Konstantin Grcic talks London, design and that bicycle

When my editor tells me I will have 20 minutes for an interview with Konstantin Grcic, I kind of freak out. Only 20 minutes with this super famous designer? That’s not enough. Apparently, I learn, I’m lucky. He hardly ever agrees to interviews and when he does, you need to strictly adhere to the little time given, precisely announced prior to your meeting. And 20 minutes, by his standards – I’m told – is a lot. So, when I finally meet Grcic during the London Design Biennale in September, I already feel under pressure, given the time constraints. And I soon learn he’s not after the small talk – he gets straight to the point and rushes me into the questions I prepared. During our conversation, I am super aware of the timing, and keep looking at the minutes ticking away on my iPhone Voice Memos app but as we carry on, Grcic gets more and more relaxed and switches over to a rather talkative mode. To the point of me getting slightly wary of the time already passed and warning him that I’d only have one last question to ask. At which point his PR lady gives me a very clear sign I am running out of time. – That’s OK – says Konstantin – we are wrapping up. And we are. I check my recording – we spoke for exactly 29 minutes and 51 seconds. Mr Grcic gifted me with 9 minutes and 51 seconds extra time. Not bad, given his German tendency for precision and exactness. Not at all bad.

Excerpts from the interview for the English readers below. Polish readers please refer to the hard copy of the Monitor Magazine no. 17/18 (currently on sale).

London is where it all started for you. How does it feel to be back?
It all started for me in England, then London played a role in it. I was a student at the Royal College of Art, many years ago, like a quarter of century ago. I have very strong, very vivid memories of it. It was a great time of my life and London was where I wanted to be then. I left for different reasons and it’s this thing that always gets through my mind: what would I be, where would I be now, had I stayed in London 25 years ago. But I don’t know and it’s boring trying to answer that now but it is definitely kind of sentimental me coming back here. I love it and I hate it. When you live here, you get used to this crazy city but if you’re coming from the outside, from a city which is a little fraction of London [Grcic lives in Berlin] then you really have to be conditioned to live here. London is loud and sweaty. London is intense. (…)

What has changed since the time you founded your own studio?
I think over the years my practice has changed in size, in equipment, in clients that we have. My team has changed – it is now six people, 25 years ago I was alone. But I think it’s not completely different to what I started with. I think in some way I find it almost frustrating to think that it’s not that different to what I wanted to do originally. But at the same time I could also say it’s quite reassuring and it’s beautiful, it’s seems like I did find something in my life, something I really want to do, something that makes me happy, that makes sense of my life. And I feel that way, we’re doing things today that I couldn’t have thought about 25 years ago. The problem was really to decide on where I wanted to stand on design. Is it a promise of always the new, the next project, a bigger project, a faster project, a more crazy project, a more utopian project? Or, is there something in the quality of design, which in the end is so simple, so beautiful, so effective, so economical. I think that my installation here, at the Biennale, tries to speak about that. Utopia is what happens in your head. We’ve created something, which of course has a technological aspect to it but it is also very real and has the sound of crackling fire.

I sat in that room, closed my eyes and felt like I was sitting by the fire. Only last week I went to the countryside and sat by a real fire, watching the stars.
And that’s what it is about, still today, in this world. With all the technologies we have, the simplest little things and moments are the most powerful, and so strong. And it’s beautiful that it still works for us. We’re used to the most incredible stuff, but sitting by a real fire is unbeatable. And then the real fire is free to anyone, to people from all cultures around the planet and that’s where I think you have the utopia. Isn’t that nice that utopia is not that incredible future being manmade? We can all be part of our own mental utopia just through this simple thing that comes for free. People, in the most primitive cultures, as well as the most sophisticated cultures, they all go back to the fire. And that was our way out of this. Of course, we’ve designed the space, but in a way I would have even preferred we hadn’t designed anything and tried to just create the atmosphere. Surely, it’s not true for every visitor but if we get 10 out of a 100 to sit down and do what you did, close your eyes and relax, it’s fine. It is one installation out of forty, people will come here with their heads already crammed with other things they’ve seen at the Biennale, so it’s difficult to get their attention. But I think that difficulty is always part of our work. Every project is a challenge. That’s why I’m passionate about my work and I want to face the difficulty that comes with it. (…)

There was a time when you suffered from the major success of Chair One. You yourself said that it took a while for people to grasp Chair One and understand what it was about. Do you have the patience to wait for people to understand your designs?
I wish the things I design were understood or liked more immediately, but it’s not something that I do intentionally. I don’t make things difficult. It’s just something I’m not able to change. I do the things I strongly believe in. We worked on Chair One for four years, so I had four years to get used to it. How could it be that someone who sees it for the first time gets it immediately? It took myself four years. It’s like that with a lot of things. Do I have the patience? I haven’t even thought about it in that way, to be honest. That’s the way it goes, I can’t change it. But I’m not doing it on purpose. When we design things, we do the best we can at that particular moment, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. The failures and the problems form part of the solution that we find in the next project somehow. But there is one thing I started to accept, which is different to when I was young and at the beginning of my designing career. At at that time my generation wanted to be successful designers, not successful in stardom, even money, but successful in designing popular products. Working for Ikea – we thought that was great. The generation before us thought it was horrible. Now I have to accept that in the end, I’m not an Ikea designer…

But you work for MUJI. Although it has a slightly different philosophy.
You’re right, probably MUJI makes an exception. I think that maybe I’m the designer who is better at designing Chair One, rather than designing a chair that sells and works for everyone. If I’m the designer of Chair One, anyway, I’m happy with that. There used to be this idea of avant-garde, and it was always something that is exclusive, and understood by a very few people. But generations later, years later it changes – Bauhaus was avant-garde, now it’s a common reference to a lot of what we do. Certain things that were so exclusive, but powerful, have that power to trickle into much broader consciousness, and in the end something that is exclusive turns into, not a mass product, but a mass reference. Think of Memphis design, it was so powerful it changed everything we thought about design, but not because Memphis products were all over the place. They were produced in prototypes, but the imagery, and the reference, the knowledge, the learning from it has influenced everyone. I think that’s also something that I find a valuable contribution to make. As a designer you have a voice to say something, say something strong, something that polarizes people or even offends them. And I still believe it is necessary to do that. I believe it would be horrible if design became the one thing for everyone, made everyone happy.

Last question – have you designed a bicycle yet?
[Grcic laughs]. No.

So you dream hasn’t come true.
No. It’s still in the pipe line, which means in my head.


Photo credits: Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design. Photo of Konstantin Grcic on the cover: Markus Jans.

Monitor Magazine Konstantin Grcic Magda Bulera-Payne

REMO chair with tubular legs

Chair One cast Konstantin Grcic
Chair One public Konstantin Grcic Landen Grcic Vitra REMO chair Konstantin Grcic VAL Konstantin Grcic

VAL washbasin


London Fashion Week: David Koma SS16

As the Paris Fashion Week goes into full swing, I am still reminiscing the time spent in London. Courtesy of He is Dapper, who in turn won the tickets in an instagram competition announced by Penhaligon’s London, I had a chance to attend the presentation of the spring collection by a London based, Georgian born, fashion designer David Koma. I have to say, I absolutely loved the pieces from his new collection! There were at least a dozen of outfits from the catwalk I could see myself wearing. And that does not happen very often.

DavidKoma01 DavidKoma02 DavidKoma03 DavidKoma04 DavidKoma05 DavidKoma06 DavidKoma07 DavidKoma08 DavidKoma09 DavidKoma10 DavidKoma11 DavidKoma12 DavidKoma13 DavidKoma14 DavidKoma15 DavidKoma16 DavidKoma17 DavidKoma18 DavidKoma19

For a different take on the show, see a post by He is Dapper – click here.

To explore the universe of David Koma – check out his website.


Women Fashion Power

In modern times, dress has been used both to signify, and to bring about a change in the status of women. (…) This exhibition explores how women use fashion to define their place in the world, and their sense of themselves.

From corsets to beach wear, from ankle length to above the knee, from skirts to trousers, and reasons behind those changes explained – all of this you will find at the most recent fashion exhibition put up by the London Design Museum. It features designs by Elsa Schiaparelli, Pierre Cardin, YSL, Philip Treacy, to mention a few. Skilfully designed by Zaha Hadid, the exhibition trail guides you through the various decades of fashion, social and political changes and takes you to the world of today, aptly defined as ‘freedom to choose’. I hope the pictures I took speak for themselves, so let them take you on a little preview journey. And if you have a chance, go see the exhibition. It’s enjoyable.

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Women Fashion Power is on until 26 April 2015 at the Design Museum in London. More info on the exhibition – here.


Strawberries & Bazaar

Proper strawberry season is yet to come but I am an all-year-round strawberry lover (read: addict). Polish strawberries are the best in the world but when they are not around, you need to find alternative sources. Thank God for Spain. If I need to buy produce grown in other countries, I tend to stick to Europe. It makes me feel better, knowing that my strawberries only traveled over a few territories, rather than crossed the whole of the Atlantic ocean.

photo 1Strawberries & Bazaar: a strawberry breakfast full of style

So, this is my stylish strawberry-inspired breakfast on a lazy Sunday: Greek yoghurt with strawberry crunch (by M&S) – a wonderful mix of crunchy oat clusters with slices of almond and chunks of dried strawberries, with added almond flakes and dried cranberries (for extra goodness boost), and a home-made strawberry & banana smoothie. To keep with the color scheme I decided to serve it with “Harper’s Bazaar Great Style” book, an inspiring guide on all you need to know about being chic. Coming from a writer at Bazaar, it presents dozens of looks by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Gwyneth Paltrow and SJP, and shares tips from renowned designers, including Carolina Herrera, Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan. It’s a must-have book for all fashion lovers (not just for lazy Sunday mornings). I found it in London last summer – in the Oxfam Books store in Portobello Road in Notting Hill. To be consumed with strawberries or on its own. Either way, enjoy!

photo 2Page from the book on ‘Enduring Chic’: A look at iconic pieces that have stood the test of time, including LBD, fitted jacket and tuxedo


Mój sposób na wnętrze w In Style!

Do kiosków właśnie trafił marcowy numer In Style, a w nim moje 10 pomysłów na … Mieszkanie z charakterem. W rubryce Zycie itd. opoowiadam o rodzinnych pamiątkach, które są dla mnie ważne oraz zdjęciach, które sprawiają, że moi najbliżsi, choć mieszkają daleko, są ze mną blisko. Pokazuję też swoją kolekcję szpilek (obiekt zazdrości wszystkich moich koleżanek:) i manekin, o którym zawsze marzyłam. Zdradzam, że moją ulubioną torebką Louis Vuitton jest Speedy – kultowy model zaprojektowany w 1930 roku. Miała ją między innymi Audrey Hepburn, moja ikona stylu. Wreszcie, przyznaję się, że nie umiem dbać o rośliny doniczkowe… Za to uwielbiam świeże kwiaty w wazonie (przyjmuję na urodziny, imieniny oraz z okazji bez okazji).

Bardzo gorąco polecam Wam ten artykuł, mam nadzieję, że znajdziecie w nim kilka inspiracji dla siebie. Dziękuję redakcji In Style za zaproszenie do udziału w tym projekcie:)


In Style marzec 2014 – Zycie itd. – 10 pomysłów na … Mieszkanie z charakterem (str. 154-157)

PS. Właśnie jedna z moich koleżanek napisała do mnie po przeczytaniu tego artykułu – Zainspirowalaś mnie tym manekinem, świetny pomysł. Cieszę się bardzo, że Ciebie zainspirowałam, Magda. Już nie mogę się doczekać, kiedy pokażesz mi swoje nowe mieszkanie!


Blow(n) away

We all know Isabella Blow was an eccentric. Not everybody knows though that she wore clothes as armor, to protect herself from the outer world. She discovered Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen and nurtured their careers. Careers of many other fashion designers and artists are also credited to Ms Blow. She had a rare talent for finding new faces – putting Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant on the fashion radar. Her valuable possessions – clothes, hats and shoes from numerous designers, though McQueen and Treacy form a focal point of her collection – required a separate room to live in. And this is just a beginning of a story that will, most likely, blow you away…

If you want to take a sneak peek into the extraordinary life and wardrobe of one of the rare personalities in the fashion world, this exhibition is a must-see for you. I left inspired and filled with humbleness and respect for the unique talent she possessed.

e91ca08d-7551-488f-992c-daebd2330537Photo as featured on the exhibition’s website

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!
Open to visitors until 2 March 2014

Somerset House, Embankment Galleries
£12.50, £10 concessions, £6.25 on Mondays

Curated by Alistair O’Neill with Shonagh Marshall and designed by award-winning architectural firm Carmody Groarke, with installations by celebrated set designer Shona Heath, the exhibition displays thematically the breadth of Isabella’s collection.


When in London, come to Thai Cottage

Thai Cottage is a family-run institution, serving authentic Thai food right in the heart of London Soho. Unlike many places in the area, this restaurant won’t break your bank, with lunch deals priced at just 5.50 pounds. Being a seafood lover, I always go for prawn dishes. Stir fry prawn with baby corn and spring onion in oyster sauce (£8.75) or prawn in green/red curry paste with coconut milk, aubergine, bamboo shoots & sweet basil (£8.95) are every time safe bets. Thai Cottage curries are smooth, silky and simply melt in your mouth. Stir fries offer just the right texture of prawns and vegetables. If you prefer meat options – try chicken in red curry paste with coconut milk, aubergine, bamboo shoots & sweet basil (£6.95). When it comes to starters, I recommend deep fried fish cakes (£5.50) with home-made chilli sauce or chicken satays (£4.95).

By the way, do not get discouraged by the somewhat vintagey decor – this place is as authentic as it can get and the food will make up for the (possibly) lacking modern design. After all, you are after a good meal at a good price and, trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Address: Thai Cottage, 34 D’Arbley Street, Soho/London W1F.

Today I’m wearing #1

This might be one of the last days of the summer, so I decided to wear a wrap summer dress I bought only last week. It is from a cool label Anami & Janine, which I discovered while strolling in the Brixton Village in London.

Established in 2005 by two female designers, who gave their names to the label, it has since been launching two annual collections of vintage inspired dresses. It looks like they made prints their signature design, and they have some really funky ones, like the one on my dress, which is all about the game – packs of cards, dice, diamonds, female jokers and … rabbits (?). The designers say they always produce in small quantities, making each print and range a limited edition. Which is very much to my liking.
The dress is made of very light fabric, easy to be played with by the wind, to the delight of my husband (who took the picture). A very sexy dress, which put me in a very flirty mood (#naughty)! I think the designers would be proud.

Anami and Janine’s dresses are an investment and should be on every girl’s wish list – so goes the description on their website. Well, I have invested in one and will be happy to enlarge my collection at the earliest convenience.
I’m wearing: Anami & Janine wrap dress, ankle strap heels from kg by Kurt Geiger, Batycki clutch, sunglasses (from a selection in my drawer).

Their lives may be private but the joy is ours

Ever wonder what it would be like bumping into an ex you split up with on terms that may hardly be referred to as amicable? Imagine that happening on a honeymoon with your new beau. Five minutes after checking in at the same hotel, into two rooms with adjoining balconies… That’s exactly the beginning of Private Lives by Noel Coward, currently on at London’s Gielgud Theatre. If you are expecting a horror story, fear not. Instead, you’ll get two hours of ‘comic bliss’ (The Daily Telegraph). Two hours of wonderfully written banter, bickering and punchlines. You’ll also get to see some real punches at the end of the second act, when the story reaches it climax.

Anna Chancellor (Amanda), whom I best remember for her performance as Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral, shines on stage. She fools us at first as a sophisticated lady who lunches (although ‘drinks’ is probably a more appropriate choice of wording), soon revealing her true self of a wild cat, hissing and scratching when things don’t go her way. Toby Stephens, the unforgettable villain Gustav Graves in Die Another Day, creates a fascinatingly expressive portrayal of Elyot, Amanda’s divorced husband of five years. Both are superbly cast for the roles, creating a convincing and very enjoyable to watch couple, rekindling their (slightly mad) love for each other.

Private Lives runs until September 21st, 2013 at Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London. Try to get there first thing in the morning for a chance to secure £10 tickets (limited number of top seats are released at 10am on the day of the performance). We did. For getting up early we got an extra bonus of watching the actors at arm’s length. A true privilege, when we talk first-class acting.


Fashion rules

A glamorous new exhibition #FashionRules opens today at Kensington Palace in London, presenting dresses of three members of the British royal family: HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s. Five rooms of elegant displays, showcasing 21 couture dresses, explore how these three women reflected the trends of the day.

HM The Queen and the 1950s
The fashion ‘rules’ for The Queen in the 1950s were full of grace and elegance. Evening gowns were long with full skirts and nipped-in waists forming an hourglass silhouette. The dresses were embellished with beading and lace and worn with long evening gloves. The Queen also had other ‘rules’ to consider – from ‘diplomatic’ dressing to wearing light colors to ensure she stood out in in black and white photography.

Princess Margaret and the 1960s and 70s
A ‘royal rebel’ in the fashion stakes, Princess Margaret was at the forefront of fashion and style in the 1960s and 70s. The differing roles of The Queen and her younger sister Margaret were reflected in their clothing choices. Princess Margaret had greater freedom to wear changing fashions and was under less pressure to patronize British designers.

Diana, Princess of Wales and the 1980s
The wardrobe of Diana, Princess of Wales reflected the ‘rules’ of dressing of the era and was full of drama and glamour. She popularized many key 80s looks such as wide shoulders, dropped waists, bold trimmings and sparkling embellishment. The Princess also continued the tradition of diplomatic dressing, wearing colors and styles appropriate to the countries she visited.

Designers featured at the exhibition include: Norman Hartnell (designed Queen Elisabeth’s wedding dress in 1947), Jacques Azagury (famously reinterpreted a 1920s ballgown for Diana, making it a proper 1980s statement dress), and Marc Bohan at Christian Dior (designing for Princess Margaret, who like Jackie Kennedy wore his elegant ‘slim look’ evening dresses).

In the foreground: an evening dress by Zandra Rhodes, in the color of Japanese cherry blossom. Worn by Diana, Princess of Wales for a state banquet in Kyoto, during a royal visit to Japan, 1986.

Finishing touches to the displays.
First from left: a Jacques Azagury dress worn by Diana during a visit to Italy, 1985
Diana, Princess of Wales in a Jacques Azagury dress during a visit to Italy, 1985 – See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/palacehighlights/FashionRules/Diana#sthash.j5lcz57O.dpuf

All information sourced from the exhibition’s website. To find out more, go here.

#FashionRules opens at Kensington Palace today and will hopefully continue at least until mid August when I’m back in London (couldn’t find any information about its closing date). Adult ticket costs GBP 15. Opening times: Monday-Sunday 10am-6pm.

Diana, Princess of Wales and the 1980s

The wardrobe of Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s was characterised by the signature drama and glamour of the decade.

– See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/palacehighlights/FashionRules/Diana#sthash.j5lcz57O.dpuf

HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s. – See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/palacehighlights/FashionRules/default.aspx#sthash.wd9xMOC6.dpuf
HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s. – See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/palacehighlights/FashionRules/default.aspx#sthash.wd9xMOC6.dpuf