Prague is a global city. It is a city of literature and culture. The influence this tiny city in Europe has on the western literary canon is so substantial that it has become a formative city for many global writers and artists. So it is a bit of a surprise to find such a global city producing fashion that is "For us, by us". Prague's diminutive stature as a fashion capital is largely due to how the market is set up and how niche' it is, as opposed to a lack of talent or expertise. Each Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Prague moves incrementally toward a more global audience without really taking the full plunge. So this curious little fashion week holds a lot of sway if you truly love fashion without the usual heavy hitters of Europe. The shows that stand out here are the shows that have global appeal and local appreciation for quality finishing. Ideas are in no shortage within the Prague market but to execute those ideas into presentable, sustainable, wearable clothes are always a hard process. Partners like Van Graff and Mercedes-Benz do provide some respite to build what you want to build but Prague still needs a lot of external funding to truly be a global producer of fashion.
Historically Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia) was a fantastic place for making forward-thinking and avant-garde fashion especially within the realms of shoe-making. But in terms of clothing, it has never really embraced the rest of the world until globalization became the norm as opposed to an outlier within sellable fashion (this, of course, excludes the Czech shoe market). Now you see fusion and mix of cultures, fashion soaked in the diversity of not only other nation-states but also of different shapes and sizes. Prague is not standing still and from an outside observer that is what truly is exciting about markets like Prague.
One of the most consistently pleasing brands to come out of Prague is IMRECZEOVA, the brainchild of Zdenka Imreczeova. The global trend toward minimalism is fully embraced in her philosophy and with each passing year, she restructures the foundational elements (which stem from Japanese aesthetics and strong lines) of her work to fit the evolving nature of fashion. The atmospheric details on Zdenka's clothes may seem simple and clear cut but the truly exceptional part is how her clothes have become both avant-garde and perfectly wearable. To be able to find that equipoise requires a certain sense of unrelenting grit matched by talent. Both of which are evident in her work. Of all the brands being shown at the MBPFW, IMRECZEOVA has the most potential to appeal all across the global board and looking at the silhouettes and strong lines, the sway of the skirts and glitter driven long dresses, it is almost hard to believe that this brand is only 9 years old.
If IMRECZEOVA was the foundation of the MBPFW, then Michael Kovacik was surely the glass windows of reflection and intrigue. Soaked in the celebration of femininity, Kovacik's work was probably the most neatly styled during the FW. So it was no surprise to find out that he started off as a stylist. His appeal stems from the loose silhouettes and delicate materials that sit gracefully. His collection incorporated some deconstruction, some flair and above all a keen understanding of how trend and fashion are two separate entities yet the children of vanity. And that vanity stems from an inner confidence that does not prescribe to any body types or shapes, therefore a celebration of women of all sizes is not only necessary but also commercially the important step for a designer. Kovacik embraces that idea and layers it with a very distinct formulation of layering.
Nehera is one brand that has truly made it commercially. And each cycle they produce quality work that is more global, less Bratislava, less Prague. From Mary Katranzou like prints to elegantly deconstructed pockets Nehera's team pushes their aesthetics like a brand fully comfortable with who they are. With that sort of confidence there is a risk of static comfort and at times outright derivatives, but Nehera has not reached that point of pointlessness, and that is what makes Nehera so successful and so very grounded. Nehera's collection was a masterclass in how to impact art without losing sight of commercial appeal. Each look was constructed for a different kind of consumer and yet they all fit into one singular narrative. Nehera is polished, Nehera is self-assured and above all Nehera is the alpha dog in this market and it showed with every single step of this neatly constructed collection.
Lukas Lindner Atelier has been on the market for about 13 years. And within these 13 years of existence, Lukas Lindner has constructed a fair bit of inclusive fashion. His ability to work within the realms of couture and functional everyday wear is an asset for a small market like Prague and it shows in his presented collection this cycle. From the gorgeous white flowy dresses which take you back to the classic Valentino era to high slit dresses of 90s Lukas finds an equipoise between functionality and glamor. And while doing that he bridges that inevitable gap between couture and functionality. Lukas's work is built in Prague but has the potential to become built in Prague and sold everywhere.
ODIVI is the brainchild of Iva Burkertová who considers her brand as a boundary-pushing humanitarian brand that goes beyond the general norm of fashion. And on some level that is exactly what is it, as she collaborates with a plethora of partners and even has a less-than-couture bridal brand. But just looking at her excellent work the first thing that comes to mind is that her work deals with the notion of cool from tertiary perspectives. One is the notion of individual cool, the next is the duality of cool and lastly the collective cool. All three elemental perspective of cool is present within this collection. While the hue and palette of the clothes ranged from gold to off-white back to gold the beauty was firmly on the individualistic cool cuts with clever styling through standalone pockets and some very uniquely Czech leather accessories. This could easily have been a show in Copenhagen or Oslo or the Bowery district in New York. So it is without a doubt one of the standout shows despite the rather distracting soundtrack.
Vozianov is an outsider in many ways. His training is of a linguist but he veered into fashion (his first love) in 1998 and he has been a constant fixture in the Ukrainian revival in Kiev ever since. To find Vozianov showing in Prague was a pleasure as he comes in with a vastly different understanding of fashion, age, experience and ultimately aesthetics. Just like the notion of Universal Grammar (made popular by Chomsky) the foundational elements of aesthetics also has patterns and shapes that are universal and goes beyond the mere boundaries of nation-states and race. Vozianov understands that philosophical trend better than most and his work this cycle delves deeper into the interaction between human geometry and the lines they create with clothes. That relationship is aptly captured through the primary movements of the models and the clever usage of military headgear only made the collection more attractive to view and contemplate. The long lines created with short skirts with long coattails were one of the standout looks for the MBPFW and what Vozianov brings to the table is not only globalization and intellectual curiosity but levity.
Ultimately MBPFW was a fashion week that is moving in the right direction all but slowly. The partners that support this fashion week requires a tip of the hat as without them it would be doubly hard for creatives and designers to sustain this market and as an outside observer, it is evident that the role of fashion is becoming more and more political and relevant in a climate of anti-intellectualism in Eastern Europe. And through the means of collective aesthetics and the role of inclusion, liberalism and diversity become an everyday affair, as it should. And good fashion reminds us that every day.