A skirt made of old train draperies. A raincoat fashioned from a shower curtain. Two young designers from Krakow are using recycling as the key element in their creative expression.
The first-floor studio of Punkt Fashion, owned and operated by Maja, who holds a master’s in cinematography, and Monika, a former student of the Academy of Arts, is on ul. Sawkowska in the center of Krakow.
It is very difficult to overlook. Two bizarre mannequins stand in the front of the store, staring perpetually out upon the street. One wears an outfit with cow patches on it, while the other sports a glaring orange skirt with oversized flowers. The interior of the shop is snug but oh-so-peculiar: a plush pink carpet, a crystal chandelier, a cozy red couch and a life-sized plastic heron, admiring itself in a large mirror.
Customers relax upon the comfy sofa, sipping coffee and discussing fashion. A “recycling counter,” assembled from three old washing machines, sits next to a small table made of Coca-Cola boxes. All around the store are skirts, shirts and dresses. Most are decorated with weird, outrageous emblems, flowers or animal prints — tigers, zebras, leopards, cows.
“Our design revolves around creative recycling,” says Monika. “We use second-hand materials. Some of them have absolutely nothing to do with fashion, like shower curtains, tablecloths, as well as bedcovers and curtains from trains, which are emblazoned with well-known logos. We have made our jewelry from plastic tubes, fishing-ware and old handmade table napkins. This is how we are pursuing our goal of ‘restoring things to the world.?’ We respect this stuff because a lot of energy, natural resources and human endeavor have gone into producing them.”
“This raincoat we made from old shower curtains from IKEA,” says Maja. “We bought them at a flea market in Berlin.”
“These earrings,” she says, holding up a huge piece of plush leopard-print material, “are from an old hat that we found at a second-hand shop.”
Monika is wearing a dress with black-yellow-orange stripes and a huge black turtleneck. The red boots she has on are over 70 years old. Maja has on a hooded silver blouse and a greenish-blue skirt with big blue flowers and silver shoes. They have known each other for 10 years and have been running the shop for two.
“We are best friends and we wanted to create something together,” Maja said. “We have different educations, so we needed to find a point where we could meet. We’re both interested in fashion; we like looking original and just love second-hand clothes. When we were in the United States, we were fascinated by a particular type of vintage item: exclusive second-hand clothes. And so we decided to open a store specializing in such items in Krakow. We developed the idea spontaneously — literally day-by-day. We made the decision on Monday, chose a location on Wednesday and rented it on Friday. We had some money that Monika had earned in the States. The rest of what we needed, I borrowed.?”
One week later, everything was ready. Their first boutique was on Krakow’s Main Square. The clothes, most brought from the U.S., were very original, and the business began to develop.
“We just took and sold everything we had in our wardrobes,” Monika confesses. “After a while, though, we needed new articles. While I was studying at the Academy of Arts, I used to make clothes myself from materials I would find at second-hand shops. So, I thought to myself, why not sell them? And so, we employed a dressmaker and started to design.”
In the beginning, business at their vintage shop was slow, with only a few items being sold daily.
“They started to come, people who wanted to look original. We had more and more clients with each passing day,” Monika says. “Recycled materials guarantee originality; 50-, 60-, 70-year-old curtains, tablecloths and covers have emblems and styles that just don’t exist anymore. We look for them at second-hand stores and sales, buy them from private people or get them from our friends in the UK, Germany, the U.S., even Japan. Every piece of clothing in our shop has a certificate of uniqueness. That means that no more than five have been produced.”
The clothing’s originality emphasizes the courageousness of their design — old kimonos, skirts with holes or funky patches, dresses and sport blouses with trimmed bear’s ears on their hoods or wings on their backs. Bags made of advertisement tarpaulins or a head garland made of wool pompoms provide ideal accessories to the boutique?s third-hand dresses. These are but a few examples of what may be seen in the store.
“Recycling provokes an inverted work order,” Maja says. “First, the designer has a piece of material and then has to decide what to do with it — we have a piece of cloth and wonder whether it is better for a skirt or a coat. This design comes from the toy and trinket booths at Imagine Hill. We look for inspiration in all forms of art, film and mass culture. We like kitsch and we like to surround ourselves with bizarre gadgets and such.”
Punkt also offers a wide variety of unusual knick-knacks and one-of-a-kind conversation items: door stoppers, three-dimensional frames, plastic fawns and bears, for example.
Punkt is more than just a clothing store; it is a place for meeting, socializing and exchanging views. Maja makes some coffee for euphoric clients lounging on a couch, while Monika shows them a heap of magazines.
“Even when we design for an order, our client has to give us some room for imagination,” Maja says. “Punkt is a crossroads and a meeting place, not just a sewing club.”
The number of clients interested in third-hand clothing is steadily increasing. And the weird and colorful shop window has made the boutique a favorite among foreign tourists, too. When asked about their future plans, the entrepreneurs say they want to enhance the communal atmosphere they have established by opening an Internet center.