antkowiak himself.  Some exhibition space also showcased the work of other fashion designers who had been working in the company over the years. In the second part of the show, located on the lower floor, viewers could see silhouettes designed by Jerzy Antkowiak for Moda Polska and documents such as Jerzy Antkowiak’s drawings, covers of magazines or photographs which pictured the way the designer’s atelier functioned – from initial idea to the final product.