Krystyna Spark explores the world of fashion icon Grażyna Hase…
At 83-years-old Grażyna Hase still has the fervor of a fashion designer on the brink of stardom. Perhaps unsurprisingly so – after all, she was one of a handful of individuals who successfully established a recognizable name amidst the uniform mediocrity of clothing produced in Communist Poland.
Her silver gray hair is cut in a youthfully elegant pageboy style, perfectly paired with a white shift dress of her own design worn casually over her everyday outfit.
Three more versions of the frock in question hang from the ceiling of one of the exhibition rooms. Hase commands the room on the opening night of her namesake exhibition. As the first floor of Muzeum Warszawy fills with mature women of similarly fireball-like frailness, a certain energy begins to fill the space. We are stepping back in time to a moment when Polish fashion, as it is known today, was just being born…
This is the first fully fashion-focused exhibition held at Muzeum Warszawy. Located in the heart of Warsaw’s Old Town the museum focuses on the history of the capital.
With a tiny room dedicated to a permanent display of garments and accessories, only a fraction of the museum’s fashion archives are on display. Now, the public has the opportunity to see more. Grażyna Hase: Always in Vogue pulls together over 200 objects: clothing and accessories, as well as photographs, press cuttings, archival magazines, film stills and newsreels.
The layout of the exhibition reflects the trajectory of Grażyna Hase’s career. We begin in the late 1950s when Hase was launched onto the fashion scene through her work as a successful model. Subsequent displays focus on her role as a fashion designer, then creator of her own label and, finally, portray how she inspired future generations of fashion designers.
This chronological overview lets viewers look at Hase’s work through various lenses and was chosen in part because of the breadth of her creations. She is a designer who dipped her toe in a multitude of styles and techniques, from simple linen dresses to a quirky ‘hedgehog’ hat.
While it is difficult to pin point a characteristically “Hase” cut or style it is undeniable that she had an affinity for colors and patterns. This is especially visible in her fashion drawings, which line the perimeter of almost every room, as well as a series of garments in which she references Polish traditional folk costume.
Grażyna Hase’s designs are also a unique medium through which to observe the socio-political shifts occurring in Poland during the second half of the 20th century. Agnieszka Dąbrowska, curator of the exhibit, said: “the clothes, designed by [Hase] from 1967, were treated as a materialization of communism’s ‘little stability’ and propaganda-praised ‘successes’ of Edward Gierek.
In the 1980s, amidst the economic crisis, they [Hase’s designs] were seen as a “breath of luxury”. Final examples of Grażyna Hase’s collections from the 1990s document the designer’s inventiveness as she conjured her own brand within Poland’s budding capitalist environment.”
An example of one such original garment could be the famous “Mermaid” dress, a Hase design from around 1993. The full-length figure hugging evening gown is covered in a fish-like scale motif giving the gown a unique tactile texture, which, combined with the asymmetric voluminous frill at the hem, conjures images of sea life, reflective of the title of the creation. The dress is said to be a tribute to Warsaw’s coat of arms – a mermaid holding a sword.
The exhibition is full of similarly beautiful creations, however, every once-in-a-while viewers are presented with something more unusual. The 2012 felt-dress is definitely such an example. Inspired by the geometric forms characteristic of the work of avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich, Hase’s dress is a multidimensional sculptural piece that explores the process of garment construction.
But what does Grażyna Hase have to do with Warsaw? The above is a fitting question considering the venue of the exhibit. Apart from being born and educated in the capital, Hase possessed a personal affinity towards the city she was raised in. She often chose it as the backdrop for photographs of her designs, giving a glimpse into the city’s post-war reconstruction, and showcased new collections at known theaters and cultural venues.
Warsaw was also where she opened the doors of her very own Grażyna Hase Gallery – first on Marszałkowska Street and then on Senatorksa; the former remains the location of her personal archive.
The Grażyna Hase collection was acquired by Muzeum Warszawy in 2015 and 2017. It comprises a total of 354 objects and is the largest and most complete archive within the museum’s fashion collection. Grażyna Hase: Always in Vogue allows visitors to transport themselves into a world of vibrant tones and textures – visions rarely associated with the blandness of cheap fabrics produced by state-owned factories – and experience the wonder of what could have been… had Grażyna Hase not been one of the few who managed to stand out.
Museum of Warsaw
Rynek Starego Miasta 28-42
Grażyna Hase: Always in Vogue runs until early September 2022