Monday, December 10, 2007

Interview with Barbara Kurdziel, Plagg Paris

This is the first in a series of interviews I hope to do with designers, boutique owners and other interesting characters here in Paris or elsewhere around the globe.

Barbara Kurdziel at Plagg is a real inspiration for me and my future fantasies of opening up my own space. After my initial visit with this store as I mentioned before, I became semi-obsessed with tracking other designers from Scandinavia. On Friday of last week we met in her boutique and had a fun and fruitful dialogue about the boutique and her vision.

Deux Frontières: When did you open the boutique?
Barbara Kurdziel: August 2006-- so it’s been a year and a half already.

DF: Are all of the designers in the boutique Scandinavian?
BK: Yes. They come from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and there is a Japanese and Norweigan design team who live in London.

DF: How did you get interested in Scandinavian fashion and design and what is it that particularly attracts you to it?
BK: Although I am Polish by birth my parents moved to Sweden when I was a child. I grew up in the city of Malmö and so the influence of Scandinavian culture and design has always been a part of my life. I have friends who are designers and I like the style of Scandinavia so it was a natural choice to focus on this for the boutique. Paris has fantastic style with a culture very steeped in fashion, but I found that a lot of the stores had a similar look. I felt that there would be a need and an interest in presenting something new and a bit different. Of course there are risks involved with this and it takes time for some people to get familiar and comfortable with some of the designers that I show.

DF: Tell me how you ended up in Paris.
BK: I had traveled a lot in France and studied in Grenoble for a time. I moved to Paris about eight years ago and took a job with H&M but after a awhile I decided to leave and start the boutique. I love Paris and consider this to be home now though I regularly go back to Sweden to visit for family and work.

DF: In your opinion, do you think there is a particular style or look with Scandinavian fashion design?
BK: Yes, I do. I think there is a different approach to fashion there, part of which is rooted in the climate and land. It is a sensible and functional approach combined with an eccentric, creative spirit. I think there is maybe more of an open spirit there. It is not too serious. The history of design, art, and fashion is more recent and fresh and so there are less pressures, traditions and references, which allows a freedom in which designers can create.

DF: In my opinion you work like an art curator here. There is a very creative sensibility to the designers you have selected and they way things work together. Do you rotate some designers while continuing to work with others long term? Tell me about some of the designers on view here now.
BK: Yes. There are some designers I have worked with since the beginning and will continue to work with, such as Ivana Helsinki and Best Behavior. Ivana Helsinki is Finnish (lives in Helsinki), and works both as a fashion designer, visual artist and performer. She has been working for many years but continues to produce on a smaller scale, which she seems to prefer. There is a strong visual and artistic influence which comes across in her designs. Best Behavior are from Denmark. They are a growing company and I am working as their agent here in Paris to get them in other boutiques. Another longer-term designer I plan to work with is Swedish designer Camilla Norback whose label, ecoluxury, combines just that: a sensible approach to materials and process of fabrication with sophisticated, elegant designs. Some other designers I have in stock for the Autumn/Winter 2007 line include Izaak (Denmark), Eluise (Denmark), Dagmar (Sweden), and Gudrun & Gudrun from the Faroe Islands (see earlier blog).

DF: Where/how do you do your research and how do you come to a decision to present someone’s line in the boutique?
BK: Because I work basically seven days of the week right now it is difficult to get out and see things, but I attend some fashion shows when I can. I make lots of store and designer/atelier visits when I am traveling in Sweden and Denmark-particularly Denmark which has a very strong fashion scene right now. My friends who are still living in Scandinavia will send me information and tell me about people to look out for. I like to have relationships with the designers I work with. Also of course I think of my clients- what they might be interested in and what their needs are and then I will make decisions based on this.

DF: For the boutique, was it not even a question to seek out a space in the Marais? And would you consider doing a boutique online?

BK: It wasn’t only the Marais where I was interested in having a boutique. I really considered the area of Canal St. Martin in the 10th, but this beautiful space was available (amazing garden included), and the foot traffic and attention towards rue Charlot confirmed the choice to settle here. As for an online boutique, perhaps in the future but no plans as yet.

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