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misbhv poland fashion ss19 Natalia Maczek Thomas Wirski
MISBHV SS19Photography Stanislaw Boniecki

MISBHV’s debut show was a love letter to ‘the golden age of Polish culture’

The streetwear label – founded by Natalia Maczek and Thomas Wirski – looked to its home country for inspiration for SS19

Streetwear brand MISBHV has, in a considerably short time, positioned itself at the forefront of the emerging Polish fashion scene. With each passing season, lead designer Natalia Maczek and creative director Thomas Wirski further establish themselves as ones to watch, but last week they reached a considerable milestone. As part of its first ever catwalk show, instead of venturing out to established fashion meccas like Paris or New York, the brand chose to debut its SS19 collection on its beloved home turf in Warsaw.

This season, the duo pulled inspiration from what they call “the golden age of Polish culture”, the 60s and 70s. Wirski cited two overt references: Roman Polanski’s film Knife in the Water and the rich heritage of Polish poster design, epitomised in the work of internationally acclaimed artist Rosław Szaybo. Collaborating with Szaybo, the collection incorporating his text and designs manifested in a series of prints. As for the clothes themselves, MISBHV staples, like early 00s, faux-luxury prints, headscarves, techno-turtlenecks, and unexpected neon colours were matched with a number of more mature garments, namely in the form of tailored styles and distinguished formal wear. The reimagining and remixing of this significant branch of Poland’s visual history made for a future-forward presentation which simultaneously paid honorary respect to who and what came before them.

When it came to the show itself, guests were ushered up a marble staircase and into a smoky, atmospheric room. The show opened with a performance that fused traditional Polish folk dancing (and garb) with an experimental, industrial soundtrack. The brutal clash between tradition and innovation, set inside the echoing hall of a Soviet tower, was a sensory meditation on the contradictions which define the present.

It felt distinguished, proving that elegance and the underground are not mutually exclusive. The afterparty at Jasna 7 featured a candlelit, crypt-like dancefloor, with a DJ set by Wirski himself. The evening wasn’t just a showcase of MISBHV’s latest work, it was a showcase of Warsaw’s emerging creative class – the vibrant community that Maczek and Wirski began designing for in the first place.

Those familiar with the MISBHV ethos can affirm that showing in their native Poland is by far the most appropriate choice. Amid the wave of post-Soviet hype, MISBHV has harnessed the vigour of their heritage to differentiate themselves from lookalikes and copycats. Polish identity, history and experience form the backbone of the brand’s aesthetic, and both the duo’s recent collection and method of presentation stand in strong testament to that fact.

“Fashion was practically non-existent in the 2000s. With no fashion schools or designers to look up to, the brand grew organically, outside the system, from the clubs to the streets” – Natalia Maczek and Thomas Wirski

Speaking to Maczek and Wirski about their upbringing in post-Communist Poland, it’s evident how much power MISBHV has in shaping a new Polish aesthetic, and the world’s perception of it. “Fashion was practically non-existent in the 2000s. With no fashion schools or designers to look up to, the brand grew organically, outside the system, from the clubs to the streets”, Maczek and Wirski explained. The two are a part of a generation born from the ashes of 50 years of Soviet rule, when fashion as a concept was virtually wiped off the map. Their greatest challenge is also their greatest freedom, forging a visual language and method of dress that reflects the complexities of contemporary Polish identity.

At such a politically tumultuous time, aesthetics have far greater meaning than what’s merely surface level. The rise of the far-right in Poland has bred complicated feelings toward Polish nationalism, making MISBHV’s cultural homage to Poland all the more pressing. Maczek and Wirski artistically celebrated their heritage with nuance and consideration, which served as a reminder to the outside world that the rise of the far-right in Poland is by no means a reflection of Polishness. The SS19 show proves, more than anything, that the two have set out to do far more than design edgy, eastern clubwear. Maczek and Wirski explain, “The history, philosophy and language of MISBHV explicitly reflect the values which we would like to associate with modern-day Poland: tolerance, freedom, beauty and solidarity – all that Polish jazz.”